Last year's Road Glove, with its spacious toe-box and foot-hugging upper, was our favorite minimal shoe for running. So, with the release of the Road Glove 2, we just had to see if the sequel was more Godfather II or Major League II.
What Is It?
A shoe made for minimalist running on pavement.
Who's It For?
Minimalist runners who stick to asphalt.
Very similar to last year's design. It still has that big, open toe-box we loved so much, but the tread has been redesigned to be flatter, the nubbins have gotten smaller and more numerous, and it's cut to give it a different flex pattern. The shoes have also gotten very slightly lighter (7.95 ounces for a size 11 vs. 8.30 ounces for last year's model) and the upper is composed of slightly different materials, though it retains its basic shape.
The flatter tread definitely adds to the ground feel. You can register every line in the sidewalk, and it really feels like your foot sticks to the ground (in a good way). The upper is soft enough that I was able to put in a few miles sockless without bothering my sensitive feet. They breathe very well.
The Best Part
These shoes are great for helping you maintain good form. The flatness of the shoe, plus the way it hugs your foot and lets you spread your toes really lets you feel the ground below you, and it allows you to make little micro-adjustments when you feel something is a little off. Other minimalist shoes do that too, but these do it better.
The redesigned upper is not all for the better. Do you see those silver/white wavy lines on the sides? They are thick enough that you can actually feel them with your foot while you're wearing them. You'll probably only notice it if you're going without socks, but it's not clear if the added structural integrity is worth the added chafe. Also, the lacing system has been changed to loops which let the laces slip a bit, so you can't dial in your fit as well as you could last year. It's tighter in some places, looser in others. Which can be frustrating.
This Is Weird...
Merrell claims that the new forefoot grooves and midsole cut outs lead to increased flex, but side by side, they don't seem to be any more flexible than the original Road Gloves.
- I put about 45 miles on these in the last few weeks, running on blacktop, sidewalk, an indoor track, and a treadmill.
- While the flatter, smaller-nubbed tread feels noticeably better on pavement, it also noticeably sucks a lot more off road. The tread on last year's Road Glove was burly enough to handle light trail running, no problem. These are pavement specialists and don't like the soft stuff.
- Walking in these ain't bad at all. You can't go bashing your heels into the ground, but there's enough protection to keep it from being torture.
- Other minimalist shoes (such as Skora) have managed to create a kind of one-piece tongue that wraps around the foot and has virtually no seams. It would be nice to see that kind of thing incorporated into these shoes to increased sockless comfort, as you can definitely feel some of the seams, especially on top of your toes.
- The newly designed tread really increases the amount of surface area that comes into contact with the ground. It gives noticeably more control.
- One of the chief complains from minimalists last year was that there was too much arch in the Road Gloves. While there's still some arch in the RG2, it's been cut back a bit so it isn't quite as prominent.
- They're 10 bucks cheaper than they were last year, so hooray for savings!
- They're way better looking than last year's shoes. They really just look like normal running shoes, but less ugly.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, if you're looking to get into the minimalist running game, this is a great pair of shoes. They're slightly better than their predecessors, though if you have the original Road Gloves and they aren't worn out yet, you shouldn't rush to upgrade. For now, though, these are our new favorite minimalist runners.
Word of Caution: Minimalist running is not something you can just dive into, even if you're already a very strong runner. You must start slow or you can really hurt yourself. Merrell provides some information about making this transition. They also have a female-specific educational site for barefoot running. Really, go very easy at first.
Note: The women's version of this shoe is called the Road Glove Dash 2, though I didn't test them because they don't make women's shoes in my size. Sadly.
Merrell Road Glove 2 Specs
Type: Minimal Running
Men's Sizes: 7 - 15
Women's Sizes: 5 - 11
Men's Colors: 5 options
Women's Colors: 6 options