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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big splash of success in BWCA: Kevlar minimalist shoes.
Recently used these shoes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area while co-leading a tour group. Since going 'barefoot'with running and walking (minimalist shoes), I no longer own any old, clunky leather hiking boots or the conventional-wisdom expensive, heavy, technical boxy BWCA footgear. Of my remaining VFFs and other minimalist footgear, these Merrells had the sturdiest...
Published 21 months ago by Jeff

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable
Amazon is showing the wrong picture on the profile review page. The "Embark" is a men's running shoe; not a ladies high leather boot with a heel.

There is an upward slope of the sole from the ball of the foot to the toes. When standing; your toes do not touch the ground. When standing all your weight is on your heel and ball of the foot. When you walk; your leg...
Published 18 months ago by More Reliable Reviews


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big splash of success in BWCA: Kevlar minimalist shoes., September 24, 2012
This review is from: Men's Merrell Embark Glove Barefoot Running Shoe (Apparel)
Recently used these shoes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area while co-leading a tour group. Since going 'barefoot'with running and walking (minimalist shoes), I no longer own any old, clunky leather hiking boots or the conventional-wisdom expensive, heavy, technical boxy BWCA footgear. Of my remaining VFFs and other minimalist footgear, these Merrells had the sturdiest soles so I took them and crossed my fingers.

Unbelievable. BWCA portage trails can be ridiculous with jagged, rain or wetland-wet granite shards, downfall wood, mud, unnoticed stick-up-tripper stumplets and roots, steep inclines and descents. And you're doing this with a 40-80 pound canoe on your shoulders, and/or full packs and Duluth packs. The opportunities for slipping, a jabbed foot sole, stubbed/gashed toe or twisted ankle are endless.

While my colleagues trudged and stomped and swore and slipped up and down portages, over logs, boulders and muck, I nearly danced up an over the same portages and obstacles. Including sure footing over wet rocks above and under water. (You have to use some common sense here: these shoes will not forgive a stupid foot-placement on an underwater mossy rock in the rapids, okay?)

Ankle support. You know, the great thing about being a barefoot walker/runner is you actually develop strong ankles and individual foot muscles because you are USING them, unlike the flaccid, pudgy feet of most folks wearing plastic "foot coffins" all day long. As a barefoot runner/walker, you quickly learn to watch where you're stepping, use all the available ankle angles and lower leg muscles, joints and connective tissue. (I'm a certified sports/medical massage therapist). In other words, you develop strong, skilled, muscular, capable feet well equipped to handle nearly any surface. You don't NEED "ankle support" if you have (or develop) strong ankles. Cave men/women and warriors throughout history didn't need "ankle support." "Ankle support" usually translates as "splinted, unmoveable ankles" like wearing a lesser ski boot. Which of course drastically reduces the ankles natural range of motion on sideways slopes, up or down hill angles. You clunk along like Frankenstein wondering why your feet hurt and your legs are so tired. Hmmm. Maybe we need more "ankle support" :) Could this conventional wisdom have anything to do with the fact that the big clunky hiking footgear sells for more? That the Frankenstein boots create a dependency on their own product because they allow/promote weaker ankles and flaccid, sensitive feet and soles?

I wear thin smartwool socks with these Merrells and have zero issue with blisters or chafing. And in BWCA my feet were basically underwater ten hours a day. They did stay dry until the water was over the ankles, of course. With all due respect to the complaining customer above, only an amateur would wear a brand new, unbroken-in pair of shoes or boots on a challenging outdoor trip. That is just begging for trouble/injury. Any runner or outdoorsperson knows you don't test new gear the first time in a new/remote/risky situation. So I knew these shoes well before I hit the trail, but as winter running shoes only.

At one point in BWCA, we had to slog through an African Queen/Bogart-Hepburn scale wetlands, hip-deep in muck, lilly pads and cattails dragging the canoes. I could not see the Merrells because they were three feet below the surface in a foot of mud. A lesser design could easily have come off, sucked back in the muck with each step forward. But they held on tight. Back at camp they dried quickly and were all set for the next damn day's worth of portaging. At home they cleaned up easily with water and a little scrubbing.

I bought these for winter/snow running originally, to keep feet dry with gaitors and warm socks. Which they do: I have "cold" feet even in summer (6'-3" and 170 lbs) but these keep my feet toasty warm and dry in thin and deep snow in near-zero temps.

Buy these. I wear with thin socks, but once broken in these would be fine for bare feet. (Mine ran a size too big: buy a half- or whole-size smaller than normal). I prefer the VFFs for skin-in-shoe running as they are much softer and flexible on the inside, give you a better ground feel. But for tough terrain, rocks and safety, these are worth every penny. Like, Kevlar minimalist shoes.

Jeff
South Bend, IN
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Uncomfortable, January 9, 2013
This review is from: Men's Merrell Embark Glove Barefoot Running Shoe (Apparel)
Amazon is showing the wrong picture on the profile review page. The "Embark" is a men's running shoe; not a ladies high leather boot with a heel.

There is an upward slope of the sole from the ball of the foot to the toes. When standing; your toes do not touch the ground. When standing all your weight is on your heel and ball of the foot. When you walk; your leg moves forward surprisingly far before your toes touch the ground pushing off. This inclined-plane design creates lever action pressure upon your toes when they suddenly hit the ground; jars the toes with the sudden hit, and does not allow the foot to gradually balance as you move forward.

The sole is very uneven. Standing you can wobble the shoe every which way; revealing you are not landing on a stable platform.

One cannot improve upon God's design of the foot, and nothing is better than a flat, smooth, sole.

I walked a mile on cement in the Embarks to test them with medium-weight, wool socks. You feel unnecessary pressure on the balls of your feet. It feels like walking on stiff, big, lugs at the ball of the foot, but is really the edge of the inclined slope and uneven sole.

The sole of the shoe is super flexible along the full length of sole. The sole bends and twists in any direction with little effort.

The back, top, of the heel is pointed rather than a "U"-shaped cut to go around the Achilles-tendon. However, the fabric is very soft and pliable. The top of the heel did not dig into my Achilles-tendon as some other shoes have. However, the heel of the shoe did rub against my heel and the friction created a hot spot, which I did not notice until I took the shoes off after my walk and put them on again later. This hot spot is caused by the combination of the shoe being cut just a little too low in the ankle area, and thus not wrapping your foot enough, and not having any padding at the heel.

The rubber overlay of the toe-box is unusually soft and flexible, which is a good thing. The fabric around the toes is very soft. Thus, though the toe box is snug around your toes; your toes are not cramped, and the toe-box feels wide, though it is average width. The middle and heel of the shoe are narrow; not uncomfortably narrow. I would prefer a wider middle and heel.

There is no removable insole. The company advertises "a padded foot-bed". It is softer and ever so slightly more padded than a shoe without an insole. The stitching is better without lumps in the stitching, without loose stitching, and without raised stitching. The total cushioning above the rubber sole is 1/8-inch rather than the 1/4-inch of other brands. The shoe is cut too low and narrow to add an insole without cramping the top of your foot and toes against the roof of the shoe.

The sole is zero-slope; meaning the heel is not higher than the toes.

I sprayed the shoes with water from a garden hose while wearing them, and no water entered the shoe. The tongue is gusseted (attached at the sides).

I was not able to get the color I wanted, and did not like most of the colors offered. This shoe is uncomfortable.

I am very happy with the "Altra" brand shoes, their "Instinct" and "Provision" shoes. Presently, they make only summer shoes, but the company said they are working on a Gore-Tex model.

To Merrell:
Keep the soft fabric and soft rubber at the toes, which are great. Keep the super flexibility of the sole. Keep the zero-slope design. Keep the padded foot-bed, which is very nicely done, but add a removable insole and let the customer decide. Therefore make more height inside the shoe to allow for an insole without cramping the top of the foot and toes against the roof of the shoe. The shoe needs a cushioned midsole. Get rid of the terrible inclined toes and uneven, wobbly, sole. Race-car tires are wide and completely smooth and have no problem gripping; it is soft rubber and surface area, which grips. I don't mind some grooves in the sole (not lugs; I hate lugs), but the sole should be even and flat. The sole should be wider; and the ankle opening must be cut higher and padding added at the heel. The cut of the top of the heel should be "U-shaped"; not pointed. A wider toe-box would be good; allowing the toes to spread; giving more stability and comfort. A wide toe-box does not make the shoe loose going barefoot. With the good soft fabric; one can tighten the shoe down snuggly; even with a wide toe-box. The excellent flexibility of the sole prevents even wide shoes from being clumsy. It is a stiff sole that makes even a narrow shoe clumsy.
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