Merrell recently launched their new M-Connect Series, an entire collection of footwear that takes the traditional Merrell Barefoot concept and expands it through a complete selection of shoes for running, training, and even hiking. Over the past couple of months, one of my male testers and I have been wearing a sampling of shoes that span the whole collection for all of our outdoor activities.
The idea behind the M-Connect Series is two-fold: firstly, the variety in drop and cushioning is to help you transition from "normal" running shoes to real barefoot running and secondly, to expand the barefoot feel into all your outdoor activities while still giving you the necessary protection dependent on end-use and terrain.
The M-Connect Series includes four key collections that embody the Merrell Barefoot minimalist design ethos of ground connection, natural glove like fit, and overall light and flexible construction. You can select from the matrix of shoes based on both your personal cushioning and drop demands in addition to your chosen outdoor activity.
The four collections are Barefoot, Bare Access, Mix-Master, and Proterra. The Barefoot and Bare Access shoes feature a classic barefoot zero drop from heel to toe but vary in cushioning from 4mm to 8mm underfoot. Both the Mix Master and Proterra shoes feature a 4mm drop with 5mm-12mm of underfoot cushioning depending on the shoe.
With a focus on using the M-Connect Series for all of my activities, I have been wearing the Barefoot Vapor Glove for my ice climbing/CrossFit type training. For dog walks and treadmill running in hotels, I have been sporting the Barefoot Crush Glove, while wearing the Mix Master Move Glide for trail runs. Finally, the Proterra Vim Mid Sport has been my chosen hiking shoe over the winter.
A fan of the Merrell minimalist style, the only problem I had with any of the shoes in the M-Connect Series was with the Proterra line. I normally prefer to hike in a trail shoe, so if I was going to take a minimalist approach, I would probably stick with that style rather than a mid style hiking shoe that doesn't add any support value. I expect a bit more rigidity from my hiking shoes and the Proterra were just too soft underfoot for me. My male tester would extend the same dissatisfaction down to the Mix Master level although I was fine with that soft feel as a trail running shoe.
Bottom Line: If you are a fan of the Merrell Barefoot feel or are looking to bring a minimalist approach to all your outdoor activities, you will be impressed with any of the shoes in the M-Connect Series. I personally came to the conclusion that I want a little more "beef" in my hiking shoes but am happy with the minimalist approach for training, running, and even trail running.
The Merrel M-Connect Series shoes retail for $80-$140 and are available now. Top tip- make sure you buy the right size. The M-Connect Series shoes are meant to fit like a glove so if you get them too big, they will feel sloppy.