Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gear Review: the Merrill Cruise Control (Mens)

Note: I had the name wrong. I've changed it.

The challenge: a heavy female runner (my weight fluctuates between 160 and 170 over the course of a year) with nearly completely flat feet. I some cushioning, for the 480 to 510 pounds that lands on each foot when I run. I've done all my training on my flat feet, so too much arch support actually causes me pain as it shifts my weight onto the outside edges of my feet. For a woman, I have stubby, wide feet and so I need a wide toe box, and I need soles with traction and breathable uppers.

At first I thought these trail running shoes by Merrill were the Merrill Vibram because of the VIBRAM tag that was under and on the sides. Then I found out that there is something called a "Vibram sole," that is made to be rugged but flexible.
In any case I found these shoes purely by accident while waiting for Sweet Baboo to decide on his shoes at Dillards, of all places. We were at Dillards on a surprise shopping spree that Baboo took me on: we now pratically a whole new kitchen that has NEVER been touched by teenage hands. They sit in boxes awaiting their final destination, which we are closing on Friday.

I love to cook, as our bathroom scale will attest. I have a background in chemistry, and love to create vegetarian comfort foods. However, in the last few years I've kind of given up in despair because Mini Baboo rearranges my kitchen without warning, care, or any sort of logic whatsoever, and ignores things like, "Don't put these in the dishwasher," or, "don't use metal tools with this," or a final, desperate, "JUST DON'T USE THE STOVE. EVER. JUST USE THE MICROWAVE!" and then finally, "PLEASE clean out the microwave; it's disgusting."

<-- Here's a picture of my new kitchen. The decorative stuff is the old owner's. I'll put my own little touches here and there. But note all the white. I would never have that much white with Mini-Baboo in residence. I'd heard legends of white kitchens owned by people with children, but I can't be either authoritarian-directive or that OCD.

But, I digress.

Back to the shoe thing. So, Sweet Baboo never needs my help to dress; he has pretty good taste, and so I let my eyes wonder over the selection of >yawn< mens shoes, until they settled, quite by accident, on a shoe that someone had turned over and then walked away from:

Now, to give you some perspective on why this might interest me: I've tried two different trail running shoes. The first one was by Brooks, and it may or may not have been a coincidence that within a week or so of switching to them, I developed IT band issues that took two months to heal but never came back once I tossed those shoes. The second one was a New Balance model that I think I wrote about earlier, but even though they had terrific traction and were relatively comfortable (and isn't it every long distance runner's dream to be relatively comfortable?) the toe box was cramped. I need a nice wide toe box. I haven't had a full nail on my longest toe since March. In short, I need a large toe box for my big feet. So, up to now, I've just been running on an older pair of my usual road shoes, the NB768, which are comfy but don't offer much in the way of traction.

So, this shoe. Well, I mean, look at it. It's got this huge manly toe box.

Wow. There's another one of those phrases that I bet never was uttered before I said it.
Huge. Manly. Toe box.

Anyway, when I slipped on the man's size 8 (I wear a size 9 woman's running shoe) and cinched up the tie thing, and walked around on it. Then I bought it, and gave it the best test I could give it: a 2-1/2 hour trail run/hike in the Sandia foothills.

The run climbed from 6000 up to about 6600, I think. I have to check my Garmin. There were rocky parts of trail, soft sandy parts of the trail, parts covered with "decomposed granite" and some with snow where no one else had run recently. The wind was howling, and I finally asked that we turn back because my face was cold and I was getting chilled, but the shoes are awesome. The part around the ankles, which probably has an official name but I don't know it, was soft and didn't rub. My feet didn't hurt because the arch support is minimal, nor did they get cold. The cinch-type ties kept the shoe firmly anchored to the mid-part of my feet, leaving my toes free to spread out in their sexy Injinji sock goodness. I was wearing my purple wool-blend ones. But anyway. The plastic cover that allows you to cinch these (they come with regular ties of you don't like that) has a little protective cover that folds over it and hooks underneath, if you choose.

Now, the Cruise Control is probably for a neutral runner, which I am, and has minimal arch support. They also do not provide any ankle support whatsoever, which I don't want or need. But the traction was spot on. They even come with a loop for your favorite gaters. I think I found my perfect woman's ultra trail shoe: and it's a guy's shoe.



  1. OF course you found the perfect trail shoe in mens only. Its such a huge problem in womens athletics.

    I drag race, and even a CUSTOM fire suit fits like crap from the manufacturers. They simply do not have the time or concern to make an appropriately fitting womens model.


  2. I don't think I've ever in my life worn a women's running shoe. It's men's EEEE for me!!!

    I'm seriously envious of your kitchen. I need new cabinets, floor, chairs... hell, I need a whole new house, to be honest....

  3. Very cool info on the running shoe. Currently needing both new road and trail shoes so this is good to know.

  4. When I started running there WERE no such things as "women's running shoes"-so I always wore men's!
    (Luckily I needed the wider toe box too...but the heel always slipped! So I learned the back-lacing technique to snug up the heel.)
    Glad you found a great shoe and a great kitchen too!
    I LOVE your kitchen...it's exactly what I would order if I were to start from scratch. (except for the white floor).
    Merry Christmas to you and Baboo!

  5. Thanks.

    For what?

    Now I keep mumbling in my head, "Huge manly toe box."

    If I let this slip out loud...its couples therapy for me.

  6. Something my first triathlon coach would often say is, "gear is all personal." And it's especially true when it comes to shoes. Who cares if it's a men's or women's model? If it works, it works, right??

    Stay tuned...

  7. My trainer wants me to buy a pair of running shoes and it sounds like we have similar feet. I know that you said those are for trail runs. Can you use them just as regular running shows and do you know where I could find them? Thanks for any help. I don't comment on your blog much, but I absolutely love it.

    Stop by my blog sometime. I'm on my way to losing 130 pounds. I've almost lost 30 of it.

    Take care.


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