Okay, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to work that pun into the review and finally decided to just put it as the opener, lame or not. These shoes felt like a protective sock the first time I slid them on, right out of the box. I should mention the fit is "TRUE TO SIZE". I wear a size 10, and a 10 with the Merrells.
My first attempt at non-"barefoot" running included a 1.5 mile loop around my block, on a mix of asphalt and sidewalk ("...the concrete jungle is an elusive mistress that can call us into action at any time..."). Sorry, carried away there...Penguins of Madagascar reference...
These definitely protected my feet from debris (glass, small rocks, rough surfaces) on my route, while providing the lack of "support" that is inherent to barefoot running. These Merrells have an arch support feature that some minimalists dislike, but I prefer it, as it offers support in a passive way.
I should interject, at this point, that I am NOT a barefoot runner. I like my shoes. I'm delicate and break easily. Or, at least, I have in the past. I read Born to Run, but did not abandon my shoes for huaraches. My usual training shoes are typical "light weight neutral cushioned trainers", Brooks Launch, are my favorite. So, there was quite a bit of calf soreness the next day. I think my foot may have also been bruised.
Nonetheless, I continued to wear these regularly, mostly at work, while trying to build some more foot and lower leg strength. The next workout I wore these for was a lunch-time speed session consisting of 100 meter sprints at Fred Fletcher Park. I loved this workout. Okay, not the intensity of it, but the way the shoes felt when running fast. They actually DID feel like barefoot running, but with the benefit of smoothing out the grass field. The lightness of these shoes helped me feel like I was flying (and for me, that's a pretty big deal.)
Since the review period started, I've probably put 40-50 miles on these and the Vibram sole still looks impeccable. It's really "sticky" on synthetic and natural surfaces. I'm careful to intersperse the wearing of these with my more traditional shoes, but I know these have a place my shoe quiver going forward.