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Review: Merrell Trail Glove Shoes

by Dan Hinckley » on May 13, 2011 18

I’m a huge fan of athletic and running shoes. I’ve always loved breaking in a new pair of trail shoes with runs through the woods, wading through creeks, and climbing everything and anything I come across. With that in mind, I jumped at the opportunity to try out the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove minimalist shoes.

As Brian mentioned in his review of the Merrell True Glove Shoes, Merrell teamed up with Vibram for a series of Barefoot shoes and released them just a few months ago. The Trail Glove is one in a series of six barefoot shoes by Merrell that are designed to simulate the barefoot experience while providing more overall protection to your feet than just being barefoot. The other models include the Men’s True Glove, Men’s Tough Glove, Women’s Pace Glove, Women’s Pure Glove, and Women’s Power Glove. The rest of this article will cover my experience with the Merrell Men’s Barefoot Trail Glove.

The Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

A new pair of Merrell Trail Gloves

The Trail Glove model is a great looking shoe. It has a much more traditional shoe look than some other barefoot shoes but still has all the benefits you’d expect from a minimalist shoe. Merrell sells the shoes in four colors: Yellow & Black, Amazon (Another shade of yellow), Black & Orange, Olympia (Blue) & Black.

I elected for the Olympia & Black style and feel that while these shoes sport the “Trail” name, their style follows that of many modern running shoes. The shoes feature a mesh cloth for most of the makeup of the shoe with an inner-lining made of soft fabric. There is a special protective coating around most of the toe box that helps protect the shoe from more rugged terrain or when you may drag it across the ground during a run.

Technical Specs and Sizing

The first thing I noticed about the Trail Gloves is that they come with laces. Most of the Vibram FiveFingers and other barefoot shoes elect to go without laces but I think they fit well with the Merrell line – as it seems Merrell put an emphasis on making this line of shoes appear to be similar to “normal” shoes. I also felt that the laces help keep my feet back in the heal of the shoe when moving about while allowing my toes to take full advantage of the Toe Box. The shoe is made up of high quality material and has held up fine during my more aggressive runs.

Vibram Soles

As we’ve mentioned previously, the Merrell Barefoot line features Vibram soles. These soles are an added benefit to the shoe as very few companies can come close to the quality and durability with making soles that can match what Vibram offers.

The soles on the Trail Gloves feature a significant amount of tread that help the shoe grip to the trail, rocks, and other outdoor obstacles. It seems like a lot of tread when compared to the tread on my KSOs, but I didn’t find that the extra tread distracted too much from the ground feel.

 

KSO Treads (front right) vs Merrell Trail Glove Treads (back left)

Note that the toe and ball area of the Trail Gloves have extra support in the sole. This thickness is to offer some added assistance to proper running form by making sure you hit mid-sole on your strides.  Since minimalist shoes help eliminate the heel-strike, this added support will ensure longer durability of the shoes.

Toe Box

The aspect I love most about these shoes is the Toe Box. Its huge! I have very wide feet and my toes almost always feel squashed together when in shoes. My wide feet were part of the reason I was first interested in FiveFingers. The Trail Glove Toe box is large enough to let my toes splay and breath but also keeps them protected.

The large toe box!

Sizing

It seems that Merrell shoe sizes compare nicely to the average shoe. Part of the difficulty with FiveFingers is finding the exact size to fit your feet. I usually wear size 11 US and the Trail Gloves in 11 US fit perfectly.

Running in Merrell Trail Gloves

I’ve spent the last week running in the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves and have loved every minute of it. I’ve varied up my running routes to see how they feel in city routes, trails, and wet and slippery conditions. At each and every turn the Trail Gloves have performed great.

In light rain I didn’t slip or slide at all on asphalt, concrete, or the grass. My feet stayed dry and didn’t slip inside the shoe at all.

The only draw back for long runs were the laces. I understand now why Vibram FiveFingers offer shoes with laces sparingly. There is nothing worse during a long run where you’ve hit your stride than to have to stop and tie your shoes. This happened twice with the Trail Gloves during the week and it really puts a damper on that portion of the run.

After a week of running in the Trail Gloves I have no blisters, rubbing, or soreness. I do feel that they work similar muscles to other barefoot shoes as I could feel the lower calf and foot muscles ache a bit towards the end of a run.

Running Form

As I mentioned earlier, the Vibram soles with a zero-drop heel and the large toe box make for a great running combination that helps you keep good running form. I never found myself running up on my toes and only felt a few heal strikes toward the ends of my runs as I got tired. I credit this to the thicker soles at the toe area of the shoe. When that area of the shoe hits the ground it places the weight of the strike toward the mid-foot instead of allowing you to stay on your toes.

A major aspect of barefoot running is having proper running form so that you protect yourself from injury. Merrell’s barefoot line fits this very important criteria.

Who Should Buy These?

Based on my experience I would suggest these shoes to anyone that:

  • Has wide feet and is looking for a running shoe to let his toes spread out, but isn’t quite sure about standing out with FiveFingers
  • Individuals who love to run in the rain and looking for a bit more protection around their toes
  • If you wear mittens while snowboarding or skiing. If Vibram FiveFingers are gloves for your feet, the Merrell Barefoot line are like Mittens. If this sounds like you, you have to try out the Merrell barefoot line
  • Barefoot runners and hikers looking for additional options to the Vibram FiveFinger line.

More Photos

Below are additional photos of the Merrell Trail Glove:

Merrell-Trail-Glove-On.jpg
Merrell-Trail-Glove-Top-View.jpg

Merrell-Trail-Glove-Backs.jpg

Merrell-Trail-Glove-Soles.jpg

Conclusion

The Merrell Trail Gloves are great shoes. I’ve really enjoyed my runs in them, wearing them around the house, and showing them to friends. I’ve shown these to a number of people that were unsure about Vibram FiveFingers and each of them has been genuinely interested in the Merrell model of barefoot shoes. The main features of the shoe that I appreciate most are the the large toe box, solid and durable Vibram sole, and their light weight. If you’re looking for additional running shoes to compliment your FiveFingers you can’t go wrong with the Trail Gloves by Merrell.

Have you tried a pair of Merrell Barefoot Shoes? What do you think?


18 Comments

  1. Attila

    June 10th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    i had a question…

    i purchases my 11.5 trail gloves in the same color about 2 weeks ago. my toes touch the front of the footbox and i was wondering if yours do to? does it ever become a problem? i got these after trying on some in a store (didn’t go running in them then) later when i went for a slight jog, i noticed the toe thing and wondered if i go running for several miles or more, will this be an issue? i can still return them due to a missed stitch on warranty so i wonder if i should maybe get a 12 in place of the 11.5? may i have your thoughts on this please?

    Reply

    • Dan

      June 10th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

      My toes don’t touch the front when walking, but they do sometimes touch the front area where the sole is thicker. I think this is by design as it helps you push off while running.

      If you’re concerned, you should head over to a store and try the slightly larger size. Don’t be shy to “walk fast” while in the store to see if they’re fitting the way you hope.

      Reply

  2. Attila

    June 11th, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    thanks for the quick reply!

    i ended up going for a 5-10 mile run yesterday afternoon. i had quite a variety of terrain including asphalt, grass, gravel, wooden walkway, big rocks, mud (one slick spot where i almost biffed), sand, and trail. through all of this, i tried to pay attention to the toe situation. while the tips of the toes touch the inside of the front, i had no issue there. i felt a toenail catch on an inside contour 2-3 times, but there was no issue whatsoever with that. since i was barefoot inside the shoes and my feet arent used to that, i got some sensitivity/blisters on the 2nd and middle toes on both feet. this was a long run (relative to my usual) after quite some time not runnin regularly. the only real big issue was that my left knee gave me serious pain today. i assure you running form was good, but i’m not used to more than say 1-1.5 mi at a time. therefore, the knee told me blatantly to work up to distance running instead of randomly doing it without preparation.
    overall i would rate the run as fantastic as it was along a nice beach/wooded area. i will do it again after some proper training.
    thanks again.

    Reply

  3. shaffer

    June 17th, 2011 at 8:37 am

    just got me a grey/yellow pair of these this week, and i love ‘em. i committed the cardinal sin and ran in them the first night. Dan, i know you said you didn’t get any blisters, but my ankles around my achiles are shredded! can’t wait for them to callus over so i can run without band aids!

    Reply

    • Dan

      September 06th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      Tighten up the laces maybe? :) Sorry to hear you got blisters. I hope they’ve developed a callus now.

      Reply

  4. Tom

    July 14th, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Your tying your laces wrong, I can see it in the pictures, no wonder they’re opening
    ;)
    http://www.ted.com/talks/terry_moore_how_to_tie_your_shoes.html

    Reply

    • Dan

      July 14th, 2011 at 11:04 pm

      Awesome.. thanks for the tip :)

      I really like the first comment below the video: “go to slip ons, they are easier”… or maybe FiveFingers.

      Reply

  5. Don

    July 21st, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Wondering what size your FiveFingers are to compare sizing with the Merrels.

    Reply

  6. Alden

    September 02nd, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Thinking about getting a pair of Merrell’s. I would prefer another pair of KSO’s, but a size 48 is impossible to find. I bought mine at the end of June, and I swear they were the last ones one the planet.

    I am starting to train for a Half marathon, and I need at least one more pair of shoes.

    Reply

    • Dan

      September 06th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      I think these would be a great addition. They’ll help you keep your running form and have many of the same benefits of VFF.

      Reply

  7. Nick

    September 04th, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    I tried the Merrell Trail Gloves, but ultimately had to take them back. I have wide feet as well and these were way to narrow in the midfoot region and because they have a slight arch in them, my arch’s really started aching. I couldn’t make it over a mile in these before I had to take them off and finish run barefoot.

    I mostly run barefoot or in my huraches though so I really am used to absolutely no arch in my footwear. I just got a pair of the Vivobarefoot Neo’s and they are phenomenal. They not only have a wide toebox, but are also wide through the midfoot as well and have zero arch in them. I run without the insole in them and I love them, they don’t hurt my feet or knees at all like some of the “minimalist” shoes out there. I believe they are much thinner than the Merrell Trail Gloves, at least they feel like it to me, and they give the runner better ground feel.

    Reply

    • Dan

      September 06th, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Interesting, I really didn’t have any trouble with the rubbing or blistering at all. They’re still one of my go too shoes.

      Reply

      • Nick

        September 06th, 2011 at 12:47 pm

        For me Dan, I didn’t have any rubbing or blistering, it was more my midfoot being squished from the sides no matter how loose I tied the laces and the way that these pressed up in the arch of my foot. I have always had issues with shoes with any arch in them hurting my feet. It’s really quite the shame too because I wanted so desperately to like these as I had a heck of a time finding a minimalist shoe that fit well. They are amazing looking shoes and for someone with narrower feet than mine and maybe a higher arch than mine may not be bothered like I am. Hopefully Merrell will make some wider versions of their barefoot shoes in the future, because they really do have a nice product.

        Reply

  8. jb

    September 20th, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    good looking sole. ive been pondering on getting these or the NB minimus trail (both having the good ol vibram rubber under them), for rougher terrain. i run on kso treksports so far but im looking for more conventional variants for a closed-toe protection. can you suggest? thanks!

    Reply

  9. HansR

    September 21st, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I own a pair of Trail Gloves and I am quite pleased with them. Doing most of my training – tempo runs and 30+ km long runs – off road, just so I can wear them. No blisters, because of the wide toe box.

    Reply

  10. Rob

    February 20th, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I’ve had a pair of trail glove shoes for a couple weeks now and really love them. I am heading to the Glapagos Islands in a few weeks and I plan on doing a fair amount of hiking that will involve walking in water. Would you suggest using a more traditional “water shoe” or will these work okay? Basically, I don’t want to ruin them by prolonged use in water. Thoughts?

    Reply

  11. Jason

    April 19th, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Dan

    Just ran across this blog and I am looking into the 5 fingers or like. If you had to choose between the Merrell and 5 fingers which do you believe is a better choice?

    Reply

    • Dan

      April 19th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Jason – It really depends on you. Fivefingers are great shoes and so are the Merrell. I’m happy with both.

      Fivefingers give more of a barefoot/natural feel. The Merrells are similar but have a traditional shoe look. I would say that there is less chance for rubbing and blisters with the FiveFingers.

      If you can afford to, I’d suggest trying them both!

      Reply

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