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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below are additional photos of the Merrell Trail Glove:
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?