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Review: Merrell True Glove Shoes (with lots of photos)

by Brian Patterson » on May 05, 2011 53

Merrell is a shoe and apparell company that specializes in high quality outdoor-wear. About a year ago, Merrell and Vibram announced a new shoe line, the “Merrell Barefoot Collection” that would consist of ultra comfortable shoes for trail running and causal wear, and they would all be sporting a Vibram sole. In February 2011 that shoe line became a reality.

A few weeks ago the fine folks over at Merrell sent us a couple of different pairs of shoes from this new line.  These Merrell Barefoot shoes are true minimalist shoes that feature a zero drop heel, an expansive toebox, and, ahem, a Vibram sole.  Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing our reviews of the various models along with a plethora of photos. First up are the Merrell True Glove’s.

The Merrell Barefoot True Gloves at First Glance

Merrell True Glove Barefoot Shoes with Vibram Sole

The Merrell True Glove Barefoot shoes in color "Brindle/Harvest Pumpkin"

At first glance, the Merrell True Glove shoes are pretty darn good looking.  While it seems that many minimalist shoes these days are sacrificing something in the looks department, I actually think that these shoes lineup nicely with the styles currently popular in non-minimalist shoes.  The True Glove’s look like a combination of running and trail shoes with just a dash of hiking boot ruggedness tossed in.  I’ve worn them with shorts while running and also with jeans while hanging out casually (pics of both in the images below), and I think that they hold their own very well.

One think that may seem a bit abnormal on the shoes is the larger black rubber cover over the toes, call the ‘fused rubber toe bumper’; this is something Merrell adds for durability, but it does look a little unique.  All-in-all, I’m pretty impressed by the way these shoes look and all of the lady friends I’ve shown them to seem to think they look pretty cool as well.

Technical Specs and Sizing

The Merrell’s have all of the specs that you would demand from a good minimalist running shoe.  They have a nice sized toe box, they are light and flexible, the sole is thin but durable, and there is no unnecessary arch or heel support.  The materials used in their construction allow you to run and hike in both wet and dry conditions with no problem.  In the following sections I’ve provided a few notes on each feature that I noticed.

Light & Flexible

The True Glove’s are pretty light, weighing in at 14.5 ounces for Men’s size 9.5 US.  And, the sole is nice and flexible, allowing your foot to bend and flex as if you were running barefoot.  As you can see in the images below, I was able to hold the folded shoe with just my pinky and thumb.

Flexing The True Glove's with just my thumb and pinky. Yes, they flex easily (thats a good thing).

Another photo of the Flexed Merrell True Gloves.

A Vibram Sole

With a website called My FiveFingers, you know we’d love a good Vibram sole… and this is no exception.  The midsole is 4mm thick EVA and the ball to heel drop is 0mm – exactly what we’d ask for.  You can see the sole in the photos below.

Rockin' a Vibram Sole

Another shot of the Vibram Sole

Toe Box

A quick word on the toe box:  its big enough to let your toes splay out as nature intended.  This is critical to a good minimalist shoe, and Merrell makes sure your toes have plenty of room to relax and be their natural selves.


I wear a 9.5 US in regular shoes, and the 9.5 US Merrell’s fit me perfectly.  I have seen some people reporting that the shoes run a bit big for them, but this isn’t the case for me.  Likewise, Dan Hinckley (who will be reviewing the Trail Gloves) wears a size 11 US and his size 11 Merrell’s were spot on.  My recommendation is, assuming you can’t try them on beforehand, to buy the size you normally would for a pair of Nikes.  Based on our experience, that will likely fit you just right.

Some Chafing

The first day that I wore these for more than about an hour I did experience a bit of chafing on my left Achilles tendon, directly above my heel. The upper edge of the shoe was rubbing vertically and causing some pretty painful irritation.  I wasn’t ever planning on wearing socks with these, but the rubbing was too much and I had to slip a pair of socks on.  I let the chafing continue on (albeit dulled) through the socks, as I wanted to build up the irritation in that spot on my achilles a little further so that I could let a callous develop.  After a few hours, I took the shoes off and didn’t wear them again for another 3 days.  During this time, nature took its course and started to toughen the spot up.  I let this cycle happen one more time and now I no longer have any irritation – the body is an amazing thing, isn’t it?  There isn’t even a visible callous, but the skin in that spot is tougher and the slight rubbing that was occuring just doesn’t seem to irritate it.

Who Should Buy These?

I can imagine a number of use-cases where these shoes make a whole lot of sense.  Our perspective is as die-hard Vibram FiveFinger fans, but we appreciate a good shoe when we see it.  Some uses/people that these come to mind immediately are:

  • Someone who wants to blend in when they go out by wearing a nice pair of casual shoes with jeans.
  • Someone who wants a nice casual, minimalist shoe that you can wear to work without the whole office attacking them with bad jokes (ala FiveFingers).
  • Trail runners seeking a barefoot/minimalist feel but not yet ready for ‘toe shoes’.
  • People who have something unique going on with their toes that prohibits them from wearing FiveFingers comfortably.  We get asked about this a lot…whether its a really long big toe, or a very tiny small toe, sometimes abnormally sized toes just don’t jive with FiveFingers.  I can’t see any reason, however, that these people couldn’t wear a pair of Merrell’s barefoot shoes to get their minimalist fix.
  • People who really can’t stand the attention that FiveFingers tend to attract.

Photos, Photos, Photos

Another shot of the True Glove's on their box

A view of the back of Merrell True Gloves

A view from the back

Merrell True Gloves look good as casual shoes with jeans, too!

Another shot of the shoes with Jeans

A closeup of Merrell's with jeans

True Glove's with no socks

Looking down on the shoes


I’m a fan of these True Glove’s and they’ll definitely be in my regular rotation of minimalist shoes.  I’m impressed by the quality and attention to detail these have, particularly because these are a fairly new line of shoes for Merrell.

Have you tried any of Merrell’s Barefoot shoes?  Do you have any questions about the True Gloves or any other models?  Let us know in the comments!

Submitted Comments

  1. Christine Jensen says:

    I have been eyeing the Merril Barefoot line. I have yet to make the switch to minimalist running (I have been running in shoes for more than 20 years…Ok so there was a break in there, but a long time) but I really live the idea of wearing these shoes as an everyday shoe. I love walking around barefoot, but that doesn’t work as the store, etc, so these would be great!

  2. Brian Patterson says:

    This really does provide an opportunity to wear minimalist shoes but not stand out. Its sort of a given that, if you wear FiveFingers, people will notice you and talk to you about them. These will go completely unnoticed, and they are really comfortable.

    You should definitely make the transition to FiveFingers or minimalist shoes – your body will thank you!

  3. k2 says:

    i got a pair of the women’s pace glove and have been wearing them exclusively for a few weeks. i have not been on the trail with them yet because of rain and cold, but i hope to get out with them soon. i will probably get some VFFs as well for hiking/running trails, but i wanted something a little more discrete for everyday wear, and the pace gloves fit the bill! i get a lot of comments on how cute they are. i wear an 8 and got these in an 8 and they fit perfect. i probably could have gone a half size smaller if i never wore socks with them, but i do like to wear socks sometimes. plus i have one foot that is slightly larger, and the 7.5 was a little too snug on the larger foot.

  4. Lucas says:

    How do they hold up in the rain? That is pretty much the only time I don’t wear my KSOs.

  5. Dan says:

    I wore the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove (Full review coming soon) in “Sprinkling Rain” yesterday and had no problem at all. As always, Vibram soles have great grip and my feet didn’t feel wet during the run.

    Of course it wasn’t raining hard… I’ll let you know how they fair after a good run in a storm.

  6. Jeff L. says:

    I had a pair of the Trail Gloves and sent them back. The toe spring was just too much for me, and caused the tops of my toes to rub against the rubber bumper in the front. I don’t have the same problem with the Tough Glove, which I use for some trail and light road running. I still prefer VFFs, barefoot, or huaraches, but when it’s really cold or the trails are really gnarly, I use the Merrells. Also, they’re a nice minimal, flat casual shoe.

  7. Kai says:


    Independent of this new blog entry, I was considering a Merrell to be my next minimalist shoe if I like it. We have a store in town that carries them.


  8. Brian Patterson says:

    I can’t tell, and the literature doesn’t say, but some people that have ran in snow say that the upper part of the shoes seem to have a water resistent coating that does a good job of keeping snow and water out. Maybe Merrell can chime in with more info on this.

    The sole is excellent in wet conditions.

  9. Brian Patterson says:

    Yes, it definitely a plus to be able to not stand out when you don’t want to.

  10. Brian Patterson says:

    They are definitely worth trying on at the store… let us know how you like them!

  11. Rob says:

    Great article Brian. I have also been considering these as I need some shoes that are minimalist yet not as unique looking as VFF. Glad to see this review here.

  12. admin says:

    Thanks, Rob. Let me know if you have any other questions on them. We’ll also be review the trail gloves and a couple of the Women’s models.

  13. I’ve tried the women’s trail shoe (is that the Pace glove? I think so). I sooo, sooo, soo wish they made the men’s in smaller sizes because they are so much better. The women’s version has this elastic heel counter and all these seams inside. I wore them sockless (since they are specifically advertised for this) and they tore my feet to shreds — the elastic heel counter cut a hole into my heel so bad that now, 8 weeks later, I still have achilles tendon issues. Otherwise, I LOVE the fit and feel of the shoes. If you look at the men’s shoe, on the inside it is all soft and fleecy — so much nicer than the women’s.

  14. Michael says:

    What is the difference between the Merrell True Glove and the Trail Glove? There’s not much on Merrell’s website to differentiate the two…

  15. Kasey says:

    Thanks for sharing this review- my husband and I both own VFFs but want something to rotate/wear with jeans. We will definitely be more comfortable ordering them online if our local store doesn’t get them in soon enough!

  16. Tina says:

    I currently run in KSO’s, but have the women’s Pace Gloves. I really like the looks and comfort of the Pace Gloves, but feel like the road feel is diminished compared to my KSO’s. So, I have relegated them as casual shoes as I prefer running in my KSO’s. My husband wouldn’t dream of wearing VFF’s, so he bought the True Gloves to move to minimalist running. He has really enjoyed running in them and just wearing them casually. We both bought our normal sizes and they fit great.

  17. Dan says:

    Hey Michael – We’ll have a review of the Trail Glove up shortly, but it seems like the main difference is the design and fabric used. The soles are very similar but the materials for the shoe are a bit different.

  18. Michael says:

    Thanks! I’ll check back for that. Is the true glove lighter weight/more minimalist. I have Vibram KSO, Sprint, and Classic and I love them. I’m wary of trying other things/betraying my FiveFingers, but my fiance says I need to buy some “real shoes.” I think these should suffice!

  19. Kai says:


    I tried the Merrells over the weekend and they don’t fit me well. The first issue is that they put a pressure point right under the front part of my arch (in my sole) and the second issue is that my foot is too tall to really properly fit inside. When I am trying to lace them up, I have probably 3 to 4 inches for the knot. Furthermore, my feet are fairly wide, and the Merrell is fairly narrow.

    I had wished to fit a Merrell since I like the looks and the fact that it is another minimalist shoe.

    So, I ended up with a KSO Sprint instead (it’s red/black baby!) as it was heavily discounted (25% off, yay!!!).

    Just my $0.02

  20. Kai says:

    Typo, meant Sprint, not KSO Sprint … I need my first coffee of the day … it’s brewing …. :)

  21. Brian Patterson says:

    Yes, fitting for these is much less ‘touchy’ then it is for FiveFingers!

  22. Brian Patterson says:

    There definitely is less road feel in the True Gloves than in the KSOs!

  23. Brian Patterson says:

    Thanks for the info Kai, good to know about the sizing of Merrells.

  24. Pear M. says:

    I own a pair of the Pace Gloves too and had a completely different experience. I wear mine sockless and have no issues at all! I actually really like them as an alternative to my VFFs. Maybe you can wear some injinjis to protect your heel.

  25. Justin Skaggs says:

    I have the Merrell true glove and they are my first pair of minimal shoe. I have a sore spot on my left upper heel area too. Other than that they have been working out great.

  26. Jessica says:

    I’ll grab a pair of these for when my VFFs aren’t appropriate for an occasion. I like being able to use my toes when I walk and run.

  27. Jeste says:

    Have been using a couple of pairs of Nike Free’s for about 10 years (rotating them). They were strictly for width & posture issues, not running. Now the fabric is beginning to wear through on the tops and I’m looking for replacements. Nike doesn’t make my model any more, not that I want to buy from them necessarily–I would like to find an alternative. What do you think of them as compared to the Vibram soles so I know what to expect?

  28. Krys10 says:

    One of my friends got a pair of these after I sparked her interest in barefoot running.
    (Ive got VFFs)
    Yesterday we both ran our first 5k race, running in Merrells and Five Fingers!

  29. Brian Patterson says:

    I would say that True Gloves are definitely more minimalist than Free’s. The Vibram sole is thinner than those little pods on the bottom of Nike Frees. If its a width and posture thing, its probably in your best interest to try them on somewhere if you can.

  30. Brian Patterson says:

    How did it go?

  31. Dan C says:

    I bought a pair of True Gloves and took them out for my first go in them. The result was a blister as described in the review after a mere mile and a half w/ socks from the start. I’m bummed but will tough it out as they seem nice otherwise.

    Their design problem as I see it is a stitched seam on the heel. I looked at my Five Fingers and New Balance minimals and neither has such a seam and I’ve never had blisters in those shoes. Coincidence?

  32. Patrick says:

    I have flat feet and a bad back that I’ve had two surgeries on (lower). What is your opinion on True Glove shoes for someone in my situation? Thanks in advance!

  33. Brian Patterson says:

    Flat feet are fine in minimalist shoes (True Gloves included), so no problem there. As far as being good for the lower back, I think you’ll really want to try them out and see.

    I was just at a local running store and they have a 14 day return policy even if you wear the shoes… perhaps that might be something you take advantage of to see if these shoes are right for you?

  34. AlaneATX says:

    I purchased the pace glove this fall specifically as a minimalist alternative to wear with jeans and shorts around town and I love them! I also have wide feet but have found the fit is great and very comfortable for me. While my reason for buying them was for casual wear, I have also worn the pace glove for workout with my trainer and some running was involved. I liked them as a backup but prefer my vff’s for a true workout shoe. There is a big difference, to me, in being able to use your feet to “feel” the ground beneath you and stabilizing yourself, especially in drills that require changing directions quickly or in weight lifting.
    That being said, I AM a fan of the Merrell minimalist shoes and am glad to have an alternative for casual wear and backup for workouts on occasion!

  35. Krista says:

    I’ve just ordered my 3rd pair of pace gloves-that’s how much I love them!! I also initially had heel issues with them, but nothing too bad (just put a band aid over the sore spots for the 1st day). I prefer the soles on my KSOs, but they are more of a pill to put on. I have also ordered the ZEM 360s. Has anyone had any experience with these?

  36. Krista says:

    Update, it was the Merrell Lithe Glove that I had ordered. MOST HORRIBLE SHOE EVER! (and I spent many years wearing heels!). The upper is so stiff and constricting. I love my Pace Gloves, but the Lithe Glove is so uncomfortable that I immediately took it off and boxed them up to send back.

  37. Jamie says:

    Have put about 100 miles on my True Gloves, and after an initial issue on one heel – solved with band aids prior to departure – I’m finding them to be great for nearly all purposes, but especially off-road. And I’ve had luck with them with and without socks. A heel notch would be a nice feature in future, but my heels got used to them in a week or so. I especially like the built up sole under the toes which seems to encourage the use of those puppies.

  38. Judy says:

    i like these shoes however, the toe box is cut on an angle and i have some toe rubbing on one foot and oddly it is the smaller foot. By now the shoe may have undergone another design phase and this has been remedied.

  39. Judy says:

    I also think they are a bit low in the back, also the toe box where it is loose seems to flop a bit.

  40. Toby Stapleford says:

    Great review, very visual.

    I confess I am not a runner of any sort, but I have just become enthralled with the barefoot concept, and so my question is: would you consider this (or any other models in the barefoot range) suitable for travelling i.e. gap year ‘backpacking’ over mixed terrain in predominantly hot climates?


  41. Brian Patterson says:

    Hi Toby, I don’t know much about backpacking… I assume you are talking about the type where you stay in hostiles as you travel across Europe type of thing?

    If it were me, I’d probably bring a pair of FiveFingers and a pair of Merrells, maybe these True Gloves honestly.

  42. Joanne Smith says:

    I just bought pair of Merrell barefoot pace, and I was wondering if I wear socks or not with them. I’m doing a walk for Breast cancer next weekend 39.9 over 2 days. What do you think?

  43. Brian Patterson says:

    Hi Joanne, if this will be your first time wearing minimalist shoes, I’d be leery about sending you off in them for 39.9 miles in 2 days so quickly, socks or not.

    We recommend a good, long break-in period where people slowly transition to minimalist shoes.

    If you are already used to them, then I’d suggest no-socks, but bringing some along just in case you get some rubbing going on.

  44. Toby Stapleford says:

    Contrary to popular opinion, my pair actually run a bit small. Normally I’m a 9 (UK) but with the True Glove I’ve had to opt for a 9.5, and even then it feels a little tight around the arch and my toes are just brushing the ends. As a newcomer to the barefoot experience, is this considered normal, or would a 10 have been a better fit?

  45. Larry says:

    I am making the switch to barefoot, and got these on reviews here, love the fit, my size 11 is true.
    Walking about they are very comfortable, but I hit a problem running in them.
    I was told to run on the balls of my feet.
    So far after, only a couple of small 3 mile runs, my arches actually ache.
    Is this normal? As my feet muscles get used to the barefoot running style?

  46. Patrick S. says:

    I got a pair of these in the blue/grey on clearance about two weeks ago. I initially started out with the men’s 10 US but took them back and got the 9.5’s. To put this in perspective I wear a 42 in five fingers and a 10.5 or 11 in regular shoes. Break in was annoying but now they are my go to shoe when I need a non toe shoe for wet or situations that require a bit more protection. Lastly I don’t wear them with socks if I can help it! Hope this helps some people out in making a choice.

  47. Matt says:

    Larry, running on the balls of your feet is a bit of a misleading and simplistic way to describe the natural running form you’ll need to run with this type of shoe. I’d suggest going to the New Balance website and looking at their “good form running” videos, which show you all the elements of the proper technique. Or check out this website: . You’re also best off transitioning slowly from your previous style – maybe a mile or so at first, then very gradually increasing it. Some muscle soreness in the lower legs and feet is normal, so just take it easy until you feel better. It takes some time and effort to get used to it, but for me at least, it was a huge payoff in the end. Good luck!

  48. Cristin says:

    Hello.. Can anyone advise.. I love my 5 fingers, but I am battling on the long runs.. have been running with them for over a year. As soon as I run more than 15km’s I take strain. Who else runs marathons/ultras and which shoe do you used in the minimal catagory.

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  51. Bill says:

    I would buy these all day long, IF I COULD FIND THEM!

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