The unfathomable trend of minimalist and “barefoot-style” shoes — most notably Vibram’s FiveFingers line, which are the “shoes with toes” — has sparked a design revolution of sorts in the footwear world. Merrell, a division of Wolverine World Wide Inc., is one of the latest entries, and its “Glove” series of barefoot shoes has the potential to make an impact in the now-saturated category.
I have been running in the company’s Trail Glove model this winter. Though snow and ice have precluded a thorough test, I can draw some initial conclusions. In short, the Trail Glove is unlike any other barefoot-style shoe I have tried. It fits, as the name says, “like a glove.”
The shoe has a breathable mesh upper and a unique lacing setup that lets the shoe body fully ensconce your foot. The fit is tight around the middle and in the heel, though roomy for the toes. The sole — made by Vibram — is super flexible, and its low-to-the-ground design forces a mid-foot or fore-foot stride.
Land on your heel with these shoes and they will let you know. The heel is weak, meaning there’s almost no padding and no rise. Overall, the Trail Glove has a similar feel to some Vibram FiveFingers models, though the toe area on the Merrell shoes is obviously not articulated like with VFFs.
There is no insole in the Trial Glove. You can run sock-less if you want in the tight-fitting shoes. Merrell built in 4mm “midsole cushions” of EVA foam, and a thinner “absorption plate” of foam is in the forefoot area to absorb some shock on harsh terrain.
On my scale, the Trail Gloves weigh in at 8.2 ounces per shoe in a men’s U.S. size 12. This is light, but not incredible. On the feet, the shoes feel airy, however.
Beyond the Trail Glove, Merrell has five additional “Glove” models. The company has a blog and a micro-site dedicated to “barefooting.” Merrell has drunk the Kool-Aid, no doubt. (Then again, so have I!)
The Trail Glove shoes cost $110. They are made for trails, as the name says. On the road, pounding pavement, the shoe will feel harsh to anyone not initiated to the minimalist style.
My initial review of the Trail Glove is positive. Merrell has a new and different take on the barefoot game. This spring, as the snow melts and the trails dry, I plan to log some true miles in these tight-fitting “foot gloves.” Check back for my full evaluation later this spring.
—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of Gear Junkie and a fan of barefoot-style shoes. GearJunkie.com has a comprehensive “Barefoot Running Shoe Guide” plus recent barefoot coverage of Vibram’s FiveFingers “Casual Shoes” for 2011 and New Balance’s Minimus line.