Merrell 'Trail Glove'

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

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.”

merrell barefoot trail glove shoe.jpg

Merrell Trail 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.

merrell barefoot trail glove sole.jpg

Sole of the Trail Glove; note “hourglass” shape

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.

Posted by Brock Foreman - 03/03/2011 03:48 PM

I like barefoot running (sans shoes) although it’s not always practical. For whatever reason—mostly aesthetics probably—I haven’t been super excited about “toe shoes.” Merrell’s approach here might bridge the gap for me between between running totally barefoot and fully shod. I look forward to GJ’s full report.

Posted by Noah Anderson - 03/03/2011 07:47 PM

Just bought a pair of these a week ago. Ran in them only a few times but they feel good so far. After the first real run my calves were on fire.

Posted by BikeSLC - 03/03/2011 11:12 PM

I’ve been using a pair since January and I can’t say enough good about them. Great fit, airy is an excellent descriptor! The sole is just enough protection without feeling restrictive in any way and it moves very well with the foot. You can really feel the road, cracks, pebbles, everything.

For anyone who really wants the FiveFingers but can’t get their toes in them, or doesn’t like the feel of all that stuff between their toes, these are the perfect compromise.

And if you are new to the style, Noah is dead on, your calves will burn those first few runs – sticking to mixed surfaces at the beginning will help you adjust. I run a few miles on pavement before lapping the fields at a local school – the grass is heavenly in comparison.

Posted by Stephen - 03/04/2011 12:33 PM

Merrel seems to doing better these days. Came across some reviews recently. I have a site which specializes in Trail Running Shoes. There are some other trail running shoes that might be interesting to you.

Posted by Josh - 03/08/2011 11:23 AM

I’ve been doing 5 fingers for about a month now and love them. I ran an Army PT test the other day in some heavy-ass Lafuma’s (cause the Army has dis-allowed VFF’s) and was pretty fast with as little as I have been doing. I am considering the Trail Glove for use with official “Army training.”

Posted by Dan - 03/08/2011 03:09 PM

I don’t see myself trying these. I have been running many miles on snow and ice in the Saucony Peregrine and really love the ride. Try those. You won’t be sorry.

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