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Merrell Trail Glove – Initial Impressions

Merrell has recently launched their new series of minimalist active and casual shoes called their Barefoot collection. I was fortunate enough to receive a pair of their off-road minimalist shoes called the Merrell Trail Glove.

I have had the Trail Gloves for about a month of periodic wear that has consisted of  a full day of trail walking and a variety of shorter walks both in the dirt and on pavement. I haven’t done any running in them yet but plan to start gradually implementing short runs in them as a tool for general strengthening. I will say I already really, really enjoy walking in them off the pavement.

Some Basics

Lets keep this simple, we are talking about a minimalist trail shoe! 🙂

  • Light – Well duh! 6.2 ounces.
  • Flat – Zero mm drop.
  • Feedback rich – 4 mm of midsole cushioning. Plenty of cross-talk between ground and feet.
  • Feathery Forefoot Protection – 1 mm flexible forefoot absorption plate.

Bonus feature – foldable!

Minimal Trail Shoe – Significant Detail

For a simple shoe, there are quite a few details worth mentioning.

Snug Heel Through Midfoot Yet Wide Toebox

Sliding your feet into the Trail Glove and lacing them up, it becomes immediately apparent that the heel and midfoot areas of the foot…cough, cough…fit like a glove. 😉 I wouldn’t call it restrictive, simply comfortably snug.

Instead of a taper along the forefoot little piggies area, the toebox remains moderately wide to allow them little guys to dance around a bit if they want to.

You can check out the toebox difference as compared to a pair of cross country flats (Saucony Killkenny XC 3) I often wear when walking through the isles of Whole Foods.

Friction Free Heel Wrap

The thin and flexible faux leather lining around the heel/ankle provides a snug and comfortable fit with a sockless foot or if wearing a thin piece of foot clothing. No seams or stitching to dig into the skin.

Respectful Tongue

The lacing system attaches to the shoe tongue which prevents a few undesirable words from leaving your mouth because the tongue has shifted on you. It is going nowhere once laced up.

A Dash of Medial Support

The Trail Glove does provide a bit of medial (inside) support as the below picture highlights. I wouldn’t call it a huge amount but when compared against my cross country racing flat, it was noticeable.

Tread That Purrs and Bites

The Vibram outsole (no big surprise here), has a low-profile tread design until you get near the point of your little piggies then the tread becomes more defined and aggressive. I can almost hear it growl. 😉 I could see these fangs being useful for climbing hills and steep grades.

Purrrrrrrr

Do you see those teeth?!?

Never Leave a Toe Behind – Piggy Protection

Suprisingly enough these minimalist trail shoes provide a fair amount of smashed piggy protection. The rubber outsole wraps up the front of the shoe and provides a fair amount of cuss protection. I am not saying INOV-8 Flyroc 310 protection but a mini-me version of it.

My Experience…So Far

First sizing…I wore a size 12 in the Trail Glove. Fit perfectly for me. I normally wear between a 11.5 and 12, although I have been going with size 12 more consistently.

I normally run in 8-10 ounce trail shoes that have 6-10 mm of heel-to-forefoot drop so I haven’t gone all run crazy with these shoes. As initially mentioned, I haven’t ran in them at all yet but have enjoyed the heck out of them walking on trails and grassy surfaces. After my Bandera 25 km adventure run in January, I wore the Trail Gloves for eight hours at the park while walking along the trail, cheering on other runners. Loved the simple barefoot-ish feel.

My feet are definitely not toughened to wearing shoes without socks so I noticed one potential hot-spot area at the base of the tongue (shoe not mouth), around the forefoot area. The extra tongue fabric would rub against the top of my foot just prior to the start of my little piggies. This would occur when the shoe is flexed in the forefoot area. If I wore a thin pair of socks, I had no issues.

With respect to cushioning, I would consider it…well…minimal. Comparing to my cross country flats, the Trail Gloves definitely provide more ground feedback.

As a running tool or to enjoy some family time at the park, the Trail Gloves are both functional and a heck of a lot of fun in an off-road environment. I look forward to enjoying many more miles of walking, hiking, and eventually a bit of running.

Back to School! – Merrell Style

To assist with the transition to what will be significantly less shoe than most people wear on a daily basis, Merrell has released an initial set (more to come) of videos with minimalist runner Jason Robillard and personal trainer Walt Reynolds. The videos are designed to help with the transition to less shoe and will include foot strengthening exercises, how much – how often, and running form tips.


You can purchase the Merrell Trail Glove or Pace Glove (womens) at Running Warehouse (Shoes, Packs, Clothes, Lights, and more…plus 2-day free shipping!).


Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

[This article contains links that may support Endurance Buzz.]

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

14 Responses to “Merrell Trail Glove – Initial Impressions”

  1. on 08 Feb 2011 at 12:28 pm Julie

    I ordered these last week and am anxiously awaiting their arrival! (suppose to be in today, yay!) I’ve been wearing the New Balance 101’s and love those and am curious to see how these compare. Thanks for the review!

  2. on 08 Feb 2011 at 2:29 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Julie – Thanks for sharing. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the shoes. I just wanted to share a few thoughts when comparing the 101s and the Trail Glove.

    The Merrell shoes are way, way, way less shoe as compared to the 101s. The 101s have some heel-to-forefoot drop and some cushioning. The Merrell’s will feel like a protective skin for the trails. The difference is significant. Of course, you will find this out soon. 😉

  3. on 08 Feb 2011 at 7:26 pm Paul Mastin

    I think these look great! I can’t wait to try them. I have gone through 2 pair of VFF Trek Sports, but busted the seams on the big toe, in both cases in less than 30 miles of trail running (Thank goodness for Vibram’s 90 day guarantee and Luke’s Locker’s handling the returns beautifully in both cases). I have a new pair of VFF Treks (with the leather upper) waiting to be trail tested, but if their construction is as weak as the Trek Sports, I’m definitely going to give the Merrell’s a try. Will you be wearing them at Cross Timbers?

  4. on 08 Feb 2011 at 8:58 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Paul – Do you know if that issue is common for the VFFs? Two pairs toast within 30 miles would be a bit frustrating for me. Fortunately you have been able to get them replaced with little hassle.

    I will not wear the Trail Gloves during the race but will likely wear them afterwards. My shoe of choice will likely be an INOV-8, just not sure which one yet…and conditions may dictate.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Happy Running!

  5. on 09 Feb 2011 at 7:35 am Steve Wray

    I have really narrow feet. I’m curious if you can comment on a fit comparision between the trail glove and any of these shoes: Inov 8 flite 195, Inov 8 x-talon 212, Montrail Masochist. Great review.

  6. on 09 Feb 2011 at 9:14 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Steve – Thanks for the comment!

    I just tried the Trail Glove on one foot and the x-talon 212 on the other. Very similar general fit. The Trail Glove probably wraps a bit more snuggly around the mid-foot. If the x-talon 212 fits well for you, I feel the Trail Glove would as well.

    Btw, I wore a size 12 for both sets of shoes.

    Hope this helps.

  7. on 09 Feb 2011 at 10:07 am charles yoo

    Some people on the Minimal list have purchased from shoebuy.com. There is/was a 15% off coupon, winter15, I believe. First time registerees also get an additional 10% off your order.

    Couldn’t justify spending 80/90 for shoes. Is very tempting though.

  8. […] Merrell Trail Glove – Initial Impressions [Endurance Buzz] – Another review of the Merrell Trail Gloves […]

  9. on 10 Feb 2011 at 10:27 pm Mike Sherman

    I picked a pair up from my local Merrell store on Feb 9th, it turns out that I got their first pair, less than 2 hours after it came off the truck. I seem to be one of the first to get a pair, so I figured my thoughts might be useful.

    I agree with David’s comments about the fit, and I’m very impressed with the adjustment possible for the lacing.

    I also have an issue with the fabric flap by the toes, but it isn’t a problem when wearing even the barely there Injini liner socks. I’m considering cutting it off, or gluing it down.

    Size 9 felt best for me, snug through the heel and midfoot, with plenty of toe room. For reference, I wear a size 40, grey KSO, and the nike free 5.0s in 9.5.

    While wearing them on a hard surface, they almost feel like they have a reverse drop, from the tread on the outsole, but it feels right. My natural balance point moved forward from the heel, to just behind the ball of my foot.

    I’ve started training for my first half marathon, and the KSOs weren’t cutting it for wintertime use any more, so I’m really looking forward to training in these. I’m doing to in part to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, and have a link attached if anyone is interested in donating. No pressure though.

    Hope this info helps someone.

  10. on 14 Feb 2011 at 9:56 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Mike – Thanks for sharing your experience with the Trail Gloves so far. I am hopeful Merrell will be able to find a solution for that potential sockless “hot-spot” area.

    Good luck with your training!

  11. on 14 Jul 2011 at 8:51 pm allen

    I just got a pair on my way to the beach for 4 days, thinking I would enjoy them for running after vacation, but they are an awesome beach shoe as well.

  12. on 18 Jul 2011 at 11:55 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Allen – Great to hear you dig the shoes! Thanks for sharing and with the heat in Texas the last couple of months – the beach sounds like a good idea to me! 🙂

  13. on 18 Oct 2011 at 1:56 pm Davie

    I’m writing in support of these shoes – I like ’em a lot.

    I really wanted a pair of the NB Minimus, but I wear a size 15 and they don’t make that. I tried on a pair of the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove in a size 14 and the fit seemed so close, and they didn’t have a 15 in stock….

    So, I bought the 14’s. Liked ’em, but knew I really needed the 15’s. Walked some, ran a little (like 2 miles) in the 14’s, but now I’ve got the 15’s and I’m really happy!

    Now… what am I going to do with these slightly used 14’s??

    email me with suggestions: plasticdisc – at – G mail dot….

  14. on 19 Oct 2011 at 5:18 pm David Hanenburg

    Hey Davie – Thanks for sharing your experience with the trail glove and great to hear you like them!