A while back, I did a review of the Vibram Five Fingers Trek Sport. So, now that I have had a chance to try the Merrell Trail Glove I thought it would be interesting to compare the two trail shoes. What follows is a comparison and review as well as a video! Read on!
What makes the Merrell Trail Glove so unique is its Vibram sole. It is similar to the soles used in Vibram FiveFingers (without the toe separation) and most closely resembles the KSO Trek/TrekSport sole. I have heard a lot of folks say the Trek-style sole is too thick and they prefer the thinner, non-lugged KSO sole. However, when trail running, the added protection and lugging really helps. Compared to the FiveFingers Trek sole, the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove sole has an added rock protection plate and the cleating pattern is different.
The Merrell Trail Glove snugly surrounds the foot (following the contour of the foot through the arch) and the overall fit is very similar to FiveFingers with the obvious exception of no toe pockets. Diehard Five Fingers fans will find this unacceptable, but the very roomy toe box leaves plenty of room for toe splay.
As it turns out, I didn't own the TrekSports very long. I had to return them after the Coconut Active Carbon material used for the upper tore along the big toe. Though I haven't logged a ton of miles in the Merrell Trail Glove, they seem very durable, yet breathable and quick drying. Merrell has a long history of making hiking boots and shoes and I feel sure the Trail Glove workmanship will hold up well.
Don't like the attention Five Fingers draw, but want to maintain that barefoot feel? If you want to fly a under the radar, the Trail Glove is the answer! It is the closest you can get to Five Fingers in a more traditional hiking/trail running shoe.
The Trail Glove has nice styling and a wide choice of colors. Because the toe box is so wide and roomy, I recommend one of the color combinations with the black toe protectors. The black blends with the sole and makes the toe area look less bulbish (The Trail Glove's combination of a form-fitting arch/midfoot with a roomy toe box can, in certain settings, make the shoe look a bit clownish, for lack of a better word)
I like that the Trail Glove has no toes. Trail running involves a lot of twisting and turning and there are obstacles everywhere. All of this foot movement causes me to develop hot spots and blisters on my toes when running trails sockless in Vibram FiveFingers. So far, I haven't had any hot spots running without socks on trails in the Trail Gloves.
Also, it is very easy to catch a toe on a rock or root. Broken toes and falls aren't much fun and the Trail Glove's traditional toe box solves this problem. Also, the added flexible rock plate reduces bruising at the forefoot while still preserving some barefoot feel.
Summary and Video
The Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove is perhaps the best choice for trail runners who want a neutral, foot friendly running shoe with a barefoot feel. The Trail Glove forms to the foot and has a fairly flexible sole similar to like Vibram Five Fingers, yet it protects your toes with a more traditional upper and wide toe box.
Merrell Barefoot shoes have been released into the wild for purchase and if you're looking to snag a pair, here are a few online retailers carrying the Trail Gloves (The Trail Gloves run about $110) as well as other Merrell Barefoot models (reviews pending):
- Travel Country — Men's Trail Glove, Women's Pace Glove, Men's True Glove, Women's Pure Glove, Men's Tough Glove (leather)
- The Shoe Mart — Men's Trail Glove, Women's Pace Glove
- REI — Men's Trail Glove, Women's Pace Glove
- Rock/Creek — Men's Trail Glove, Women's Pace Glove
- Kayak Shed — Men's Trail Glove, Women's Pace Glove, Men's True Glove, Women's Pure Glove
Per Merrell, the fit on the Barefoots is running about ½ size big (I'm wearing 10s and normally fit a 10.5 — I also wear size 43 VFFs).
Here's a video review I through together!
Let me know your questions or comments below!