Barefoot Shoes

Merrell Barefoot Road Glove Review

It’s 2012 and Merrell is on round two of their Barefoot line. We’ve previously reviewed their flagship minimalist shoe, the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove, and since shoe design tends to be iterative, this review is going to be doing some comparisons to the Trail Glove. Also, I’m going to leverage a few barefoot blogging, running friends’ reviews to highlight different perspectives on the Road Glove as a running shoe — so this review is going to be broken up into my assessment of the Merrell Barefoot Road Glove based on it’s new design and barefoot feel/function; then I’m going to dive into some perspectives on it from around the web.


It’s 2012 and Merrell is on round two of their Barefoot line. We’ve previously reviewed their flagship minimalist shoe, the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove, and since shoe design tends to be iterative, this review is going to be doing some comparisons to the Trail Glove. Also, I’m going to leverage a few barefoot blogging, running friends’ reviews to highlight different perspectives on the Road Glove as a running shoe — so this review is going to be broken up into my assessment of the Merrell Barefoot Road Glove based on it’s new design and barefoot feel/function; then I’m going to dive into some perspectives on it from around the web. And as always the review will carry with it the characteristic slew of photos, of course! Read on!


The Merrell Road Glove is a closed-toe, Vibram-soled “zero drop” shoe designed with road running as the intended use. Here are the official specs from the product page [Bracketed comments mine]:
Run, naturally with our Road glove – connecting you to the earth and your unique natural stride. Its supportive fabric and mesh upper breathes and secures the foot Zero-drop cushioning lands your feet pancake-flat, aligning your body and strengthening muscles. A specialized forefoot plate and a Vibram® barefoot sole add bruise protection and traction. UPPER / LINING • Barefoot Strobel construction offers flexibility and comfort • Synthetic leather and breathable air mesh upper [Quite airy and lets light in per this pic] • TPU overlays secure the foot [These grey web things] • Fused rubber toe bumper [the black piece here] provides durability and protection • Synthetic leather rear foot sling provides ultimate stability [The “Merrell” branded bit] • Internal support construction [This is located at the arch, discussed below] secures the midfoot for optimal fit and support • Integrated microfiber footbed treated with aegis® antimicrobial solution resists odor [Same stuff as used with Vibram FiveFingers] MIDSOLE / OUTSOLE • 4 mm compression molded EVA midsole cushions [Same as Trail Glove sans rock plate] • 0mm ball to heel drop keeps you connected to your terrain • Vibram® Road Glove Sole / TC-1 Rubber [pic below] • Wash as needed in cold water, gentle cycle and air dry
Even though the Road Glove is designed with road running, it’s sole is still evocative of the Trail Glove, which is itself reminiscent (to me, anyway) of a mono-toed version of the KSO Trek / Trek LS / Trek Sport sole. In short, it’s enough rubber and EVA to mute the ground feel a good bit while still providing what I’d describe as a hard/non-cushy experience of your terrain. Take a look at the sole:
If you compare and contrast the Road Glove sole to the Trail Glove (pictured at right) and what you’ll notice that the Road Glove sole looks like it gets more abruptly “to the point” at the forefoot, widening dramatically after the arch. Mind, some of that is a visual effect driven by the color schemes/mold detailing of the rubber, but per my foot, it’s also a real difference in the two sole designs. Here’s a side-by-side comparison photo of the two shoes:
You’ll also notice that the heel is wider. What you might miss in looking at this from above photo of the sole is how much flatter the Road Glove sole is at the heel (and the forefoot). A picture is worth at least a hundred words here, so check out how I can line up the sole of the Road Glove to a straight edge of concrete in the photo at the right. Comparatively, the Trail Glove is much more rounded at the heel. What’s the impact? Well it’s two-fold in my view. Probably the most pronounced difference per my feet is that the Road Glove sole feels wider across the platform than the Trail Glove. The Trail Glove sole seems to be molded a bit more like a foot (the heel being rounded and not flat), but this also made for it feeling a little unstable on flat, man-made surfaces. Meanwhile, the Trail Glove also feels markedly more “bottlenecked” at the arch than the Road Glove. The most poignant point of contact on the Trail Glove which borderlines on discomfort (for me) is right at the forefoot at the first metatarsel (the inside of your foot where the big arch terminates, basically). The Road Glove doesn’t have this feel, and that makes for an important improvement in my book. As for the arch, itself, I feel like the arch is less there on the Road Gloves as compared to the Trail Gloves; interestingly enough, it seems that different folks have different takes on these two shoes’ arches — more on this below. One thing I’ve opined on at length is on the difficulty in making a closed-toe shoe that is non-restrictive at the forefoot still feel “locked on” to your foot — how do you do this? Well, you mold the arch so that the shoe is less likely to slide around on your foot. Does it provide arch support? Well, a little, but only insomuch as it’s a structure that is there at your arch (as opposed to a void of space). It’s not arch support in the sense of your modern sneaker where you have a strong foam base pushing strongly up on your arch. In short, molded arches are design compromises employed to make the shoe feel more like a part of your foot. The Merrell Road Glove also has a sizeable toe box providing your toes with a good bit of wiggle room and toe splay. Meanwhile, there is some toe spring with the Road Gloves. It’s there if you’re paying attention but not really an issue if you choose to forget about it (I forget about it immediately and don’t find it annoying). One thing I’d like to see with Merrell Barefoot’s going forward is a bit more friendly design around the Achilles tendon. While the Road Gloves haven’t rubbed mine wrong, my True Gloves have and other’s have had issues with the Road Gloves at the Achilles. An Achilles notch would suffice and I don’t think it would detract at all from the barefoot-minded aspects of the shoe.

Barefoot Feel/Function

The best things going for the Road Glove are that it’s anatomically friendly shape (wide toe box, narrower heel), zero-dropped platform, and rubber/minimally foamed in the sole. The combination means that your biomechanics aren’t going to be dramatically impaired by these shoes as compared to when you are barefoot. So the Road Gloves have a pretty decent barefoot feel — totally on par with the Merrell Trail Gloves, and not wholly unlike Vibram FiveFingers Trek-soled line of toe shoes. As with any shoe where the sole isn’t completely glued on to your foot at all points (a benefit flexibly soled toe shoes), your foot is going to feel more apart from the shoe, and this is certainly the case with the Road Gloves. They are comfortable shoes though — more comfortable for long-term wear than the Trail Gloves, which is due to the less locked-on bottle-necking feel where the arch meets the forefoot as noted above.

Review Round Up

Confession time. While I’ve worn the Road Gloves a good bit and squeezed in some heavy lifts in them, I’ve not run in them other than an ad hoc trot here and there. This is mostly due to not running much at all the last three months (mostly due to a number of life circumstances, not the least of which includes having another daughter for weeks ago yesterday!). So whereas I can wax poetic on how this shoe feels, I can’t say much of anything on how it performs on the road. So allow me to lean on others a bit (I hope they don’t mind!). Below are some highlights from other reviews of the Road Glove, all of which are worth the time to read in full if you can spare it! I’ll start with Jason Robillard, Merrell’s official barefoot ambassador. Here’s his big picture take on the Road Glove over at Barefoot Running University:
Jason of Barefoot Running UniversityThe sole of the Road Glove is pancake flat. Compare that to the Trail Glove, which had a fairly aggressive tread for trails. That tread was spectacular on trails, but kinda sucked on roads. The Road Glove sole solves this problem by flattening all lugs and tread. This is the single thing that made this such a huge improvement for road running. The foot landing feels exactly like landing when wearing a huarache- which is exactly what makes it so good. As far as other characteristics- the shoe is fairly well ventilated and dried quickly. During the mountain runs, I traversed several streams and snow fields, which provided a pretty good test. The shoe kept my foot in place well when wet. … Traction was surprisingly good on the rocky mountain trails… definitely on-par with the Trail Glove. In mud, the flat sole didn’t perform too well. On roads, the conditions the shoe was designed for, traction was excellent even on wet asphalt. … Conclusion The Road Glove is exactly what it should be- a road shoe that doesn’t interfere with natural gait. Merrell took the formula that worked for the Trail Glove and applied it to this shoe. The shoe isn’t perfect, but it works exceptionally well for me. If you are in the market for a minimalist shoe for the road, this should be on your short list of shoes you MUST try.
Jason also notes that the Road Glove would be great for CrossFitters. I definitely have liked them for heavy squats, but I’m coming to find that any non-foamy soled, zero-dropped shoe (or just going barefoot) is all I want for squats. Next we have Christian, the barefoot superhero of Maple Grove Barefoot Guy. Christian’s take on the Road Glove mostly talks about the differences to the Trail Glove (a common theme in Road Glove reviews) while citing it as a bit less minimalist than he’d prefer. Check it out:
Christian of Maple Grove Barefoot GuyMy main critique of the Road Glove is that although Merrell added features to fix the problems of the Trail Glove, they forgot to take things away. I’m of the opinion that “less is more” when it comes to making a minimal road shoe. All that a road shoe needs is a minimal amount of soling material to protect your feet against abrasions and small debris. The Road Glove doesn’t exactly follow that motto. Not that it’s not a minimal shoe. It’s essentially a Trail Glove for roads. It keeps the substantial forefoot thickness of the Trail Glove (without the rock plate), and adds an equally substantial heel and arch. The resulting shoe that too me feels a bit less like the minimal shoes I’m used to, and a bit more like a stripped-down road trainer. On the spectrum of minimal options, I would put it just below the New Balance Minimus Trail in terms of thickness and flexibility. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no. Yes for me, because I would have preferred something with a little more groundfeel. I also find the built-up heel a little clompy at times. No for most everyone else, because I think a lot of folks love the groundfeel of the Trail Glove, and wished they could enjoy the same on the road.
Christian is awesome, by the way, and always brings to the barefoot discussion both humor and a gut-checking clarity on fitness, as well as a dash of paleo nutrition, which is a nice compliment to the minimalist footwear movement (and how I got into this whole thing in the first place). I’ll wrap my barefoot running blogger’s round-up with Jesse’s take on the Road Glove from In Search of Solid Ground
After a few runs in the Road Gloves, I can tell that these will be my preferred shoe for non-trail running. I use the term “non-trail” instead of road because I like them for anything that is less than technical. With many minimalist options like FiveFingers, huaraches, or water socks, I find myself wondering, “will I be going on gravel or debris-covered roads?” before I head out. Granted, this problem is more specific to those with a complete arsenal of minimalist shoes than people with enough sense to keep it simple. The Road Glove provides enough insulation to run gravel, chip and seal, rocks, and other rough stuff. The tough exterior doesn’t greatly diminish the Road Gloves efficacy as a true minimalist shoe. … The sole is a bit more flat, which increases groundfeel on the road and flat surfaces. This also made the shoe feel a bit less constrictive on my foot. The thin rockplate is absent on the Road Gloves, which is one of the attributes that improves road quality significantly. … Several people have complained about the arch of the shoe touching the arch of the foot. Though the materials that compose the arch aren’t significant enough to provide any support. The snug midfoot and heel are intended to keep the shoe tight and allow for a loose toebox(and therefore forefoot splay). I found the arch to be more noticeable as I walked around the airport in the shoes. While running, however, its virtually undetectable. … So far, the shoe has given me no hot spots or blisters from sockless wear. The upper on the Road Glove is even smoother than on the Trail Glove.
Thanks, Jesse!

Conclusion and Photo Gallery

As for my own thoughts? Well, based solely on the overall comfort of the Road Gloves and the lack of that bottlenecking feel just past the arch on the Trail Gloves, if I had to pick between these two flagship shoes, I’d go with the Road Gloves. They just seem a bit more refined and a bit more foot friendly to me. Ultimately, I’m afraid to say that if you really want to make an educated decision between the Trail or Road Gloves from Merrell, you’re going to have to try both on and feel them for yourself. As for sizing, I’m a size 43 VFF, 10.875″ long heel to longest toe foot, and 10.5 standard size in most shoes. I’ve tried on the 10s and the 11s in numerous shoes from Merrell Barefoot and I am very consistently a 10.5, and that continues to be the case with the Road Glove: these shoes size true in my experience. As for availability? Well, hopefully they’ll be available any day now (the product page on Merrell’s site doesn’t have any available … yet!). Questions or comments? Critiques? Did I miss anything? And what do you think about this review format? Let me know in the comments below! And now for the rest of the photos!

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

29 replies on “Merrell Barefoot Road Glove Review”

I have a pair of the trail gloves. IT seems, upon reading your review and looking at the photos, that these road gloves have the same problems as the trail gloves. For example: for someone’s foot who is used to going barefoot on a regular basis, the toe box is far to small at the pinky toe and the big toe, the shoe itself is far to narrow, and the toe area lifts off the ground (which creates a very unnatural effect.) All of these things prohibit anything remotely close to a barefoot feel. Honestly, I think that the Merrel line is on the right path but they should make a shoe that does not restrict the foot. I think Vibrams and Huarache sandals are the best at this.


I’m not sure how you can draw all of these conclusions based on the photos. I’m wearing my Road Gloves at the moment and can stretch my pinky toe all the way out — I have to in order to touch the sidewall. As far as being too narrow, there’s a balance to be struck with any shoe in either being wide across the platform and letting the foot float within the cavern of the shoe (I think VIVOs frequently take this approach, and my foot never feels fully seated in many of their shoes). As for the toe spring, my toes aren’t flat on the floor all the time — even when I’m standing they only touch the ground as needed for stability. This is just me, of course, but I’ve just never had an issue with “toe spring” in Merrells.

Anyway, just as any shoe isn’t barefoot (including huaraches and Vibrams), I do agree with you that VFFs and huaraches are much more barefoot feeling than Merrells. But amongst the “barefoot” shoes like Merrells and New Balances, these are on par if not better than many options out there. I think they’re more barefoot than the Trail Gloves and the NB Minimus Trails, just to name a couple.

Yeah I see what your saying. But I wasn’t taking all of that from looking at the pictures, I was looking at how my trail gloves fit and feel, hoping that the problem I found would be fixed, and saw some of the same problems in the trail gloves. And your right there is no possible way for me to be sure that these are as narrow as the trail gloves, (I had a very narrow foot before barefooting and they would have fit me fine then) but my trail gloves are narrow and everyone I’ve talked to who owns a pair also say they are very narrow. That’s great that the toe spring hasn’t bothered you! But for me, my toes aren’t naturally suspended off the ground. My weight is on the balls of my feet but my toes still rest on the ground. The trail gloves bothered me that my toes were lifted up, even if I wanted them down. About toe splay, when I started going barefoot, as well as my foot getting alot wider, my toes splayed to the point of being slightly wider than my mid-foot or equal to it. My trail gloves, as well as these road gloves (upon looking at the pictures), get narrower from the mid-foot on. So not only are they not allowing toe splay for me, but they’re actually pushing my toes inward. Maybe I just have weird feet. 🙂

First, congrats on the new addition Justin!

Second, I really enjoy running in my NB Minimus Roads and wore them to work so much I bought the Stem shoes last week to have a less athletic, more work-appropriate option available.

That being said, I’m looking for another shoe to add to my stable (who isn’t) even though I bought a pair of Brooks PureFlow over Thanksgiving.


guess i could have read that branding from outer space. hey merel guys, it’s never too late to repent.
come up with a sleek grphical logo
instead of that oversized text.
i mean, you should give us the shoes for free just for being your
“walking ad”.
just my humble thought.

I like a lot the trail gloves, but for roads I found the plate to be a bit uncomfortable, leading to a bit hard landing of the foot. I guess the absence of a rock plate is nice for that. On the other hand, I love the shape, fit and upper of the trail glove so this should be good too.

I just received a pair of Merrell Mix Master… a different shoe but nice also.

Congrats on the little one. We’re expecting our 2nd son on March 12th, so I know time is getting limited.

How are the Road Gloves for snow/ice/cold? I love winter running and I assume that we’ll actually get snow up here in NY state sometime this winter. I haven’t been a fan of the VFF’s in cold weather without socks. Do you have to go socked in the Merrells?

I also have the Trail Glove but after I got the STEM shoes I have done quite a bit of winter running in them. I also need a much wider toebox after barefoot running, meaning I feel the Trail Glove is too narow for me now. The STEM shoes let me really feel comfy and i can put a thin wool sock in them and run in the snow. I might just wear out my STEM shoes before the snow goes! No, they surprise me not wearing much on the sole. I also run with “Correct Toes” and I think the combination STEM and “Correct Toes” are fixing my flat forefeet. Jason you are making us emtpy our pockets for all the cool shoes you are tempting us with 🙂

My question is that I have tried to fit the 2011 merrell barefoot running shoes on,and i struggle to get my foot in. My foot is very wide across my toes, and i have a high arch. Im a neutral runner, I have been running with my vibram 5 fingers KSO trail shoes and stubbed my little toe so am considering a box type running shoe hence the reason for looking at merrell.Im in Auckland , New Zealand and want to find out if you know whether the merrell barefoot road glove that you reviewed comes in a wide toe box and high arch?Ive read your review on this shoe – thanks! Louis

I’ve looked all over Google and the Merrell site for the answer without luck so maybe you can confirm my question…are these ONLY available for men?

Also…how do you feel about these compared to Vibrams? I’ve been in VFFs for almost 3 years now and I’m curious about a minimalist shoe…

Thanks for a great site and up-to-date reviews!

@Shanna – the women’s is called the Dash Glove

I just ordered the road glove, and I’m hopeful. The Trail Glove never fit me quite right, but the less “locked in” feeling of these might fix the issue I had. If not, there’s always the minimus zero soon…

Hey, this is my first time posting here and I am trying to get back into barefoot running. I I tried about a year ago with the purchase of some kso’s but stopped due to breaking my toe on a heavy bag, but it is now well healed. I digress, I recently tried to put back on my kso’s and due to my formerly broken Morton’s toe(yeah that toe is a real ass), they are cause a slight jamming when I run. So Finally to my damn Question, I want to get a new pair of minimalist shoes. Just so that you know, I usually box 6-7 days a week and run 5k per day for road work. Right now I use a traditional running shoe and I am feeling a pain in my knee when I run… I’m 19, that shouldn’t happen. So Is this merrell the all around shoe I’m Looking for, Will I be able to do my road work, boxing, martial arts, and maybe a little running off the beaten path in this merrell? or am I better of going with a larger pair of KSO’s?

Sorry for posting again. Also lifting. I would be lifting as well. Nothing crazy just some squats, deadlifts and the like every now and then. Would the merrells also be acceptable for that?

They’re great for lifting Jack — I used them often for that specific purpose.

I think they would work for what you’re after with your training — different from the FiveFingers, of course, being a traditionally single-box shoe rather than toe shoes, but maybe that’s what you need in this instance.

I’ve been using a pair of Trail Gloves for a couple of months already, but mostly indoors on the mil, because of the weather outside. Now I start the preparation for a 20K and I want to go outside on the road.

Do you think I could go on with the Trail Gloves? Or should I buy the Road Gloves? Thanks!


Never reviewed the True Gloves but I do have a pair. They seem to fit through the midfoot a little better than the Trail Gloves (same sole) but everyone I know who has tried them (including me) has experienced annoying rubbing at the Achilles. I’m on the fence on the fabric they used for the upper, too.

I tried the Dash Glove (the women’s version of these) and wanted to love them but just couldn’t.
They feel VERY narrow to me. Wide sizes are available at the Merrell online store, but I couldn’t find anywhere local that carried the wides to try on for size, including REI.
Most critically, the Dash Glove has a strange gathered area at the back of the heel. This spot bites into my heel just walking around the store. The men’s version doesn’t have this, so I’m hoping the next year’s women’s version will get rid of it.

I too feel that women’s merrell brand is too narrow and I can’t buy them. I was really surprised because they are supposed to be a barefoot brand and yet they really don’t allow enough toe room. My pinky toes get squashed in them and going up a size doesn’t help. They end up being way too big and floppy while at the same time still sqishing your pinky toe. They have this weird slope at the top of the shoe as if meant for women who have their pinky toes about a full inch below the top of the big toe. Last time I checked few women have such a steep slope at their toes. It’s a shame because I think Merrell has the most attractive looking barefoot shoes out there, but they’re the only brand I can’t wear.

I ended up with the Merrell Bare Access, after trying on several other shoes and brands of shoes. They fit differently than the Merrell Dash. Even though they are advertised as fitting the same, they don’t feel as narrow or cramped to me and my toes have plenty of room to move around. The back of the shoe is also more like a regular tennis shoe instead of the gathered area that hurt my heel in the Dash.
I’m not crazy about the extra cushion on the outside, but I’ll accept that for something that has 0 drop, fits, and doesn’t give me blisters.

Have you seen the Barefoot Flux Glove? I just saw them on the Merrell website and cant find any reviews ets on them. I love the trail glove and have had them over a year and have been leening towards the road glove until i saw these.

It looks like a mix between the road glove and the trail glove and incorporates the pancake flat sole of the road glove with the upper and lacing system of the trail. Please let me know if you have any info and what your impressions are. Youre blogs awesome

What is the best minimalist trail running shoe for women that is not a VFF? I love my VFF Bikilas for road, but I’ve had so many toe injuries in my Spirodon LS VFFS that I cannot wear them anymore on trails. I need solid toe protection. Is that possible in a minimalist trail running shoe?
If so, which one?

I have loved my Vibram classics but after two years I felt they were just too brutal on any runs over 2 miles (skin peeling, hot spots). No other Vibram model seemed to fit my foot well (wide with high arches). The Merrell Road Glove won on fit and function (over NB Minimums and Brooks Connect). I wore them around the house for a day then went on my first run this morning and had an easy 3.2 miles with almost 2 minutes shaved off my previous run. No peeling, no blisters. They feel great. BIG WIN.

They fit women!
I came across the Road Gloves at a store today, while shopping for barefoot running shoes. They were in the men’s section, but I tried them on anyway, and they are perfect for me in an 8.5, which is my size in women’s shoes. Amazingly, these fit my heel without slipping, feel comfortably snug, but have lots of toe space. Every other running shoe I try slips in the heel, and /or is too restrictive in the toes. It is a relief to find a good neutral heel shoe !

Hi! Cristin from South Africa.. I have been running with Vibram 5 fingers for just over a year and love them.. they are perfect on 5-21km’s but I am training for a marathon next month and feel I might need some more cussioning as my shins are hurting and I am nervous that I might get stress fractures as I plan to build up the milage over the last 6 weeks.. can you all please advise if you have done marathons/ultras..

For those above wearing Correct Toes, what is the “STEM” shoe you mention? As I understand it, it has a wider toe box? Please let me know because I am looking for correct toe -compatible shoes beyond vivobarefoot and the more bulky altra! Jason, please help? Thanks. -s

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