Barefoot Shoes

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove vs. Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport

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 vid…

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!

By Britt

Hailing from College Station, Texas (Home to Texas A&M!), I grew up running cross country. Believe it or not, I gave Justin the name for this site back in early 2009 but I didn't jump on the toe shoes bandwagon until a year later. I am also really into quadcopters and drones and have a blog called

42 replies on “Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove vs. Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport”

How would you compare the merrell trail glove to the new balance minimus trail? That would be a good video. I am wanting a pair and cannot decide b/w the two. Thanks for all the great reviews

I love this shoe. I don’t like that it is called a “barefoot shoe” because that’s an oxy moron. Nonetheless, this shoe is comfortable, stylish and performs great on the trail or in the gym. I love it!


I don’t have a pair of the NB Minimus Trails. Justin does and can perhaps shed more light on the subject. I think they NB’s styling looks cool, but they do have a small heel to toe drop and they don’t seem to form to the foot as much. I have a pair of NB101s and love ’em, but they are definitely a more traditional shoe with a soft midsole.

I had to return the Tough Gloves, in part, because with my size 15 feet they really did look like clown shoes. They’re low near the ankle, and my feet are rather thin vertically, so the toe box really looked puffed up like a clown shoe.

“It is the closest you can get to Five Fingers in a more traditional hiking/trail running shoe.”

Maybe the closest you have tried, but I would argue that the Altra Adam is in fact closer to a FiveFingers feel than the Trail Glove. The Adam feels very much like a KSO.


Would you say the Altra Adam is comparable to a traditional hiking/trail running shoe? Seems more comparable to the KSO, which doesn’t have a lugged sole.

Working on testing out the Adam … Altra needs to hurry up and send me a test pair already 😉

Hi, women run trails, too! Why no women’s trail glove? If only my feet were bigger, I could get away with a men’s version, but 8 is too big.

Thanks for another great review, Britt.

How do you feel about the Trail Glove as a road shoe? Jason over at seemed to think it was great on roads after about 100 miles of break-in. I got the same impression from the guy at the site who said it was the best running shoe he had ever worn on any surface. That’s pretty high praise.

The sole, although designed to grip on trails, looks flat enough that it would work well on roads as well. I run in Bikilas and KSOs but I plan on adding another shoe to my arsenal soon. Right now the Trail Glove is at the top of the list, but with the Hattori and possibly something from Brooks coming soon, who knows.

I think Merrell would be smart to make a pure road version of this shoe.

i might be the odd one here but my pinkie toe doesn’t have enough room in the trail gloves to splay out all the way. its only by a little bit that is why i still wear them but for me the toe box could be a tad bit bigger

I have been a dedicated VFF Trek Sport wearer and have done two ultra’s on pretty technical trails with them. I was really excited about the Trail Glove and Minimus.

I tested the Minimus and decided it seemed to fragile and too much heel. I was convinced that the Trail Glove would be my go to mitten shoe, but after about 45 miles, I do not enjoy running in them and returned my pairs.

On my first pair, they front of the toe was peeling away after a 15 mile technical trail run with many stubs to my toes. On my 2nd pair, I did about 30 miles and just wasn’t enjoying them. I was getting tons of hot spots and rubbing on my foot, where I never get hot spots at other times with my Inov8 x-talon 190’s. I also felt like toes were not held down well enough in the front of the shoe. I my steps were not as far off the ground as I thought, and therefore tripped a lot. Whatever you do, do not step on wet metal or ice, which is a problem with both VFF and Merrel’s, but seemed more slippery in Merrel’s

Anyways, I think Merrel made a great shoe overall and really did well with a zero drop design, but it just wasn’t for me. I’m pretty excited for my Inov8 bare-grip 200 that should be arriving soon.

I recently got a pair of True Gloves. My quick take is that they are pretty darn good in terms of minimalism and barefoot feel but a bit more rigid in the sole than, say a pair of KSOs – which deadens the barefoot feel slightly. Also I found them to be a little harder to get into than I was expecting.

As far as fit, I would say the True Glove runs ever so slightly large. I am usually squarely between a 10.5 and 11 (US size) and the 10.5 fit just right.

How does the Terra Plana Evo compare to the Trail Glove as a running shoe? You have given them both good reviews.

Nice review. I’ve used the Merrell Trail Gloves for a few 15-17 mile weekend asphalt runs as an alternative to my VFF Bikilas. I also enjoy the roomy toebox and ability to wiggle my toes as I run. I have a 10.5 Merrell (my foot measures 10.75″) and it fits fine with no socks.

Nice review. Both my boys have the Trail Glove. They don’t like the VFF look. Me, though, I gotta say I prefer the KSO Treks for trails. The kangaroo leather is insanely durable, but better suited for abuse than the Treksport.

I still have the “tough glove” on my wish list though. I’d use it to wear in places VFF’s aren’t appropriate.

My fit:
I wear a 10 to 10.5 women’s. (since starting to run barefoot a year ago my feet have grown a half size)

I tried the women’s version on first and would have been able to wear the 10 with no socks just fine. But I HATE getting trail dust between my toes so I wear socks. The women’s only go up to a 10 so I asked them to bring me a 8.5 men’s. Works great with the Smartwool socks I like.

Bought mine at Great Outdoor Provision Co in Raleigh, NC while on vacation.

Have done two runs in them so far and really like the snug fit around the foot and the wiggle room in the toes.

I have the women’s pace glove, and they would make a good trail shoe for women ! They also actually make my feet look small- no clown shoe look ! I wear them to work, as they look like a “normal ” shoe – no one looks twice at them !

The Altra Adam is all hype until anyone can actually get a pair.

We keep hearing Altra Adam this and Altra Adam that, but where’s the actual shoe?

It’s like a unicorn.

Time for Altra to put up a hard date for release…or shut up.

@DK – Wow. Go easy there. Hard release date is already set for the Altra’s (April 2011).

Also, I respectfully disagree with Britt’s statement that the trail glove “follows the contour of the foot through the arch.” This might be true for the medial arch, but the lateral side of the sole cuts in awkwardly. The sole itself doesn’t represent the shape of a human foot at all, and anyone with a semi-wide foot will find the outside of their foot extending over the sole at the lateral arch (not comfortable). Hold the sole up to your Treks (or even your bare foot) and you’ll see what I mean.

I got the men’s tough glove so I could wear vibram-like shoes to work, My major complaint is that there is definitely not a big enough toe box. My pinky toe is screaming for room to wiggle! Other than that, the shoe feels just like my kso treks.

Strange coincidance, took my VFF Treksport for an outdoor run yesterday, tripped, fell and now got the exact same tear on the big toe where the shiny part meets the coconut upper.

@ Aaron

Sorry for the late reply, spring break. It is hard to beat the Bikila on roads. The thicker forefoot area and rock plate make the trail glove feel like it it has a heel to toe rise on hard surfaces, so I wouldn’t suggest it. But, after they are broken in and worn down a bit they might be ok.


I like these better than the Terra Plana Evo. The Evo is heavier and feels a bit more like a traditional shoe even though it is a zero drop.

I ordered a pair of Trail Gloves through our local store. It took over a week for Merrell to bother getting them in the mail to my store and took almost three weeks to get. Not really supportive of small town independent shoe dealers. The shoe itself is very good. It fits quite tight around the midfoot but does allow for alot of natural forefoot motion. It does feel constrictive and even heavy if your used to running in Five Fingers, but they should be great for running on our overgrown trails in the summer. A great shoe for people unwilling to make the leap to Five Fingers, but I’m still running in my Treksports whenever possible.

I got my Trail Gloves a few weeks ago and have been gently doing more mileage in them. I now am doing parts of my interval work in them. They are great in the winter since I can wear socks in them. The fit is really nice and they feel like my VFF Bikila (almost). I can even wear them as daily shoes without the usual comments. I really have been looking for casual zero-drop shoes. I can just feel them working my calves. I bought them a Should be easy to find some coupons. I got mine for $84 and free shipping.

Looks like it’s time for the ultimate comparison; Merrel Trail Gloves vs. Terra Plana Evo vs. VFF’s (Bikila & KSO Trek) vs. Inov8 X-Talon 190 vs. Altra Adam

I use Bikilas for all my road and smooth trail running and the Inov8 X-Talon 190 for all the technical trails and trail races. I love the Bikilas and X-Talons! Both perform flawlessly in the right terrain; I do not like the Bikilas on technical trails and I don’t like X-Talons on the road. I’ve looked at all the other minimalist shoes and often wonder how mine would compare. A shoe-off of all these brands and models would be awesome and would answer many questions from many people!

I just got a pair of Pace Gloves, after debating about it for a while, and my initial response is that they’re pretty freakin’ awesome.

I’ve been running in Treksports since the fall, but have found if I do anything over about 40 minutes my big toe on the right foot just gets bruised and really painful as my feet swell slightly from running. Part of this is the fact that there’s no half-size in the VFFs. I would never wear a 39 in a regular shoe, but I found with the 40s that the only toes that really “fit” were my big and second toes. My pinky toe barely got into the pocket! The 39 was the only size that would fit all of my toes, but with the downside of the big toe being snug.

The Pace Gloves are a nice alternative, I think, in that for those of us with smaller toe sizes, there’s a barefoot experience without the awkwardness of toe pockets that are too big and too small on the same foot (obviously custom sizing would fix this in a heart beat!). And there are half sizes available, although I was able to skip right up to 40 without the feeling that half of my toes fit the shoe and the others didn’t.

I’m planning to transfer the VFFs to hiking duty, where I think they’ll be especially useful, and run mostly in the Merrells.

Wish they had custom VFFs though…

I am looking for some advice on fit for the trail glove and NB minimus. I have long toes and often have to buy a 1/2 size larger. How much room should there be for toes in these types of shoes? My test is when I bend my toes up (back foot in deep lunge)they should not rub the top of the shoe, or just barely. Any advice out there?

I Love the Gloves. Have been running in Treks and Bikilas for almost a year. I think the Trial Glove has a little more protection on the bottom, less feel of the road. But thats fine with me. I am tired of feeling every little rock. Difference isn’t that much but over a lot of miles makes a difference. Took the Gloves hiking up Camelback Mountain and they worked very well. I thought I was through with shoe strings for good with the VFFs, but these strings are worth it. You can adjust the tightness/feel of the shoe better with these ties. Also like not having people stare at my feet all the time 🙂 Good job Merrell. They do run a size bigger.

I have also seen a similar amazing shoes, Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10 Mens Running Shoe. This is famous for its exceptional, glove-like fit combined with maximum support. It will impress runners and defend its position as a sales hit.

??? Did I miss the joke in a previous post? The Brooks Adrenaline is exactly the opposite of the minimalist running shoes presented and discussed on this site. It has everything the minimalist/barefoot runner tries to avoid in a shoe – huge, built-up heel; tons of unnecessary padding throughout the midfoot; a tight restrictive upper; little bells and whistles everywhere to control and “correct” the natural motion and shock absorption of the foot, etc. The Adrenaline the perfect example of what some call a “shoe coffin.”

I’ve tried on the Minimus Trail, the True Glove, and the Trail Glove.

My opinion on all three:
Minimus trail is more of a transitional shoe for people that are just getting into minimalist footwear and need something that still provides a bit of cushion.

The Trail glove is great, but I found that the True Glove is much more attractive and comfortable. I personally wear the True Gloves every day and they get better each day.

I’m thinking of purchasing the Trail Gloves, but I’d like to know how they are for beginner barefoot runners. I’ve done cross country and have run regularly, but have never used a minimalist shoe like this. Is this a good one to start out with? Also, I plan on doing a big road run (~15 miles) with these..will that be super painful? Thanks.

I really, really wanted these Merrell Barefoot TRrails to work out. I went to in Burlington and tried them on. What a complete disaster!. They are for people that have narrow feet. If you have trouble putting skates on because it’s always a narrow fit, these Merrell’s will feel the exact same way! I have 4 pairs of Vibrams, and really hoped that these would be alternatives, to not stand out in public as much, what a disappointment. If you have narrow feet, you should be fine, but these shoes feel NOTHING compared to the VFFs. If you are a wide footed person, stick with VFFs and New Balance. I guess I have to try the Minimus next. Good luck everyone!

Great review! I love the Trail Glove. I started off slow and I am adding miles each week. I really love running in this shoe. I run on flat surfaces and very rocky terrain in WV. The shoe is so comfortable that I wear it for casual use as well. Shoe does run a 1/2 size large. The shoe is light and the sole protects feet from sharp rocks.

How would the trail gloves work as primary shoe for someone who hikes, bikes (without specialized shoes) and practices Chinese martial arts? My concern is durability and thoughts on that front would be a big help.

I’ve had a pair of Trail Gloves for about a month now and love them. My feet are wide, they feel fine.

I mostly use them for lifting weights, short runs, and body weight conditioning exercises (think Crossfit w/o the zealotry).

Vibram Five Fingers have been on my wish list for awhile, but with odd size feet, I’ve had trouble justifying buying two pair when I only need one shoe from each set. Because the Trail Glove doesn’t have individual toe pockets, it accommodated the size difference just fine.

I have Trail Gloves and VFF Classics, KSOs, and Bikilas. I prefer to run on the road in Bikilas because the sole has a softer feel than the Trail Gloves. The Merrells are comfortable and I do like running in them, but the sole just seems harder to me, they even make a louder sound on the road.

I spent most of the pas year training for a marathon so wore VFFs but plan to do some trails in the winter so I’ll wear the Trail Gloves for that, I think that is where they’ll shine. They’ll also likely be warmer since I can more easily wear socks with them.

I recentl got a pai of Vibram Merrell Barefoot. They are awesome BUT(!), mine are likely not a match as the right foot seems very tight at the toe. The design would be better if the shoe did not have the hard slope cutting off the smaller toes. My second toe is slightly longer than my big toe and it is scrunched back at the tip of the she on the right foot and makes wearing them too painful. I know what you are thinking…you should have gone up a size. Well, I DID. There is ample room on both feet from the lage toe to tip of shoe, but second toe is smashed against the front of shoe and it HURTS!! I wish I could afford to go buy a larger pair, but even if I did that, I don’t think the fit would be good since there is so much room at the tip for big toe already. No my feet are not deformed…in fact I have been told all my life how perfectly shaped my feet are

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