Barefoot Shoes

Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review

Overview of the Vapor Glove 2

Merrell’s latest iteration on the original Vapor Glove

What Merrell Says

Feather light and breathable, this barefoot run shoe liberates your trail run via foot contact with the ground thanks to zero drop. The washable,…

Merrell introduced their ultra-minimalist/barefoot Vapor Glove back in early 2013 (You can read Justin’s initial review/video here or Greg’s Crossfit-centric review here). The Vapor Glove was like a mono-toed KSO with a super-thin, Vibram sole, supreme ground feel, and an extremely breathable upper. Fast forward to 2015 and Merrell has updated the Vapor Glove to the “Vapor Glove 2.” What’s new? How’s the it hold up two years later? Read on for my review of the all-new Merrell Vapor Glove 2!

Overview of the Vapor Glove 2

Here’s what Merrell says about the Vapor Glove 2:
Feather light and breathable, this barefoot run shoe liberates your trail run via foot contact with the ground thanks to zero drop. The washable, highly breathable mesh upper is made for comfort in hot conditions and molds to your foot for an ultimately natural, uninhibited fit and stride.
Weight — 5.5 oz in a Men’s size 8 (fits like a 9) Total Stack Height — 5.5mm Barefoot Scale — With a total stack height of 5.5mm and weighing 5.5 oz, the latest Vapor Glove is for minimalist enthusiasts. Pros—
  • Lightweight
  • Zero drop
  • Versatile Vibram sole
  • Great groundfeel
  • Protective toe section for trails
  • Narrow shape
  • Low-volume toe box
  • Upper material, while reinforced, is still somewhat delicate
Here are some photos:


The original Vapor Glove was, and still is, a benchmark of excellence for minimalist shoes upon its release. It featured lightweight construction, flexible sole, a fantastic amount of groundfeel, and excellent traction with its vibram TC-1 sole. Thankfully, Merrell has decided to continue supporting its M-Connect shoes with a new iteration of the vapor glove, which is very similar to its predecessor, but improves upon the original in many ways. The best analogy for the Vapor Glove 2 would be a closed-toe Vibram KSO EVO. The KSO EVO is easily the best Vibram shoe to date (On sale here, if you’re looking for some) and the Vapor Glove 2 is an excellent choice for those looking for many of the strengths of the EVO, but in a closed toe form factor. In fact, the original Vapor Glove predates the KSO EVO by over a year and it seems that Vibram took some inspiration of the Merrell shoe (they collaborated on the sole, after all) and updated the KSO with the Vapor Glove in mind. The uppers and soles are somewhat similar with both shoes. The Vapor Glove 2’s sole is smooth enough for road running, yet provides enough traction for trails as well. It is broken up in four different places to provide even more flexibility. The Vapor Glove 2 is similarly broken up into the following four sections: The big toe and ball of the foot, the small toes, the midfoot, and the heel—all of which are separated by deeper flex grooves. Like the KSO EVO, the sole with the Vapor Glove 2 can be squeezed in any and all directions. Its flexibility is similar to a thick tortilla and the entire shoe can be rolled into itself, twice, to form a very tight ball, which—like the Vibram Shoe—takes a second to slowly return to its original shape. The “snakeskin”-like sole features deeper traction groves than the KSO EVO and I would say that the Vapor Glove 2 is the more all-terrain-ready of the two. The treads are deeper and there are more of them, acting like little cleats as your work your way uphill or downhill through trails.

The Uppers

Merrell has overhauled the uppers of the Vapor Glove 2 with a slightly more flexible material that feels softer to the touch than the originals. It’s so thin that you can faintly make out the color of your skin (or socks) when wearing them. Light easily transmits through the upper in the daylight.
Light goes through these thin uppers.
Light goes through these thin uppers.
The previous generation of the Vapor Glove was pretty durable, but blowouts occurred along the sides of the shoe near the big and little toe. This time around, Merrell reinforced the inside and outside edges of the shoe with a painted-on PU material for extra durability (somewhat similar to what Vibram did on top of the toes with the original Bikila).
 Note the dark overlay on the fabric upper. This reinforces the fabric there.
Note the dark overlay on the fabric upper. This reinforces the fabric there.
These were the areas most likely to tear in most minimalist shoes and this reinforced construction is a welcomed addition. The uppers themselves are VERY breathable; you can easily feel a breeze through them and they are nicely ventilated while in motion. You will not have to worry about sticky feet in these shoes! Of course, this somewhat prevents the Vapor Gloves for winter and snow use, but our feet come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of toughness and if you have strong Viking feet, you can probably run in these all year long. They are certainly better for cold weather use than the KSO EVO, which can let in snow and cold water more easily due to its five-toe design. The reinforcements go a long way in improving the durability of the Vapor Glove 2 in critical points in its construction, but the uppers are still somewhat delicate. Sure, they are super breathable and airy and they should be applauded for being so well engineered for speed and temperature regulation, but they are not the most durable uppers in the world. With a little effort, you can shave into the uppers with a freshly cut cut fingernail. Overall, the uppers hold up just fine for road and light trail running, but a stray branch or rock might ruin your day if you graze it with enough speed. The Vapor Glove 2 is very lightweight at around 5.4 oz for a size 9 and while it isn’t the lightest shoe (the New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez and Mizuno Wave Universe are a couple ounces lighter), the Vapor Glove is far more durable. It strikes the sweet spot between thinness, lightness, flexibility and durability that running enthusiasts are looking for. Again, please size down when you purchase these. I always wear a size 9 in all my non-Vibram shoes and a size 8 was perfect for me with the Vapor Glove.

The Fit

Note on sizing — The sizing for the Vapor Glove is slightly larger than expected, so size down .5 or one entire size for the best fit. I am usually a size 9, but I had to order a size 8 in the Vapor Glove 2 for a better fit. In terms of the shape of the last or construction of the shoe, the Vapor Glove 2 is narrow shoe with a narrow toebox to boot. The overall shape is not very accommodating for wide feet and I am not able to get proper toe splay within the shoes. This is a bit of a Merrell trait. Many manufacturers have certain shapes in mind when they put together their shoes and Merrell just happens to be one of the narrower shoes. Lems provides a very wide toebox, Vivo Barefoot shoes are typically wide all around, Vibrams are typically excellent for flat feet, etc. etc. The Merrells fit would be PERFECT for anyone with narrow-to-average width feet from heel to toe. If you find that minimalist shoes are too wide for you and dislike hollowed-out waffle iron feel of overly wide shoes, this new Vapor Glove 2 might be what you are looking for, but the duck-footed among us may want to look elsewhere.
The Merrell Vapor Glove 2 on the left; Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO on the right.
The Merrell Vapor Glove 2 on the left; Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO on the right.
Compared to the fit of the Vapor Glove 2, the KSO EVO is absolutely perfect for my feet. They were initially a bit tight around the top of the shoe, but they eventually stretched out over the course of a couple of runs. If you loved the sizing of the original FiveFingers Bikila and Bikila LS, you’ll love the KSO EVO, but if you have “normal” feet and want a less eye-catching shoe, the Vapor Glove 2s are great. Of course, the colorways in the Vapor Glove 2 are still attention getting, but in a good way. Spicy orange is NOT a subtle color. It’s a very red orange that stands out with the multitude of grays in the upper. Personally, I believe that the color combinations of the Vapor Glove are very attractive. Not as gawdy as the indigo rave splashes that you would get with the Bikila EVO or many other shoes. The Vapor Glove is understated with a splash of color and you make it more subtle with new laces or—as I would recommend—lock laces, which are basically a replacement Lace System for traditional laces: just thread through the bungees, slot yourself into the right fit, and go running (I might just be bad at tying my shoes….). The laces are flat (unlike the original round type) and work better for getting a tighter tie.


Overall, the Merrell Vapor Glove 2 is an amazing running shoe and is one of the best closed-toe minimalist shoes on the market for barefoot enthusiasts, especially if you have narrow or average-shaped feet. For me, if Merrell just offered them with a wider toe box, they would be just about perfect—which means that many of you guys will find it to be excellent right out of the box. If you’re looking for a pair, Zappos seems to be one of the few online retailers that has them. If you are in need of something for wider feet, then I cannot praise the KSO EVO enough. For those looking to transition into minimalism, I would recommend the thicker Topo ST, Skora Fit, Bikila EVO, or Merrells’ own Trail Glove 3, but if you a lover of barefooting, the Vapor Glove is only matched by the KSO EVO. Merrell is continuing its minimalist offerings with the latest Trail Glove 3 and Vapor Glove 2, but their dedication to barefoot shoes has definitely diminished with its latest generation. If you love the new Vapor Glove, let them know and hopefully they will keep innovating!

By Jarvis

Minimalist ultra-marathon runner with flat dinosaur feet.

50K Ultra-Marathon Runner

I hold a PhD in Political Science.
You can follow my photography adventures at and Instagram at

31 replies on “Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review”

I have two pairs of the original and really like them, mostly because they are one of the few shoes available in size 15 that fit correctly. They are not durable, though. Hopefully the added reinforcement on the upper helps. My first pair developed holes from my big toe poking at them. And, just like all my other Merrell shoes, the Vibram sole just doesn’t hold up as well as I think it should. Within just a couple of months of walking the dog I’ve worn the traction nubs flat. My two Flux Gloves met the same fate. For shoes that cost ~$100 they should last longer than that.


I have read that some people experienced blow outs around the big toe in the previous generation, but many reviews have also noted that the shoes were very durable and reliable during the review period…

I believe that it depends on what you use them for and your foot shape.

This is NOT a high volume shoe, both in terms of width and vertical room, so if you are pressing up and against the interior–as I do–then a blowout is possible.

For me, these are not a good fit and I’m sure that my feet will eventually explode out of them, but they seem like they would be great for a certain foot shape.

The additional overlays should help.


Same as John, previous comment; I really felt these to be great shoes with or without socks but two pairs now my big toes have eventually poked through the top of the shoe. First I thought it was a fluke or the way I run in them, but I’ve read that a lot of people have the same problem. Even though the soles on mine aren’t bad, I shouldn’t have to wear shoes with holes in the top of them. For this price point they should definitely last longer and I probably wont buy another pair until they fix this issue and just looking at this review and the photos, it does not look like they have.

Your comments about narrowness make me really sad. Many traditional Merrell shoes are wide and I had really hoped that their original barefoot line would be just like those, only thin soled and zero drop. Unfortunately, they were so narrow they hurt my barely wide/flat feet. What made it worse was that when they finally made ‘wide’ versions, my feet were swimming in them. Sad to see they haven’t adapted.

I know everyone says that a shoe can’t be designed for all foot types, but honestly, I think barefoot shoes can. A high arch narrow foot doesn’t feel the narrow sidewalls like a wide flat foot does. But skew a design toward the wider/flatter type foot and high arch/narrow feet can still wear them! I really wish they would have just modified their old style shoes to become more barefoot like.

Thank you for a fantastic review (the first detailed one online I’ve been able to find – other than your review on amazon)!

I’m a long time wearer of the original Vapor Glove — love them. I’ve also had some of the durability issues others have mentioned (namely, big toe poking through the upper mesh). I’m really glad to hear that the Vapor Glove 2 is more durable and reinforcements, so I’m hopeful that they won’t tear. Thanks for noting this in your review; this will likely be one of the most useful features for me! I’m also happy to hear the sizing is similar to the original.

Thanks again!

P.S. Also a grad student around Boston. Can’t wait to get a pair and try these out along the esplanade. Enjoy!

It’s interesting that you find them narrow. I have very wide feet and even find many of the VFF’s to be too narrow (they put my feet to sleep). With the Vapor Glove 2, however, my feet are very comfortable! I wear them with socks and wear .5 size smaller than my Altras. I size them like any pair of shoes with a thumb width between my longest toe and the end of the shoe. Because these are so flexible, I find their width to be perfect! Excellent shoes and I would definitely suggest them for people with wide feet.


Aw, thanks!

I saw that the vapor glove 2 was out for a few weeks and it still had not received a proper review, so I’m glad to be the first to give it a proper review!

I hope you enjoy it!

Fellow Bostonian! Awesome! Let’s go running!

I emailed merrell about 6 months ago to ask if they planned for a future wide version of the vapor. They said no. It was a very sad day. I tried my best to fit into the original vapor, but it was just not meant to be. This is definitely my favorite shoe ever and I have no idea why they don’t offer it in a wide size. Its up to you now vivobarefoot…go back to your roots and make me a wide minimal shoe that doesn’t look like a chameleon on crack.


I’ve seen many comparisons between the original Vapor Glove and Vivo’s The One shoe.

Overall, the Vapor Glove is more flexible, narrower, and grippier, while the Vivo is better suited for wide-footed road runners.

I would say give them a try!

I love Vivobarefoot’s lifestyle offerings, by the way. I own the Jay, Dharma, Ra, and Gobi shoes.


Quick question about the sizing – are you saying the fit is different (larger) to the original Vapour gloves or compared to your usual sizing? Just making sure before an order goes in.

FWIW – I have had 5 pairs of the original Vapor’s, 3 x orange + 2 x black and don’t think there is anything else on the market that even comes close to how good the Merrell Vapors are! Here is to hoping that Merrell do not decide to kill these off!!!!!


The fit should be exactly the same as the originals. In fact, even the sole is completely unchanged from the original Vibram sole.

I’m glad you like them! They are a fantastic shoe and I hope Merrell keeps making them!


@ Matt, perhaps you should buy a dozen of em and store them for future use, just have to find a way to keep them from deteriorating, perhaps dark and vacuum packaged?

Thanks for clarification Jarvis! Ordered a few pairs to keep me going but it appears that Vapor glove 2 are already getting low on stocks volumes……..

@Bob – if you give most shoes a little bit of wear before storing, the rubber preservative comes off and you can store them almost indefinitely without deteriorating 🙂


I wish to try minimalist running and I was wondering whether the Merrell can be a good shoes for starting this new style of running. I am flat footed and I have this custom soles. However I still have pain in my heels, bottom of my feet, and back and was wondering whether minimalist running will reduce these pains. I highly appreciate the feedback.

Have a nice day


Yeah, it’s a shame, but I hope that Merrell keeps it going for future iterations!


Minimalist running is definitely worth looking into.

In the past, I used to run in Asics Kayano’s 15-17, these were “stability” shoes that were impossible to bend and weighed a ton. I would only max out at 5 miles before getting knee and hip pains and I would sometimes twist my ankle as a result of the shoe dictating how my foot moves.

I switched to Vibrams and huaraches and aside from some tenderness in the beginning, I am completely pain free.

The Merrell Vapor Gloves are among the thinnest and most flexible minimalist shoes you can find. They may be a bit too thin to just jump into, but if you take it SLOW, you will not want to go back to those custom soles again.

I have flat, wide feet and the Vapor Gloves are bit too narrow for me, but you should definitely try them out.

Spend the first couple days just walking around, you’ll notice that your heel feels invisible because you’re used to having so much extra heft in that area.

Then take a brisk run around the neighboorhood. Over time, you can move on to actual runs and build up your distance. Most people suggest increasing 10% of your normal run distance in three-day increments. I would say that you should take an entire month before getting to normal running distances.

You should youtube “Principles of Natural Running with Dr. Mark Cucuzzella” for running form tips.

By the way, over time, I have noticed that my feet have begun “growing” an arch. It’s kind of amazing!


The Original vapor glove is better then the vapor glove 2. The vapor glove 2 looses alot of ground feedback and flexibility and has a stiffer sole in comparison to the Original vapor glove, this is something that Merrell admits. I returned the vapor glove 2 after trying them. The Original vapor gloves required no breaking in, out of the box they were ready to wear. Merrell messed up big on updating the shoes, instead of making it more barefoot they made it more like a conventional sneaker.
This review should compare the Original vapor glove to the vapor glove 2 not the kso. The kso is a different make and like the vapor glove 2 it has less ground feedback and flexibility in comparison to the Original vapor glove.
The Feelmax panka 2 shoes seem like a good replacement for the Original vapor gloves, vivobarefoot shoes are to stiff and dont provide the same ground feedback. If any one knows of other options please leave a comment.


While I liked the Panka 2 (though I enjoyed the Niesa 3 more!), I would say that the Panka 2 is quite different from the Vapor Glove 2. The Panka is more unstructured and is billed as more of a indoor fitness and road running shoe (though more capable than the Niesa 3), while the Vapor Glove is a true road and trail shoe.

The Panka will not provide any protection if you stub your toe while bouncing off logs or roots, while the Vapor Glove–though minimalist in design–has some exaggerated toe protection points and a more durable design. The Vapor Glove’s Vibram sole is also more trail-capable.

The KSO EVO was selected as a comparison for the Vapor Glove 2 as they are both currently on the market and are VERY similar to each other.

I agree that Vivobarefoot’s soles–while thin–are stiffer and offer a different kind of groundfeel, which is more “direct” than comparatively thicker soles from Vibram, but you can still get a lot of information from them. The Vivobarefoot EVO is the latest shoe (replacing The One) and it is overall a better shoe than both The One and Stealth.

The last time I ran in the original Vapor Glove was over two years ago, but I did not notice any difference between both versions in terms of ground feel.

In terms of spec, the Vapor Glove 1 and 2 have the same drop (0) and stack height of 5.5mm comprised of a 3.5mm rubber outsole (labeled as “lug” depth in the Vapor Glove 2 and “cush” in the Vapor Glove on Merrell’s website) and 2mm insole. By the numbers, the two should be the same.

But if you experienced a difference in wear, groundfeel, and break-in (or lack thereof), then it is worth noting and I appreciate your contribution to the review. Hopefully, over time the EVA will break down and conform to your foot for better feedback.

I would recommend checking out the KSO EVO (LS laces), the Vivo Evo (if you have not already), Soft Star Shoes Moc 3 (slip on), Zem 360 XT (slip on), Minumus Hi-Rez (though I have heard of reliability issues with the sole), or even the Bikila EVO or LS (the EVO gets better over time and its sole is more durable than the older LS).


Also in Boston!
I tried on the new Vapors today and they are too small!!!
love the originals and have 4 pairs, all of which fell apart after 6 months.
Vapor 1s so much better.

Dear Jarvis,

of what size were your Kayanos and what size your Vapor Gloves 2? Also thinking about transitioning from Asics to barefoot running – my GT 2000 2’s are size 12,5, fitting perfectly.

Thanks in advance



I had originally worn 10.5 in Asics, but the Merrell’s were an 8 (they run large).

My feet or so wide that I used to buy larger shoes to fit 😛

Purchased a womans pair of Vapor Glove 2 and yeah I wish they were more similar to my original pair of Vapor Gloves. I am disappointed with them being less wide. I stuck with a size 9 (which was also my size for the originals) they are longer but still dont fit as comfortably in width. Seems to me that there is something different with the way my foot sits in the shoe as well. I am not experiencing as nice of a fit on my arch and cant really remedy that by tightening the laces because it just causes a pinch near the topside of the ball of the big toe (from not being as wide) Overall I am super disappointed with the changes in the shoe. I didnt have the issue with the fabric giving out as many folks have had. Looks like I am going to keep wearing my beat up originals! They are pretty much my favorite shoe ever.

After using the Vapor 2 back to back with the original, am inclined to agree with comments above about the original Vapour being a better shoe.
The Vapour 2 downfalls for me:
Sole is slightly stiffer than the original.
Not as much ground feedback. The footbed actually feels higher but this may just be because of the reduced ground feedback?
Upper material is a step in the right direction with the reinforcing but around the heel/ankle where the new material is doubled over = feels like a normal shoe.

On the upside, have been getting more comments about the Vapor 2 being a nicer looking shoe.

Overall though, it is a poor update considering the only update needed was to reinforce the upper material where there was common tears/issues. Hopefully Merrell can understand the comments and get back to the target audience for this shoe in the next revision.


Honestly, both versions of the Vapor Glove are pretty handsome shoes, insofar as trail minimalist shoes are concerned

The shoes have the same stack height, so it is possible that Merrell opted for a denser footbed or sole than the previous version. My guess is that it’s meant to provide either more durability, protection, or both.

In any case, this should get better over use, especially as the EVA breaks down and molds to your feet!


Vivo barefoot unfortunately no longer make a size 48 in running shoes. I wear ra at work and run in kso evo and walk using my partly worn out Skechers gobionic run shoes which I stocked up on. Would love a size 48 in vivobarefoot but they stubbornly refuse to start making them again even though their training clinic shoe was available in 48. Merrell vapor glove are too narrow and same for mr00 so not sure what I’ll replace the Skechers with.

The new sole on the Vapor 2 seems notably thicker than the original. Although, that may be because I’ve worn the tread down on my original pair. Wondering if anyone else noticed the same or if Merrell has indeed added some heft to this edition.
I love the original and they’ve been my ‘go-to’ favorites for just about everything: long road and trail runs (I wear Merrell Trail gloves for the more difficult/technical trails), casual walks, work, CrossFit, strength training, etc.
I have an older pair Vivos that I tend to wear during the cold months, they’re mostly waterproof too.
I ordered the current edition and decided to try a 1/2 size smaller because my 11s are perhaps a smidge large and I read (maybe here) that vapor 2 run even larger. Well, they are too small so I’m returning them for the original size.

Long-time lurker here! I really appreciate you taking the time to review so many minimalist shoes as I am a convert of a couple years now and I’ll never go back! I currently own/wear the vapor glove 2’s and here are my thoughts (they align pretty well with yours everyone else’s):
pros- looks, lightweight, comfort, flexibility, breathability, grip
cons-narrower than I’d like (I find my foot sometimes extending over the edge of the sole when I pivot), durability (3 months of wear and I’ve almost got one toe hole, sides of the shoes are becoming a little shredded, but I use these for parkour in addition to daily wear).
If they could address these two issues I’d but this shoe for the rest of my life. As it stands, though, I really don’t want to buy another pair of ’em that will tear apart in just a couple months.
Any thoughts on the current Vivo Evo Pure or Feelmax Osma 4 (new Evo Pures appear to be less flexible than previous versions 🙁 and I can’t even find any English reviews of the Osma 4 ) ?

Hey JARVIS! Nice write-up. But what’s the actual measured length of your foot/feet? So, I can a get more accurate idea of the sizing.

Hi Jarvis,

Great review, have been using the Vapor Glove 2 for about a year now, first pair of shoes which I started running in sockless, best shoes I have ever owned. Just a quick question for you in terms of purely minimal experience (want to be as close to barefoot as possible) which shoe would you able to compare to the Vapor Glove 2? You mentioned KSO EVO in your review are they as minimal or feel thicker at the sole?

Hey, do you know how these compare in comfort and sole thickness/form as opposed to the Tesla Baretrek, which are vapor glove knockoffs? I have a pair of Baretreks that I like, but I find them a good deal less comfortable than my trail gloves (1) for long walks (multi-mile). Am trying to decide if I’ll like the vapor gloves more.


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