Barefoot Shoes

Women’s Merrell Vapor Glove Barefoot Shoes Review


Putting these shoes on for the first time was similar to what I imagine waking up as a mermaid might feel like. One moment I was standing on the ground barefoot, the next I had almost iridescent green, scale-like wrappings snugly buoying…

Hi everyone! I’m Erin, and I’m new to the BirthdayShoes community and excited to join you! I’m a CrossFitter and coach, as well as a trail runner, hiker, yogini, and sundry other things when I get the chance. My interest in minimal shoes came about primarily through a long-term desire not to ruin my feet, hamstrings, and posture as a result of my daily life and physical pursuits. More immediately, I wanted to find a shoe that would function well across as many domains as possible–sprinting, trail running, leaping, deadlifting, squatting, and so on. This is my holy grail! Recently, Merrell sent me a pair of Vapor Gloves for me to put through the ropes. What follows is my review of them … after the jump!

The Mermaid Effect

Putting these shoes on for the first time was similar to what I imagine waking up as a mermaid might feel like. One moment I was standing on the ground barefoot, the next I had almost iridescent green, scale-like wrappings snugly buoying up my feet. That may be a slight exaggeration, but really, from the first second of wear, these had the barefoot-but-better kind of feel. All that is to say that “Vapor Glove” is a highly appropriate name for these shoes. They’re incredibly light (5 ounces each), Merrell’s lightest in fact, and fit like, you guessed it, a glove (or mermaid/man tail fins). An added bonus is that while they look a bit odd (as most barefoot shoes do), Merrell has done an admirable job making these wearable in an errands-running, weekend kind of way. I know most probably don’t care about this, but it’s not an awful thing not to look like a half-amphibian who doesn’t give a damn what s/he looks like. Just saying.


As I’ve indicated, these are a pleasure to lace up and hit the road or (not too extreme) trail. The grippy rubber sole held my foot fast in each stride without slipping, regardless of the surface, while the diamond pattern provides plenty of flexibility (see Justin’s spiffy photos for evidence). The mesh allowed for temperature regulation and wicking (although, see Not Quite Performing, below). The toes have plenty of room to spread out and keep the foot stable, and the bumper at the end keeps them safe (see Crossfit). The rubber Vibram outsole is a small slat of rubber, and as such translates ground feel straight to your soles, as one would expect. However, it’s also substantial enough to blunt the sharpness of jagged rocks (I stepped on many in order to try them out). I’ve found that some soles have more give and are less able to shield soles from the odd jag or piece of glass. (In case it’s not obvious I do not subscribe to really truly barefoot running, for a number of reasons). That said, I wouldn’t wear these on a seriously rocky trail.

Not Quite Performing

The upper material, which is a very thin, strong mesh, is kind of rough. I noticed a slight rub on the top of my toes minutes into my run, so I made a mental note that the shoes were not to be worn without socks (at least by me), and then ignored the rub and got on with it. Walking to my car afterwards, I looked down and saw a piece of tree bark on my right shoe. Nope, not bark!—it turns out the mesh had relieved me of a few square millimeters of skin, but hey, at least it wicked away the resulting “moisture.” That said, there was no chaffing anywhere else, and this could be my own anatomical oddity. (If you’re wondering, my toes are longish, but they’re hardly monkey toes.) Another aspect to consider is that the mesh, though fine, still allows some debris to accumulate in the shoe. This will likely only be a problem on sandy or finely crushed gravel terrain, but still something to consider if that’s your usual habitat and you like to go sockless. To be fair, these are marketed as road shoes, so this can’t be counted as a shortcoming in that sense, but something to be aware of nonetheless.


These absolutely work for CrossFit. The sole is flat and has enough grip to work for lifts (although I’m not going to give up my weightlifting shoes anytime soon), and also box jumps (sliding on these is no fun, and some minimalist shoes lack sufficient grip). The zero drop, as always, means that these will transfer ideally between types of activity, whether that’s weights, running, jumping, or swinging on stuff. I didn’t test them on the rope, but I think the mesh is tight and smooth enough to make it through rope climbs as well.


Here’s how you should evaluate the Vapor Glove: These Are For You If:
  • You want a super-light but sturdy shoe to run on roads and well-traveled trails.
  • If you’re a CrossFitter who wants to get into 0-drop shoes (that should be all of you, CrossFitters). Just take it slow if you’re not used to it.
  • If you want to dip a toe into minimalist territory with shoes that aren’t jaw-droppingly awkward-looking.
Per Pair:
  • 0mm heel to ball drop
  • 2mm EVA midsole
  • 3.5mm rubber outsole
  • 5.5mm stack height
  • 5oz (1/2 pair)
Note on Fit: Slightly large, but can easily be laced up to hug the feet as tight as need be if you’re between sizes. If you want to read more review-goodness on the Vapor Glove, check out Justin’s review here. NOTE: The women’s Vapor Glove is available online for $80 or less — REI (some on sale!) | Zappos has’em | So does The Shoe Mart

By Erin

Erin is a CrossFit coach and athlete, and a whenever-possible trail-runner. By day she collaborates with behavioral economist, [url=]Dan Ariely[/url], and strategizes at [url=]The PARAGRAPH Project[/url].

4 replies on “Women’s Merrell Vapor Glove Barefoot Shoes Review”

Thanks for the review. I recently picked up a pair of these on sale at REI. After putting them on, I immediately wanted to buy another pair because I felt like I had found the perfect non-VFF road shoe. (I’m still battling that desire to get another pair since I’m afraid they’ll mess with the sizing and my EU 43 size feet will no longer fit the W11.) I have only worn these with socks, my usual preference and have had no issues. I’ve taken them on runs alone and with my poorly trained and somewhat erratic dog. They give great ground feel, comparable to my SeeYas or EL-Xs. I’ve also worn them around just for running errands. I’m close to certain I’ll be getting another pair soon. Mermaid feet sound good.

That was an excellent review. After reading it I’d like to throw in my two cents simply because we seem to have a lot of things in common with the shoe.

I got my Vapor Gloves a few months back after reading Jason’s review. I wasn’t sure about sizing, and I queried a lot of people trying to establish the size. I do use the Trail Gloves and many said the size was the same across the board. Well, they were wrong… These shoes run fairly large.They are so large, in fact, that after several months of wear I can look inside and see a good inch of space between the end of my toe imprint and the end of the shoe. But, as you mentioned, I can tighten the shoes down a bit and they stay in place just fine. The biggest problem I had, though, was that when running trails that extra shoe material turned into quite a trip hazard. I took the shoes on their first trail run and managed to do two face plants. 🙂

As for the uppers, I must agree with you. They do feel good on my feet, but they do rub my toes. Generally I don’t like to wear socks, so I put tape over the hotspots. This works to a point but perspiration soon released this tape from my skin and the chafing began. Of course, since I primarily run barefoot, I could simply take the shoes off and continue my journey. Another issue with the uppers is that they are not too durable. I had just got over 100 miles on the shoes when I noticed I was starting to punch through the top with my big toe. Of course, this could be due to the extra length of the shoe.

All in all I would rate the shoes as a good purchase. They’re very comfortable for walking around and it worked perfectly for running on the paved surfaces. I expect I will buy another pair in the future and will get them a bit shorter. I definitely would recommend the shoe for barefoot runners who want something for those rough patches of road when a barefoot just won’t do. They’re also great for knocking around in and general wear although I suspect the soles will wear through quickly.

I bought a pair of the merrell pace gloves in july or august of this year, with a view to starting to transition to more of a forefoot run, and having decided that “barefoot” was the way forwards for me. I was covering 10km comfortably, but not at any great speed, regularly walking sections.

I started by wearing them round the house, then walking to the shops, then doing a half hour session of Fartlek, or sprints or similar…

Now, in November, i’ve joined a running club, using their hour-long indoor sessions to really focus on my form, and to prepare myself as best I can for my goal next summer of completing 10 10km fell/trail races (and running every step of at least 2 of them!)

These shoes are fabulous, I can forget I’m wearing them, I love the feel they give me, and the improvement in my running since starting to use them regularly is incredible. And, apart from the smell, they are as new… there’s very little wear to the tread, and they still look smart.

I, for one, highly recommend them!

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