July 28, 2011

Review : Merrell Barefoot TrailGlove

Before transitioning to minimalist (or “barefoot”) footwear, make sure you understand what the whole concept entails. Here’s an intro text if you need it.

  • Type : Barefoot / Minimal
  • Use : Trail running
  • Price : 140$

Those of you who have been readers of FlintLand will notice I had commented on Merrell’s Barefoot line before. At the time, I had only tried them in store on a treadmill and wasn’t too impressed with the shoe’s arch section.

About a month ago, Merrell sent me a pair of TrailGloves to test and review, highlighting that I wasn’t the only one to have been puzzled by the conception of the sole. They were convinced a couple runs would prove it’s a serious contender in the booming minimalist shoe market.

Road test

So I gave the TrailGloves an honest shot. I started out by wearing them around the office for two days, to see how I would react to the presence of the slightly stiffer and elevated arch and if there would be a “break-in” effect.

Then I used them for a couple commutes (5k each way), as well as trail runs. I gave them about 25k in the first week, and then I started my tapering period for The Limberlost Challenge Ultra 56K. By that time I had developed enough confidence to wear them for my big run, and they didn’t disappoint.

The strength of the TrailGlove is definitely its Vibram outsole. It features an aggressive pattern that maintained grip in every condition I encountered, including creek crossings over wet stones. The TC-1 Compound material acts efficiently as a rockplate and is very sturdy, compared to rivals like the very good second-generation Vibram FiveFingers and the less-than-impressive New Balance Minimus Trail.

As a matter of fact, this is the explanation I have come up with for the strange arch section. Considering my main problem as a minimalist trail runner is kicking tree roots and stubs, the TrailGloves do a very good job at keeping my underfoot and toes secure.

Add to this mix a very large toe box that really lets your toes move freely, highly breathable upper fabric and a tip that offers very good abrasion protection and you get a serious trail running shoe.

The only issue I’ve had with the TrailGloves might originate from my narrow feet. As the shoe flexes, it opens up on the side of my ankles. This has the nagging double-effect of letting trail debris in and pulling down my socks from the Achilles down. Since I was wearing ankle-cut Injinji socks, that became a problem. I improved things by lacing up to the extra grommet and changing to knee-high compression socks, as I would advise against running in the shoe barefoot (unless you’re going for a short run on a light trail), but debris still gets in. If I get the chance, I’ll try the women’s cut instead. I’ll definitely wear my Dirty Girls next time I go for a run on single trails.


I think Merrell has come up with a unique minimalist shoe design that makes it a de facto contender in this emerging market. The TrailGlove is a real trail runner that offers foot protection without getting in the way of your natural foot movement. Because of its relative stiffness, I also think the Merrell Barefoot series can be a good choice for a transition shoe and serve other purposes than trail running, such as hiking and cross-fit.

High points

  • Low-to-the-ground (5mm) and zero-drop
  • Excellent Vibram outsole
  • Large toe box lets your foot move freely
  • Sturdy tip protects your toes efficiently
  • Light, yet durable upper
  • Machine washable

Low points

  • Shoe flexes open around the ankle area
  • Not compatible with low-cut socks

The equipment for this personal review was supplied by Merrell, free of charge, without any conditions.


  1. Interesting review, but charging 140$ for a pair of minimalist shoes is insane. How can minimalist running shoes cost as much as regular running shoes? The shoe companies are laughing their way to the bank with this minimalist running trend.

  2. I can't say I agree. Consider that a standard running shoe is deemed good for about 700km. Your average decent minimalist shoe is able to yield at least double that (if I consider my VFFs to be a valid example), so why should it cost less? standard or minimal, the shoe companies are laughing their way to the bank anyway :)

  3. I think I found a lacing technique that MAY compensate for one of its low points... and should give in a locked in heel... http://www2.thenorthface.com/endurancechallenge/training/video7.html

  4. But dirty girls gaiters are definately a better choice

  5. @Gilles I do that on my Kinvaras and works great, I still use them for my longer runs as I am transitioning to barefoot and can only handle 1-3 miles in my pace gloves. The issue with pace gloves is the lack of eyelits. There is no way for me to get my ankle tight enough. I bought the power glove for winter, and can't wait to try these for spring/summer.

  6. I'd like to see more reviews of cold weather running gear, by someone who is really a runner, knowledgeable and objective.