Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Merrell Road Glove Review

Robillard's got one up already, and I'm sure Josh, Christian, and Justin won't be far behind. I didn't read any of the other reviews intentionally so that I could assess the shoe fairly. A group of us minimal shoe bloggers (we've dubbed ourselves the B-listers) were privy to some of Merrells offerings for next year.

To spread the success of the trail glove to other markets, a more road friendly version of the Road Glove is set to release. I got a chance to run a 5k in the prototype Road Gloves back in June, but had to keep it on the lowdown. The prototype and the production model are the same. 

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. Like the Trail Glove and the rest of Merrell's lineup, Roads are on a zero-drop platform.

Merrell's Sonic Glove(left) and Road Glove(right)
The differences between the Road and Trail Gloves are slight, which is favorable. 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. 

The lug pattern on the sole is quite similar to its loamy soil seeking counterpart, but much less aggressive. As you can see, there is still enough there to keep a runner stuck to the ground on a variety of surfaces.

The tread pattern on the Vibram outsole has smaller lugs than the trail version.
Since the Road Glove didn't deviate much from the successful formula for the Trail Gloves, some of the same drawbacks carried over. 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. On the road shoe front, the Merrells aren't leading. With zero dropped road shoes like the Somnio Nada and the upcoming NB Minimus Road tipping the scales at less than 6 ounces(3.5oz for the Nada), the Road Gloves need a diet. As an everyday trainer, the Merrell gets my vote.

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. Though it doesn't have the sophisticated lacing system of the Trail Glove, it fits quite well and allows for some adjustability. I found it aesthetically pleasing. It looks like a standard road shoe and comes in some cool colors.

I think the Merrell Road Gloves are a huge step in the right direction. They reach out to the newest adopters of barefoot or natural style running. They reminded of the simpler days of running when I just wore my road shoes for all but the most technical trails. Traditionally shod runners who want to go minimal will love these. Most minimal shoes are built on the idea of starting from barefoot and building up. The Road Gloves feel more like a traditional road shoe that's been stripped down. Take a modern road shoe, strip away arch support, heel, and cushioning, and you've got the latest offering from Merrell.  If I'm ever in doubt of which shoe to grab and go, I'll grab my Road Gloves.

The toe spring in these pictures is sort of an optical illusion. Its negligible while running.

The Road Gloves were provided by Merrell. Though I'm a bit of a moral deviant, I can't be bought that easily.


  1. Man those are good looking kicks. My wife is going to kill me if I roll out and buy a pair though.

  2. Thanks for the review. I didn't like the trail gloves at first (I returned them twice before settling on keeping them). They make great kicking around shoes and I've grown to love them as running shoes.

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  4. The perfect Merrell Barefoot Trail shoe for me would have the comfort/fit and ground feel of the Road Glove, combined with the rock plate in the Trail Glove, and a beefed up tread pattern for sloppier conditions. I know... never happy. Merrell Trail Glove 4 Running Shoe Review