The Trail Glove was a long-anticipated shoe for me, along with the rest of the barefoot and minimalist shoe crowds. In previous months, the shoe's release was a bit overshadowed by the murmurings of the New Balance Minimus line. I'm proud to be a small contributor to that murmur when I was able to test both the wellness and trail versions of the shoe.
|Wearing the Minimus Trail in the Woodstock 50mile|
In comes the Trail Glove. I remember picking them up, and thinking about how similar they were to the Minimus Trail.
The shoe is aptly named-it truly does have a "glove like" fit. The midfoot and heel wrap snugly around the foot, but the toe box provides ample room for the toes to wiggle and the forefoot to splay. This does give the shoe a bit of a clown shoe look, but form follows function and functional look of the shoe makes them cool...get it? When the shoe fits properly, all of the flex points of the upper are nearly perfectly placed. The unrestricted feel of the shoe is a real plus when coming from a barefoot background. The upper is made to be worn sockless, which earns it a big "thumbs up" from me. I experienced no heel rubbing, which is usually the game ender when I attempt to go sockless(unmodified New Balance MT101s gouge the heck out of my heels, but are also meant to allow sockless wear). The only negative points I can make about the fit is an issue that arises when the shoe is brand new. The EVA sole has slightly thicker portions in the midfoot that feel a bit...lumpy. The shoe feels just a little uneven when standing in them. This nearly disappears when running, and absolutely fades with some breaking in. After less than 100 miles, the shoes conformed to my feet and felt like a worn in pair of slippers. I would suggest that Merrell eliminate the extra EVA, but the Trail Gloves fit me so well now that I'm glad the materials used are there currently. I guess if you wanna make an omelet, you gotta break a few eggs.
|Pictured on the left are the Trail Glove(my feet, furthest left), the women's Pace Glove(Shelly's feet), Vibram TrekSports(Mark), and Rick with some sweet snow chains on.|
|Though not identical, it's pretty obvious what the inspiration of the Merrell outsole is. Our Vibram "one finger" has arrived.|
I touched on this briefly before, but I'll mention it again. The shoe has a bit of a utilitarian look, but the color schemes and design are in line with the rest of Merrell's outdoor offerings. Though not as attention-grabbing as the orange NB Trail Minimus, The low key look of the shoe has certainly grown on me(note: the Trail Glove also comes in a crazy electric yellow/greenish color, and its pretty awesome looking).
Positives- I think the traction, protection, ground feel, and flexibilty of this shoe is near perfect...for the niche that its designers intended it to fill. It offers slightly more protection than a Terra Plana EVO or Vibram Fivefingers(even the Trek model), and provides the groundfeel and barefoot-like performance that is unmatched by any other offerings thus far(ie, the MT101, Inov8 x-talon 190). I could get wordy, but the bottom line is that the shoe is great. Durability is clearly a non-issue. I abuse the hell out of these shoes. I run in cold temperatures, on roads, trails, rocks, and whatever else I come across. I usually leave them outside when Im done, and occasionally wash them in hot water when I hop in the shower after a run. While at home over holiday break, I dried the shoes by putting them next to our wood stove that usually warps shoes and deforms gloves due to the heat. The Merrells still look great and seem to perform better with break in. My pair is currently approaching 600miles and a single stitch has come undone.
|I'm not sure why, but the feeling of running sockless is almost as important to me as running shoeless...|
Negatives- I love the Trail Gloves, but I have to paint its portrait, warts and all. Barefoot purists may be put off by the amount of "squish" in the shoe when it's new. When initially standing in the Trail Glove, it doesn't have the "barely there" feeling of Fivefingers or Huaraches. Others may take issue with the "arch" of the shoe. When tied snugly(the way I prefer), the lacing system pulls the upper and the sole tightly around the midfoot. Though offering a negligible amount of pressure(dare I say it...support), the snugness had NO effect on my running gait, nor did it lead to any foot pain. I'll take some of the responsibility for this, but I have to make a note here. These things freakin' stink! They have the same smell as my Vibrams, a stench unlike anything else I own. I have other running shoes that don't smell this way with regard to the type or magnitude of stank. Finally, the biggest issue I had was during a frozen 33 mile run in December. For some reason, The upper tore the crap out of my foot. I attribute this isolated incident to the cold temperatures(single digit below zero). I was so cold pre-race that I could barely tie the shoes properly. The shoe has yet to give me this problem since, and I've run further in them.
|...socklessness does come at a price sometimes. My feet after a 33mile race in the Trail Gloves. So far, a fluke.|