Review: Merrell Vapor Glove

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Merrell6Over the years, I’ve tried out a lot of minimalist shoes. They’ve varied wildly, from shoes made of paper, to sandals, to shoes with ‘fingers’, all the way up to shoes that are called minimal but really aren’t.

All this time, I’ve been looking for a shoe that strikes the balance between weight, comfort, style, and performance. After years of searching, I honestly think I may have found it.

Merrell2Enter the Merrell Vapor Glove.

When picked up the parcel from my front porch, I thought there was some mistake. When I lifted it up, all I could feel was the weight of the box. Surely they wouldn’t have accidentally forgot to put shoes in it, right?

I have to say, I was honestly shocked to see that there were indeed shoes in the box. When I pulled them out, it was clear why. These babies weigh next to nothing (well, 283g, actually, but they somehow feel even lighter).

Merrell12I couldn’t resist putting them on, and having a cheeky run up the block. They were comfortable too. I’ve had issues in the past with Merrells pinching a bit, and fitting a bit too tight around my forefoot, but not with these. The airy, flexible uppers were stretchy enough to give a little as my feet moved, but sturdy enough to hold their shape.

As for groundfeel, the 3.5mm sole (plus 2mm of cushion) was enough to give me a little bit of feedback, while taking the edge of the rough stuff. The soles are very flexible, and can be folded over both ways with ease.

Merrell13The next day, I took them to the next Curl Curl parkrun to take them for a spin. The course is a combination of trails, footpaths, grass fields, and gravel. It’s a great testing ground for this type of shoe. They performed immaculately, and I came home with happy feet and a smile on my face.

I suppose the only criticism I have is that they aren’t waterproof. There is always a trade-off between airiness and waterproofing, however, so this is neither unexpected, nor surprising. Maybe one day, NASA will give us some cool material to solve this problem, but until then, I’m happy to watch out for puddles.

Merrell11If you haven’t noticed already, I love these shoes. They are hands-down my favourite shoes since the Vibram SeeYa, and represent a new, more minimal, more comfortable direction for the Merrell Barefoot series. I highly recommend grabbing a pair if you see them, as you won’t be disappointed.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Merrell for providing us with samples for testing. If you’re interested in buying a pair of your own, check out their website or visit your local retailer.

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Review: Merrell Trail Glove

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Merrell1As far as I’m concerned, 2013 is the year of trail running. Trails offer such a great opportunity to improve your technique and become a better, stronger runner.

One thing I have discovered along the way, however, is that some trails are better tackled with some footwear. Where I live, there are a lot of trails, and many of them are barefoot-friendly. However, there are certain tracks that, unless I want to pick my way slowly and painfully, I prefer to do in minimal footwear.

With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to try out a pair of Merrell’s Trail Glove.

Merrell2The Trail Glove is part of the Barefoot series of shoes that Merrell have become famous for over the past couple of years. Unlike some of the other shoes in the line however, the Trail Glove includes several features that make trail running a little bit easier on the soles, even if they do sacrifice some of the barefoot feel that the other shoes offer.

 

Looks

Merrell3One thing that I noticed straight out of the box is that these are some nice-looking shoes. They have a well-put-together appearance, and there’s no question that the design team spent a lot of time thinking about this aspect of the shoes.

Merrell4

 

 

What I really liked is that despite having a large toe box, the shoes don’t have the ‘clown shoe’ appearance of some other shoes I’ve tried out with the same feature. This is a real plus.

 

 

 

Construction

Merrell5The Trail Glove’s uppers are made of a very lightweight, breathable mesh, which is attractive and functional. It is one of my favourite features of the shoe as it is very comfortable and allows ample air to flow in and out of the shoe (a necessity when going sockless).

Merrell6The soles of these shoes are a little bit thicker, creeping in towards the 10mm mark. This is the upper end of thickness that I prefer in a shoe, but it is a huge help on the tough trails. Made by Vibram, they feature a reasonably aggressive tread, and a contoured design.

Merrell10Merrell9With the thicker sole usually comes rigidity, however these soles have been designed in such a way as to allow a fair bit of flexibility. This flexibility is mainly uni-directional however. I could lift my toes up without any trouble, though bending downwards meets a bit of resistance. For a road shoe, this is not normally a problem, however I did find it a little bit restrictive on some trails.

The shoe does not contain any insole. Instead, the interior of the shoe is seamless and very foot-friendly. This was a nice surprise, and is typically a sign of good design and construction.

Performance

We’ve had some pretty variable weather here in Sydney lately, so my poor Trail Gloves have been through a bit of everything. On the whole, I was very pleased with their performance.

Merrell7Where the Trail Glove shone, in my opinion, is wet weather. The tread pattern is medium-aggressive, and held on well, even in slick conditions. The mesh uppers allow water to flow in and out without much trouble, allowing my feet to dry out pretty well.

I found that I needed to take them off ever half hour or so to let me feet dry out a bit, but I never got any blisters from them, which is a good sign.

The wide toe box was a pleasure and went a long way to providing a comfortable ride.

Merrell8If there was one aspect of the shoe that I didn’t like, it was the sole’s built-in arch. It’s quite rigid, and I was aware of it the whole time I was running. I felt that it was a bit too long for my foot, and caused a little bit of discomfort. I’d love to see this feature removed in future versions of the shoe, as it did detract from the overall enjoyment of wearing these shoes.

That being said, I did have a good time testing these shoes out, and it’s always a big plus when a pair of minimal shoes is socially acceptable in the looks department. I’ve had several strangers comment on them, and they have been included in my ‘going-out’ pile of shoes, as well as having a place in my trail running kit.

It’s great to see high-quality minimal shoes finally start to take off in Australia, and I look forward to seeing what Merrell will be coming up with down the track.

Beginning Barefoot would like to thank Merrell for providing a pair of Trail Gloves for review. To find out more, visit the Merrell website, download the Barefoot Challenge app, and/or visit your local retailer!