Saturday, 25 February 2012

Merrell Trail Glove Review – One year on

It’s about a year now since I tried and failed in my final comeback with my Asics Kayano 15s.  It was about as successful as the previous two and was the final straw in my decision to move to barefoot and minimalist running, more minimalist than barefoot but that’s my choice and I’m happy with it.

One great thing about that choice though was that it let me go from running about 150 miles a year with a constant fear of injury to 642 miles in 2011 and another 115 miles in the first two months of the year so far.  The majority of that (probably 80% or so) was in minimalist shoes with the majority of that in the Trail Gloves, plus some in huaraches from the summer onwards. 
Over the year I’d estimate therefore that of the 750 miles a good 450-550 was in the trail gloves, so I think that gives me a decent perspective on them.  They’ve been used on roads, trails, the beach and grass and in all weathers from minus 10 to plus 35 celcius.

So let’s start with my first impressions:
  • Good snug fit around the midfoot and heel, plenty of room in the toebox even for my fat feet.  I know some people don’t like the way that the midfoot hugs the arch, but I found it to be very comfortable to start with.
  • Lacing system lets you pull the upper in nice and close, but with even pressure across the foot, laces are a bit long though, so a double knot is the order of the day
  • Great ventilation from that upper
  • Like the rubber toe bumpers
  • Love the colour scheme – I went with the black and red.

Early Use
  • Really loved the way they fitted the foot and how they felt very snug but unobtrusive.  That close fit really gave a feeling of security and a feeling of connection between the foot and the ground
  • Had some early blisters from some rogue material just under the arch where the sockless liner ends and the mesh upper begins.  I know this was a common issue and easily sorted with a pair of beard scissors, but to be honest I was a bit disappointed with the lack of attention to detail in some areas where obvious time had gone into others.
  • Loved the ventilation in the hot summer we had last year
  • Rock plate – took the worst of the sharp impacts away, but kept a lot of the ground feel.  Not as much as barefoot or in huaraches, but I don’t think it would be fair to expect that
  • Really did get annoyed with the long laces and difficulty getting them on and off, so swapped early on to a pair of elastic Lock-Laces.  Where have they been all my life!  I can now manage to get out of bed, wake up, get my running gear on and out into an Aberdeen winter within 10 minutes at 5:30am
  • Came in very handy on vacation when my Birkenstocks started hurting my feet.  I did a lot of barefooting that week, but these were great to take into restaurants as they were comfy and unobtrusive
After a year
  • The silver impregnated liner worked wonders.  There’s a very small amount of odour, but by no means offensive after a year’s wear.  This is a great feature and well worth it
  • During the winter I spent a lot of time in Aberdeen which was generally cold and windy.  I found that I could get a thin pair of silk socks in these which worked wonders with foot comfort.  I suspect a thinner pair of the Injinjis would also work.
  • They’ve worn very well in the upper and the interior with no obvious signs of distress.  The picture from above shows a bit of distortion around the front of the foot hole, but the heel has kept its shape as has the mesh section. 
  • Those lock laces were the best buy ever and really add to the shoes.  Why don’t they come with them?

And now to my main bugbear with these shoes.  The souls soles!  You’d think this was the key part of the shoe, after all that’s all there is to a pair of huaraches, and they’d spend the most thought and effort to get the detail right on this bit but this is the only bit that I think really lets this shoe down.
It’s a great tread pattern on the trails and loose gravel and is pretty grippy on the streets as well, so that’s not the problem. 
It’s the wear.  Now I’m nothing special as a runner, Mr Average really I think, and that comes down to my gait as well.  I, like probably the vast majority of runner out there pronate to some extent i.e. I land first on the outside edge of my feet and roll flat.  It’s pretty common, loads of folk do it, even when barefoot.

So why, oh why did Merrell put the least amount of rubber and thinnest tread pattern in this area?

Check out the picture below and you can see that there is plenty of tread left on the majority of the shoe, but two areas starting to wear very thin and now wearing through the outer sole. So what do I do now? Bon the shoes as they wear through there even though the rest of the sole could probably do another 500 miles easily?  Reinvent my gait? Just carry on?

One thing that annoyed me as well was Merrell’s response to a message via their website asking about issue with uneven wear.  They seemed rather disinterested and just told me to go to Timpsons (a UK chain of shoe repairers).  To be honest, Timpsons are great with a pair of bog-standard shoes but with these, no chance.

The Verdict
Overall a great shoe when out there running.  Fits well, even with my wide feet and feel great on. The Glove is a great tagline for these.  Very impressed by the odour proofing.

Really let down by the sole wear.  I’m not expecting them to last for an eternity (get it? Eternal sole?) but I think Merrell missed a trick when they made one of the likely major contact points one of the areas with minimal tread and sole thickness. Attention to detail in the interior finish could have been better as well.
I’d give them about a 7.5 out of ten.  Without the sole issues, a definite 9, maybe 9.5.


  1. Great recap.. thanks! I've got maybe 40 miles on my Trail Gloves.. will be interesting to see what the wear pattern ends up being. May take a while as I've been playing around with a variety of shoes, and will probably shift back to my huaraches mainly once the weather warms up. I do like these as a non-snow trail shoe though, but I'm liking the fit of the Road Glove at the moment... wish I could combine the best parts of 3 or 4 different shoes.. :-)

  2. I had similar issues with wear, except mine were even worse than that after 200-300 miles. I supinate quite a bit. In my case, the laces are almost too short. I have a very high instep and need all the space I can get in the midfoot. The shoes also were a bit narrow in the forefoot when I first got them, but widened out with some wear. Overall I liked them enough to buy a second pair though.