Merrell Trail Gloves – Fresh out the box and fresh with potential

A quick update to let you know that I’ll be reviewing these shoes in the next week or two, having just had a pair arrive fresh from the US. As a way of providing some initial thoughts, I must admit that when I got them out of the box and looked at the insides, I was a bit taken aback by how thin the soles are i.e. there’s really no give at all in them. I’m not sure what I expected, but having worn Nike Free’s for so long, I guess I was thinking that there might be a little more give.

However, not to be deterred, I put them on at work and wore them for a good eight hours, not doing much but walking in them, but I must admit that they felt great. They are exactly as it says on the tin, a glove, in that they fit precisely like one – and something the Nike Frees have done well with too.

It was a little strange at first putting them on as the heel and mid foot is a very snug fit. Indeed, the area around the mid-foot is extremely narrow, but the toe box is very wide and just how I like it, which means plenty of room for the forefoot to move around.

One thing that did surprise me was the ‘toughness’ of the sole and shoe in general, something the Nike Free has nothing of. The toe box has a good protective film of rubber over the end, and while it won’t completely protect your toes, it will go some way towards helping. The sole of the shoe is what really surprised me though. Made by Vibrams, I was expecting a very flimsy piece of rubber and pretty much to feel everything that I trod on. Not so it seems. The sole is extremely tough I think, yet you can screw the shoe up into a little ball too. It appears as if a lot of thought and design has gone into this shoe. It’s tough, yet extremely flexible – often a very hard balance to get for us minimalist runners who want some added protection too.

The next day (so yesterday), I decided to take them out for a spin. Admittedly I live in the City, so finding trail is difficult, so I went on a small 7km road run instead just to get the feel of them. With zero drop from heel to toe, you automatically start up on your forefoot and mid-foot when striking. For me, this is something I’ve been doing the last two years, so nothing new, but the lack of padding over the Free’s is very noticeable, but surprising not uncomfortable. This was however only over 7kms. A 100km or 100 mile race is going to be a different kettle of fish entirely.

I did manage to find a little bit of rougher track around where I live, and I deliberately ran over some rockier parts and tree roots, just to see how the going was. Again, the soles held pretty firm on those and while you do feel the shrubbery beneath you, it’s not as bad as I thought. There’s a noticeable difference between these and the Inov8 Talon 190’s I’ve worn over the last 3 months (a separate review of those will be coming). The plan is to take these for a test drive over the weekend in New Zealand, where I’ll be training for a few days. Plenty of hilly and rocky places for me to take these shoes, and I’m excited by the prospect of how they will go. It will be a very good test of how they perform

I’ve been looking for a new trail shoe for a while now, and the Talons just don’t quite do it for me. These I think, have the potential to be good and if all goes well, they could be the shoe of choice for the Great North Walk later this year. They held up well on the flatter road, so will be good for those sections of GNW, and I also suspect for the softer trail too. GNW is not overly rocky compared to some races, so these shoes do have great potential. But we’ll have to see how they fare first. If not, the Free’s could be coming out of ‘trail retirement’ yet again.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

5 thoughts on “Merrell Trail Gloves – Fresh out the box and fresh with potential

  1. Nice work Dan, will be keen to see how these go on some technical trail in different weather conditions and whether you will be comfortable taking them over the 100km distance. I look forward to hearing how you go. Saucony have been marketing their new minimalist shoe the Hattori really hard in the US while I have been over here and so will probably pick up a pair for us to try. They look very similar in design and shape to the Trail Gloves. Check out

  2. Cheers Marcus and Charlie. I must admit that I’ve never been keen on New Balance Charlie because they tend to be a little narrow for my feet. That said, these Merrell’s are very narrow around the mid-foot, but the big thing for me is that they are very wide in the toe-box which is what matters most for me. I like the forefoot to be able to move about quite a bit.

    Marcus, will be keen to see what the Saucony’s go… however, I’ve just taken the Merrell’s out for a 13km run on some fire trail with plenty of gravel on and so far so good. Yes you do feel the odd piece of stone, but to be honest it’s no more than the Nike Frees. I’m pretty impressed so far. The real test will be tomorrow though and a nice 50km’er to really see how they (and indeed my feet) hold up. Thanks for commenting guys, really appreciate it.

  3. Dan, I did the Northants 35 in the trail gloves last weekend – it’s probably 60/40 off/on road, and the ground here is rock hard at the moment so underfoot is hard going particularly on bridleways where horses have been. I’d run up to 33 miles in them before with no major issues, apart from my soles feeling a little “beat up”. After last w/end’s efforts though my right sole under the arch is really sore and feels like I’ve been battered – bit of swelling too. I think it’s just bruising from some of the really rough stuff and doesn’t affect my running so I don’t think it’s anything structural!

    Be interested to see how you get on with them in NZ.

    happy trails 🙂

  4. Thanks for the comment Ivan – hope you’re well! I’ve done about 70kms in them in the last three days and have a few conclusions about them, which I’m going to put into the review. I think the upshot is that I wouldn’t wear them on really hard mountainous terrain. I trod on a few rocks that dug straight into my heel and boy did it hurt. My chiro has suggested putting the insoles of my Nike Frees in there, so will give that a go too I reckon.

    What’s also noticeable is that they’re not great on muddy terrain. The mud really clogs up on the sole, and it almost becomes like an ice skate at times. I ran downhill on some softer, slightly muddier ground today and slipped a few times. I think for soft-ish bush terrain, these will be pretty good. Not convinced about the really hard stuff, but maybe that’s more about sticking with them for a bit yet.

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