Friday, December 29, 2023

Merrell Trail Glove 7 GORE-TEX Review

Article by Mike Postaski

Merrell Trail Glove 7 GORE-TEX ($180)


I have a pair of old Vapor Glove V3's that I long ago retired to interior housework duty - nice and stable "ground" feel when working around the house, painting, climbing ladders, etc ! But in fact, I find myself "un-retiring" them from time to time for some treadmill hiking when my lower legs are feeling fresh and I feel like adding in some foot strengthening.

I've never actually had a Trail Glove model - which is Merrell's equivalent "barefoot" shoe for the trails. Given that I like to experiment with different varieties of low-drop and natural running shoe styles, I was excited to try out Merrell's latest Trail Glove version.


Locks warmth in - great for cold temps

Flexible ground feel

A firm layer between foot and ground, not paper thin

No foam to pack out - they will last a long time


Loose, non-effective ankle collar

Slightly stiff upper, non quite glove-like

May be difficult to put on

Roomy in the heel area

Outsole tracks mud easily

High price ($180) for very specific usages


Weight: men's oz  / g (US9)  /  women's oz / g (US8)

  Samples: men’s  10.3 oz / 292g US 9.5,  oz / g US

Stack Height: 14mm heel / 14mm forefoot (0 drop spec) 

$180  Available Now 

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Biggest and most obvious first impression - straight out of the box - what's up with that ankle collar ??? I could tell right away before even trying them on that it looked quite loose and not fitted at all. I'm a fan of integrated ankle gaiters in trail shoes, but I'd say 90% of the time, they are not designed well, and often do more harm than good.

That's definitely the case here as the collar is very loose, made up of a Neoprene material, and not well fitted or stretchy. There are huge gaps all around my ankle behind the gaiter material. This is definitely detrimental and surely funnels in more trail debris than any standard ankle collar.

I really don't know where they were going with this design. Perhaps if you have a much thicker lower leg it may work? Or perhaps if you were wearing very thick socks and/or layers, you can make a tight seal? I'll just leave those two options on the table, not much more to say about it.

The main part of the upper consists of an integrated inner GORE-TEX liner with an outer mesh fabric. Those two upper layers put together are quite rigid, and don't quite provide the "glove" feel around the foot. I find the fit a bit spacious on the interior, but that may vary depending on your foot volume.

The quicklace system does well to cinch the upper down, but again, I don't quite get a pleasing "glove"-like feel. Perhaps the non-GTX model’s upper is a bit more pliable in comparison?

Another area that feels slightly off is the heel. It feels overly spacious to me, as if my heel is floating around a bit inside the heel area. There’s no particular bolsters on the inside above & around the heel to lock the heel in. The outsole at the heel area wraps up and above the heel, which serves to hold the heel down, which helps. But on the other hand, that makes the shoe a little bit difficult to put on. You have to kind of shimmy your heel over the upper lip of the rear heel and into the shoe.

[Not much if any padding around the collar to keep the heel seated]

Midsole & Platform

Being an explicit "barefoot" style, there's not much midsole to speak of here. It is noted that there is some FloatPro foam in the mix, and the stack is listed at 14mm (zero drop). The 14mm surely includes the 2.5mm lugs + outsole + sockliner, as it still feels very thin and firm underfoot, which is expected, and not a “con”.

The entire midsole/outsole unit is extremely flexible, similar to most natural style shoes. You can easily fold the shoe in half or roll it up almost into a ball. If you're looking to let your foot do the flexing and for the shoe to get out of the way - this is a good option.

One positive to point out is that due to the firm nature of the foam, and the design of the shoe in general - the Trail Glove should last much longer than most trail shoes. There’s no foam to pack out or degrade. I’ve had my Vapor Gloves for several years now and they feel exactly the same underfoot as when I got them.


The outsole rubber is Vibram Ecostep (30% recycled content). The lug depth is 2.5mm in a sort of squiggly interlocking pattern. The lugs feel soft and a bit strange under foot when running on solid ground - almost as if they are flexing and torquing as you put force into the ground.

I found the grip to work well enough in most dry conditions. The lug pattern does tend to pick up small pebbles as you can see in the picture above. Mud is another issue altogether. I found that the dense array of narrow lugs really tracked a lot of mud at times, and did not shed well.

Keeping up with my household usage scenarios - I put them on in semi-cold (but not frozen ground) weather to string up my Christmas lights. I figured they would keep my feet warm and be comfortable going up and down the ladder. But the outsoles ended up getting so caked in mud that I had to change them out. I would strongly discourage using these in soft or muddy conditions.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

The Trail Glove 7 GTX strikes a decent balance between having a “barefoot” feel and also blunting a bit of impact from the trails. The 14mm stack is surely thin by standard running shoe standards, but it’s not paper thin as with some truly barefoot options such as a Vivobarefoot or Merrell’s own Vapor Glove. The outsole also wraps up around the outside of the foot on both the medial and lateral sides. This provides some stability, which really increases their range into more uneven terrain. 

Not to harp on it again, but I expected more of a glove-like feel in terms of the shoe wrapping around the foot. The shoe is quite “round-ish” around the forefoot and in the toebox - so it does feel like there’s some spaciousness around the foot. I found wearing some thicker socks and snugging up the quicklaces helped in getting a good fit.

I tested them initially in above-freezing temps and they did run quite warm. My feet were quite clammy when temps were in the upper 40s. The neoprene collar seemed to soak up a lot of sweat. Personally I’d reserve these only for sub-freezing temps, but they may vary depending on your level of foot warmth needs.

Overall, the ride is firm and stable underfoot. They’re a good shoe if you’re in the market for a minimalistic ride for the winter. They’re also great for winter hiking if you don’t want that much insulation between your foot and the cold ground. I’ve been experimenting with some rucking to strengthen my legs for trail running - both on hilly paved ground and trails. I found the Trail Glove is pretty much the perfect shoe for that (in cold weather of course). 

The price is a downside - $180 is expensive for what you get, which is a somewhat specialized shoe. You can get more runnable GORE-TEX shoes for quite a bit cheaper. But if it’s exactly what you’re looking for, that’s less of an issue. Merrell does have wide distribution channels so you can also keep an eye out for deals, especially at the end of the winter season. 

Mike P’s Score:  8.05 / 10

Ride: 9 - Nice and flexible, good ground feel while blunting some sharps

Fit: 7 - Not quite as snug and glove-like as expected

Value: 7 - Quite a high price for a somewhat specialized shoe

Style: 9 - The blue does pop, but I think the all black is really slick

Traction: 8 - Ok in dry conditions or light snow, but poor in slop or mod

Rock Protection: 9 - Hard to grade, but 14mm gives a touch more protection than other pure “barefoot” styles

Smiles 😊😊😊


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Hard to come up with comps for this type of shoe - if you think of anything, please let me know in the comments

Merrell Vapor Glove (V3) 

Mike P (9.5): I only have an older version, but newer versions are probably similar. The Vapor Glove is much thinner, essentially just a few mms of rubber between foot and ground. Maybe there’s some foam underfoot, but very little, and feels a lot less than the trail glove. The Trail Glove’s added lug height also adds some more protection from the ground. My V3 Trail Gloves do have a much more “glove-like” fit than the Trail Glove 7 GTX, but that could be due to the stiffer GTX upper.

Merrell Agility Peak 5 GTX  

Mike P (9.5): In test right now - not a direct comp, but two GTX options from the same brand - one minimal, the AP 5 being relatively maximal. I’ve found the AP5 to be just great for cold weather running so far. A very good trail shoe , running focused, with a Gore-tex upper. I find the AP 5 Gore-tex upper to be quite breathable actually, and less clammy than most GTX uppers I’ve tested. It still keeps the feet warm, but lets them breathe more than the VG. I likely won’t run much in the VG’s, but keep them for hiking and rucking. The AP 5 GTX is a much better winter runner.

Altra Superior 6 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): For me, this was a really great update from Altra. In comparison to the TG, you have a real foam midsole underfoot and the softness is evident, obviously. You get nice ground feel with the Superior in comparison to most trail shoes, but you’re not quite as close to the ground as with the TG. I love the Superiors for warm weather running and casual use. They also look a bit sleeker and blend in much better off-trail than Merrell’s very loud styling. TG is a good pick if you want to get even closer to the ground and really work the foot muscles.

Topo ST-5 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Another great iteration from Topo. It’s thinner and closer to the ground than ST-4, versatile for short runs, cross training, and gym workouts. Similar to the Superior, its styling is more understated, making it a good pick for casual use in comparison to the Merrell. The ST-5 is closer to the ground than the Superior, but still, not as close as the TG. There’s a thin layer of foam underfoot to give it some softness. On the other hand, the TG’s firmness will likely make the shoe last much longer than either the Altra or the Topo.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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