Merrell Trail Glove 4: The best minimalist trail running shoe

97 / 100 by Avery Smith • Level 4 expert

The Merrell Trail Glove 4 is a mix between a minimal trail running shoe, and barefoot trail running shoe. 

Most people are not ready to go into a full-fledged barefoot running shoe, especially for trail running. The Trail Glove is a good compromise as it has a barefoot feel, with more protection.




The upper is made of a lightly padded synthetic material. There is a lattice of overlays around the midfoot to add structure and support.



The Trail Glove is very breathable for a trail shoe. There are no holes in the upper for ventilation, but the upper material itself is breathable. This is favorable because the upper does not let trail debris into the shoe at all.


Heel Collar

Since this is a minimal shoe, Merrell does not include a heel cup. The heel collar has a small amount of padding. I would not want any more padding in a minimal running shoe.



Tongue & Laces

Gloves do not have tongues; they are a piece of fabric that wraps around your hand. The tongue of the Trail Glove is the same material as the rest of the upper.

The tongue is asymmetrically constructed; it only separates from the rest of the upper on the lateral side of the shoe. The laces are standard flat laces that allow you to get a good lockdown, despite the wide fit.



Toe Bumper

The Glove 4 has a small toe bumper made of the rubber outsole, and a thicker synthetic material, to protect the foot from rocks and roots. The toe bumper is not the most protective of

The toe bumper is not the most protective of toe bumpers, but a large toe bumper would be unnecessary because you need to watch where you are going anyway when you are running in a minimalist running shoe.




The Trail Glove 4 has a wide fit. The heel and midfoot are a little wide, and the toebox is very wide. The width is very comfortable. My toes can splay naturally when I land, and my feet don’t slide forward, despite the wide fit.



I wear a size 12 in the Merrell Trail Glove. Here is a chart to compare the General size of different brands.




The Trail Glove has one small piece of reflective material on the tongue.



The Trail Glove has a very minimal midsole. There's only mere millimeters of cushion. The midsole provides very little impact protection.

There is no sock liner in the Trail Glove. This makes the Trail Glove ok for running sockless.




As expected, the Trail Glove has no heel to toe drop. This is ideal for barefoot running shoes. Despite the zero drop construction, there is more cushion in the heel than in the forefoot.



The Trail Glove is extremely flexible. This gives the Trail Glove a more natural ride, which is what I am looking for in a barefoot trail running shoe.



The Trail Glove’s outsole is constructed by Vibram. The outsole is very durable and provides decent traction. 

It has shallow, yet aggressively shaped lugs, that perform well on packed trails and rocks. I did not have great traction in loose mud and dirt.

The lugs in the forefoot are backward for enhanced traction during climbs. The lugs in the rearfoot are pointed forwards for enhanced traction on descents.



Barefoot shoes should not have good traction in loose mud, or else the sole is too substantial, and the shoe is not really a barefoot shoe.

You can't have a La Sportiva Bushido sole (very Grippy Sole) on a barefoot shoe! The Merrell Trail Glove has the best traction out of any barefoot trail running shoe on the market.



The Trail Glove 4 weighs about 8 ounces. This is not as light as some barefoot trail running shoes, however, it does not weigh you down in any way.



Both the upper and the outsole are very durable. Over time, the lugs will wear down, especially if you run on the road. However, if you are willing to run with worn down lugs, the Trail Glove will last about 600 miles.


Best Use

The Merrell Trail Glove is the most comfortable minimalist trail running shoe on the market. I recommend it to anyone looking for a barefoot trail running shoe with more protection than usual. This is a very minimal shoe.

Only forefoot strikers should try running in this shoe. Biomechanically less efficient runners should not attempt to use this shoe. They will quickly injury themselves.

I can use this shoe for runs up to about 15 miles, at which point, I wish I had some more cushion. The Merrell Trail Glove can be used on roads, but the more substantial outsole is heavier and not necessary on roads.




Merrell Trail Glove 4 VS. Merrell Vapor Glove 3

The Vapor Glove is the more minimal version of the Trail Glove. It has no cushion at all and a much less substantial outsole. The Vapor Glove is technically a trail shoe, but I find that it works best as the road version of the Trail Glove.

Both shoes are zero drop and equally comfortable. Buy the Vapor glove if you want a full blown barefoot shoe; Buy the Trail Glove if you want a little bit more protection.


Merrell Trail Glove 4 VS. Vibram Trek Ascent

The Trek Ascent is another barefoot trail running shoe. The Trek Ascent is two ounces lighter than the Trail Glove.

Both the Vibram Trek Ascent and the Trail Glove have durable Vibram outsoles (no surprise there), however, the Trail Glove’s outsole is more substantial. The Trail Glove looks like a normal shoe, unlike the Trek Ascent, which has 5 toe pockets. The Trek Ascent has a much more secure fit.



Merrell did a great job constructing the Trail Glove. In over 50 miles of testing, I never had any problems.

The shoe could definitely be a little lighter, but apart from that, it is just perfect. It is truly the most comfortable, "almost barefoot" trail running shoe on the market.

Avery Smith

Avery Smith • Level 4 expert

Avery Smith is a student at a school in Western Massachusetts. He spends his breaks in the rocky mountains with his family. Avery runs every distance, from short track races to ultra marathons. He has come in the top three in his age group for every ultramarathon that he has raced.

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Merrell Trail Glove 4