Merrell Vapor Glove 3: Your foot, enhanced

98 / 100 by Avery Smith • Level 4 expert

The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 is my favorite barefoot shoe on the market.

It is so light and nimble that it actually feels like you are barefoot running, while at the same time being protected from hazards, such as sharp objects, slippery roads, and even cold weather.

If you are looking to experience barefoot running in the most comfortable way possible, the Merrell vapor glove is the shoe for you.



Marketed Statistics






The Vapor Glove has a synthetic mesh upper. The upper is very soft and flexible.

The mesh is tightly woven to give the shoe a little bit more protection against rain, snow, mud and trail debris, but it is still very breathable. 

Around the perimeter of the shoe is an impermeable plastic overlay. This gives the shoe extra resistance against the elements.



When the shoe is completely flexed, the upper material rubs against the top of my foot at the flexion point of the shoe. This only caused a little bit of irritation on the top of my foot during long runs that I perform without socks.


Heel Cup

Minimalist shoes generally don't have heel cups. The vapor glove is no exception. It uses a plastic overlay to act as the heel cup.

The heel collar is minimally padded but still very comfortable. Since the shoe does not have a heel cup, it is easy to put on the shoe without tying the laces.



Tongue & Laces

The Vapor Glove has an elastic tongue that feels very nice on the foot.

The laces are also a little bit stretchy. The laces do not have to be tied very tightly to give the shoe a good fit, so the laces never caused pressure points on the top of my foot.




The Vapor Glove has a fixed three-millimeter footbed. The fixed insole makes the shoe better for sockless running.

The three-millimeter footbed is the extent of the midsole. It does almost nothing to dampen the impact of running, which is good because this is a barefoot shoe.



The Vapor Glove has a straight fit.

The shoe has a platform that matches the width of my foot. This fit is neither tight and obstructive, nor wide and clumsy. It makes me feel like I am truly barefoot running.


Toe Bumper

My favorite part of any trail running shoe is the toe bumper. The Vapor Glove has a toe bumper that is made from a large piece of the outsole rubber that wraps around the toe. The toe bumper is very sturdy.

While barefoot running, I watch the trail very closely so that I don’t step on or kick any big rocks, but the few times that I have used the toe bumper, it protected my feet well.




There is no midsole.



The Vibram outsole is truly a work of art. It excels in flexibility, durability, and traction, the most important categories for any outsole.

The Vapor Glove is the most flexible outsole that I have ever run in. With minimal force, it flexes in all directions. It is much more flexible than your foot, so it truly unobstructive.



The outsole is made of a  thin sheet of Vibram rubber covered in narrowly spaced shallow lugs.

The outsole feels like the outsole of a road shoe because there is so much surface area. The Vibram rubber seems to be very durable, it will not be the limiting factor for the longevity of this shoe.


Best Uses

The Vapor Glove excelled as an all-terrain barefoot trail running shoe. The Vapor Glove is my absolute favorite barefoot road and treadmill running shoe and ranked highly on the trails.

When barefoot running, you need to dance nimbly on trails and prudently watch out for any obstacles.

As such, the minimal outsole proved to be enough for more rugged trails. Since the Vapor Glove is a barefoot shoe, it will only be comfortable for runners who have a smooth and efficient gait.






Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Vs. Merrell Trail Glove 4

The Trail Glove is the big brother of the Vapor Glove. It has a touch more padding, a touch more outsole rubber and a little bit more of a protective upper.

The Trail Glove also has a wider fit than the Vapor glove. The Vapor Glove performs better than the Trail Glove on lighter trails and roads, but the Trail Glove works better on more rugged trails.


Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Vs. Vivobarefoot Stealth

These two shoes are functionally very similar. They are both barefoot shoes that are as minimal as they come.

The Stealth is geared more towards roads, whereas the vapor glove is capable on all terrain. The Stealth has an uncomfortably wide fit.

Overall, the Vapor Glove is more durable, more comfortable, has better traction and is considerably cheaper. The Stealth is a good barefoot running shoe, but the Vapor Glove works better than the Stealth in every situation.



The Vapor Glove 3 is the best barefoot shoe that I have ever run in. The only tiny complaint that I had was that while running sockless on long runs, the upper would rub against my foot at the flexion point of the shoe.

The Vapor Glove even looks pretty good, which is a feat for a barefoot shoe. It is hard to take off points for such a well-refined shoe, but I know that it will continue to improve in future iterations.

Overall, If you are looking for a fantastic barefoot running shoe, this is the one for you.

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 Vapor Glove 3