Our verdict

Crafting a minimalist, zero-drop running shoe that thrives on trails is no small feat, and Merrell continues to excel with its Trail Glove series. In its seventh version, we tested a true zero-drop trail shoe that's perfect for both beginners and veterans of barefoot running. We were struck by its durable upper, exceptional stability, and remarkable agility in cornering, along with the Vibram outsole that offers superb grip. However, we did find the outsole's durability to be lacking. Overall, the Merrell Trail Glove 7 stands out as a fun and unique choice, perfect as a running and hiking companion for the minimalist aficionado.

Pros

  • Authentic minimalist experience
  • Genuine zero-drop design
  • Provides a good amount of cushioning
  • Doubles as hiking and walking shoe
  • Sturdy and long-lasting upper
  • Perfect for summer adventures
  • Exceptionally flexible
  • Super quick and agile on corners
  • Ideal for both experts and beginners

Cons

  • Completely unsuitable for winter conditions
  • Outsole durability is a letdown
  • Might be excessively narrow for some runners

Audience verdict

80
Good!

Who should buy

We give a big thumbs-up to the Merrell Trail Glove 7 for:

  • Minimalist running enthusiasts who need a shoe that's built for the trails.
  • Runners keen on trying a zero-drop shoe, similar to Altra, but with less cushioning for a more natural feel underfoot.
  • Trail runners looking for a minimalist shoe that's also comfy enough for everyday walking or hiking.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Merrell

Who should NOT buy

One of the biggest letdowns of the Merrell Trail Glove 7 is its outsole durability, which we think is only fit for trails and not for mixed use with asphalt. If you're looking for a zero-drop shoe but need something more durable, we suggest the Altra Lone Peak 7, which holds up much better.

Also, it's not the ideal shoe for a barefoot winter experience. In that case, we prefer the Vibram FiveFingers V-Trek. It's better suited for colder temperatures and offers the ultimate minimalist experience, though it might lack enough cushioning for some.

Merrell Trail Glove 7

Breathability

Our first impression of the upper on the Merrell Trail Glove 7 was very positive. The mesh looks high-quality, though we initially had doubts about its breathability since it's quite thick. But the real test was yet to come.

First, we conducted our favourite test for breathability—the smoke test. Here, we were pleasantly surprised, especially for those looking for a summer shoe, as the airflow was impressive. We gave it a 4/5 rating.

Next, we examined the upper under a powerful light, which instantly revealed all the ventilation holes and the reinforced parts of the upper. Merrell has done a smart job balancing breathability with maintaining structure and reinforcements.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 microscope

To get an even closer look at those ventilation holes, we used a microscope. We uncovered a dual-layer mesh filled with ventilation holes.

Merrell Trail Glove 7

Finally, we analysed the upper, focusing on its potential for stretchiness, which we found to be minimal.

However, what really impressed us was the discovery of a very well-padded, high-quality upper.

Test results
Trail Glove 7 4
Average 3.3
Compared to 83 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

Our first Dremel test is here, where we'll assess the toebox durability.

As we observed earlier in the microscope images, the shoe features a very breathable engineered mesh. This usually results in a less-than-stellar performance in this test.

However, Merrell smartly integrated a protective piece into a significant portion of the toebox. This effectively shields it, allowing the shoe to avoid the lowest score and earn a 3/5.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Toebox durability
Test results
Trail Glove 7 3
Average 3.1
Compared to 63 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Next, we tested the heel padding durability of the shoe and, honestly, it was disappointing at a mere 1/5.

The damage was huge, suggesting that runners who frequently wear holes in this area should be wary of the Trail Glove 7.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Heel padding durability
Test results
Trail Glove 7 1
Average 2.9
Compared to 61 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

We flipped the shoe to check out the Vibram outsole, known for grip and performance. However, this time we found a softer-than-usual compound at 76.4 HC.

We're curious if this will affect its durability. Let's see...

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Outsole hardness
Test results
Trail Glove 7 76.4 HC
Average 85.4 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
72.5 HC
Outsole hardness
95.0 HC

Outsole durability

For our third and final Dremel test, we ran the tool at 10K RPM against the maze-like Vibram outsole.

Sadly, we noticed more damage than expected at 1.5 mm. This leads us to suggest the shoe is suitable only for trails, but not for concrete, as it would likely wear out too soon.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Outsole durability
Test results
Trail Glove 7 1.5 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 56 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

The previous damage is particularly troubling, considering the mere 1.8-mm outsole thickness we just carefully measured.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Outsole thickness
Test results
Trail Glove 7 1.8 mm
Average 2.4 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0.9 mm
Outsole thickness
6.5 mm

Weight

Weighing in at 7.8 oz or 221.0g, the Trail Glove 7 seems light on paper. But considering its low stack height and minimalist design, we believe Merrell could have done a better job.

Ideally, they should aim to get this shoe under 7 ounces, perhaps in the next version.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Weight
Test results
Trail Glove 7 7.80 oz (221g)
Average 10.30 oz (292g)
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
7.51 oz (213g)
Weight
13.37 oz (379g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Some may believe that minimalist shoes don't have a midsole, likely due to the popularity of the FiveFingers saga—although most of them do have a midsole.

Merrell Trail Glove 7

The Merrell Trail Glove 7 features 16.1-mm of FloatPro EVA foam. And to us, this feels like the perfect middle ground.

It keeps the minimalist spirit alive while providing enough cushioning to protect your muscles and create a bit more distance between your foot and the ground.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Heel stack
Test results
Trail Glove 7 16.1 mm
Average 32.2 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
16.1 mm
Heel stack
42.4 mm

Forefoot stack

In the forefoot, we measured 16.0 mm, just 0.1 mm less than in the heel.

With this stack height, only runners really used to minimalist shoes can handle runs lasting more than an hour.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Forefoot stack
Test results
Trail Glove 7 16.0 mm
Average 24.5 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
15.2 mm
Forefoot stack
33.9 mm

Drop

Merrell says that the shoe features a true 0-mm drop, and our measurement came in at an almost imperceptible 0.1 mm.

That's a tiny difference, especially considering we're accustomed to seeing much larger variances in nearly every other shoe, as highlighted in our article. Big props to Merrell for nailing this one!

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Drop
Test results
Trail Glove 7 0.1 mm
Average 7.8 mm
Compared to 105 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.1 mm
Drop
17.3 mm

Insole thickness

The insole is a bit thinner than average at 3.4 mm, but that's typical for this kind of shoe.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Insole thickness
Test results
Trail Glove 7 3.4 mm
Average 4.7 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
2.7 mm
Insole thickness
9.8 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

With its ultra-thin midsole and minimalist design, we understood Merrell couldn't opt for a super-soft foam formula.

True to our expectations, at 28.8 HA, the FloatPro midsole is satisfyingly dense and firm, exactly what we were hoping for. After all, a minimalist shoe is built to really engage and strengthen your foot muscles!

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Midsole softness
Test results
Trail Glove 7 28.8 HA
Average 22.7 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
9.1 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
39.0 HA

Secondary foam softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The insole is a bit thinner than average at 3.4 mm, but that's typical for this kind of shoe.

Midsole softness in cold

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

When we put the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes to mimic cold conditions, our Shore A durometer showed a reading of 36.8 HA.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Midsole softness in cold
Test results
Trail Glove 7 36.8 HA
Average 28.2 HA
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
11.8 HA
Midsole softness in cold (soft to firm)
48.4 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

That's a 27.6% difference, which aligns with the average. However, since this midsole is already firm at room temperature, we didn't feel a big change.

After all, once you pass the 30.0 HA threshold, everything feels really firm underfoot.

Test results
Trail Glove 7 27.6%
Average 26.4%
Compared to 82 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

Despite its narrow design, the Trail Glove 7 feels really stable when running straight, but it truly shines when taking corners. With its firm midsole and narrow build, it's like a racing car with bucket seats for your feet.

Torsional rigidity

We just mentioned how awesome it is at taking corners, and a lot of that comes from the super-low torsional rigidity of the shoe. Of course, we rated at 1/5 in the lab.

Test results
Trail Glove 7 1
Average 3.5
Compared to 100 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

And the heel, just as you'd expect with any minimalist shoe, follows the same approach. There's no heel counter, no added stability elements, nothing. Another 1/5!

Test results
Trail Glove 7 1
Average 3.2
Compared to 98 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

When we first unboxed the shoe in the lab, we could tell it was really narrow. Now it's time to put numbers to our observations.

Measuring at 102.1 mm, it's indeed quite narrow, although that's what we expect from this type of shoe.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Trail Glove 7 102.1 mm
Average 112.1 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
102.1 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.0 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The rear of the shoe, measuring 79.7 mm, sticks to the same minimalist approach. It's pretty much the opposite of a stability shoe, yet it's surprisingly stable!

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Trail Glove 7 79.7 mm
Average 89.7 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
77.2 mm
Midsole width in the heel
109.3 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

We've already seen in this lab test how bendable this shoe is, but there's one test left: the longitudinal stiffness. Obviously, this shoe doesn't have any kind of plate, but is it stiff?

Well, of course not! At just 10.5N, it's one of the least stiff shoes we've ever tested, making it a delight for all-day wear, even in the mountains.

Test results
Trail Glove 7 10.5N
Average 28.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
10.5N
Stiffness
54.5N

Stiffness in cold

We repeated the 20-minute freezer test to gauge the shoe's stiffness in harsh winter conditions. Afterward, it took 11.9N of force to bend the shoe.

Test results
Trail Glove 7 11.9N
Average 38.0N
Compared to 103 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
11.9N
Stiffness in cold
92.1N

Difference in stiffness in cold

That's only a 13.9% difference, but to be honest, we don't think this is a shoe meant for the coldest winters anyway.

Test results
Trail Glove 7 13.9%
Average 35.1%
Compared to 103 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
102%

Grip / Traction

Lug depth

As we mentioned at the beginning of the review, one of the most interesting aspects of this shoe is its Vibram outsole. Specifically, it's the Ecostep Recycle outsole made with 30% recycled rubber.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 lugs

It performs well on easy or moderate trails with its 2.5 mm lugs, but it's not meant for mud or technical terrain at all.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Lug depth
Test results
Trail Glove 7 2.5 mm
Average 3.6 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1.7 mm
Lug depth
5.8 mm

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Since it's so narrow, we also expected a snug fit, but it wasn't too bad (93.9 mm).

Merrell Trail Glove 7

We mentioned earlier that the shoe looked lighter on paper than in reality, and this time it's the opposite—it feels roomier than it appears on paper.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Trail Glove 7 93.9 mm
Average 98.8 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
92.0 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
104.9 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

And this is mostly because the shoe is really foot-shaped, with 86.0 in the big toe area.

Seriously, it fits just like a... glove!

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Trail Glove 7 86.0 mm
Average 79.0 mm
Compared to 68 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
70.5 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.1 mm

Tongue: gusset type

Merrell has included a fully-gusseted tongue, which is always a big plus, but it's particularly needed in a trail running shoe.

Why? Because it does an excellent job at keeping debris away.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Trail Glove 7 Both sides (full)

Comfort

Tongue padding

We believe many might expect a thin, minimalist tongue, but that's not what you get here.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 tongue

At a plush 8.3 mm, the tongue is incredibly padded, delivering a surprisingly high level of comfort.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Tongue padding
Test results
Trail Glove 7 8.3 mm
Average 6.4 mm
Compared to 106 trail running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Tongue padding
12.2 mm

Heel tab

We didn't find a heel tab on the Merrell Trail Glove 7. This wasn't a surprise, though, since the brand also skipped it in the previous version.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Heel tab
Test results
Trail Glove 7 None

Removable insole

Unlike most running shoes, Merrell glues the insole in, making it impossible to remove. And honestly, given its unique shape, we'd struggle to replace it with just about any other insole anyway.

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Removable insole
Test results
Trail Glove 7 No

Misc

Reflective elements

Crafted from a minimalist perspective, we weren't expecting any reflective elements on this shoe.

But here's a cool idea for Merrell—how about a glow-in-the-dark brand logo?

Merrell Trail Glove 7 Reflective elements
Test results
Trail Glove 7 No