Merrell Vapor Glove 3 review

Are you a minimalist runner? There is a good chance these will fit the bill.

A low-drop shoe that does fit like a glove – but it also has a good-sized toe box, so your toes will have space to play ‘n’ splay.

Excellent fit for wide and flat feet

I have wide and flat feet, and the Vapor Glove provided an excellent fit. It is a light and quick shoe that allows great feel of the pavement, while still providing effective protection from the road (but maybe try to avoid sharp rocks).

I ran a half-marathon in the Vapor Glove and was pleased with their performance in the race. These are also extremely comfortable shoes for driving and walking.

The Vapor Glove 3 is lightweight

At 6.1 oz., the Vapor Glove 3 weighs only 0.5 oz. more than the lightest shoe on the market (Adidas Adizero Sub 2; a $180 shoe with 8 mm drop – quite a different shoe compared to the $80, 0 mm drop Vapor Glove 3).

When wearing the Vapor Glove, it hardly feels like you are wearing more than socks – so although the shoe itself may not have cutting-edge technology to put a spring in your step, its low weight means your feet will be swinging less mass and you’ll be saving energy.

Extraordinary comfort right out of the box

Out of the box, these shoes provided extraordinary comfort and ground feel.

They truly did feel like you were walking/running barefoot. The feel of the ground was also excellent, with sufficient protection from most objects commonly approached on the pavement (more on this later).

The grip is superb

These shoes have Vibram soles; as such, the grip is superb.

The grip is like a gecko’s sticky fingertips. I always had excellent grip and did not slip, and these shoes even provided traction in wet surfaces.

New to minimalist shoes? Allow time to adjust.

Runners who are new to minimalist shoes will have some initial challenges with the Vapor Glove. When starting out, newbies are likely to experience tightness in the calves, and their feet may ache after runs.

If interested in barefoot shoes, I would recommend walking in the shoes a lot, doing some short runs in the shoes, and/or doing some run/walks in the shoes. Another alternative is to ease into the barefoot shoe by first trying a low-drop shoe (e.g., 4 mm), and, if this works, then go to a barefoot shoe.

I am a large runner (6’3”, 220 lbs), and I was still pleased with the Vapor Glove. Often, one hears that minimalist shoes are meant for lighter runners, or that larger runners require more support in their shoes.

I would argue that it depends on the runner’s experience and the type of shoes that they have used. I have been running for 15 years (~3x per week) and eased into more minimalist shoes about 8 years ago, so running in minimalist shoes is not a problem for me. If a runner is large, has not run for many years, and has not eased into minimalist shoes, then these shoes would not be recommended.

These shoes do provide not much support for the feet. Again, by design, the minimalist shoe will have minimal support, but it is important to note for those who have not run in minimalist shoes previously.

Less durable

As mentioned by other reviewers, the upper and the lower materials detached. In addition, the sole of the shoe failed over time – on my final run in the shoes today, a massive hole in the sole became unbearable.

I bought the shoes in September 2017, and they failed at the end of July 2018 (~11 months of running 3-4 times per week). I do forgive the shoes though, as they are minimal shoes that are extremely and are therefore bound to be less durable.

Minimal protection against rocks

Another challenge with all minimalist shoes is the dreaded rock on the road.

These shoes are so minimal that an encounter with a sharp rock can be quite painful, so it is good to avoid roads with a lot of rocks, and walking on gravel with these shoes. Again, this comes with the territory with minimalist shoes and should be expected.

Not so appealing, design-wise

I’m not one to wear running shoes out for style…but honestly, this is especially true for Merrell.

Although I like the color options, the look of the shoe is not great. It is perfect for a neighborhood walk, a run to the grocery store, or a long drive. It is not perfect for a first date, a night out downtown, or a day at work. But running shoes are not meant for those events anyway.

Facts / Specs

Terrain: Road
Weight: Men 172g / Women 130g
Drop: 0mm
Arch support: Neutral
Update: Merrell Vapor Glove 5
Forefoot height: 7mm
Heel height: 7mm

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Andrew Gaudet

I'm Andrew, an avid runner for 15 years. I mostly run on roads with an average of 20-30 miles per week but still love the occasional trail running and technical hikes. I'm a fan of neutral shoes that have minimal support and are low-drop. Recently, I've been enjoying Merrell, Inov-8, and Altra running shoes. Previously, I have run in Saucony, Mizuno, and New Balance as well. I have extensive experience with many types of shoes and look forward to sharing strong opinions – good and bad.