Our verdict

The sixth edition of Merrell's Vapour Glove returns, now offering enhanced comfort to complement the barefoot experience. Although originally designed for easy trails, we were thrilled to find this minimalist runner just as exceptional on the road and in the gym. Despite its £90 price tag, which might suggest a basic level, the shoe's comfort, grip, and performance were outstanding in our lab. However, we noticed the outsole could wear down quickly, and the fit may be too spacious for those with narrow feet. Based on our tests, the Vapour Glove 6 stands out as an authentic zero-drop option, offering great value for its price.

Pros

  • Accommodates wide feet comfortably
  • Exceptional ground feel
  • Fairly priced at $90
  • Highly responsive and agile
  • Extremely flexible design
  • Ideal for those with wide feet
  • Maintains grip, even on wet surfaces
  • Sockless ready
  • Perfect for road running or tackling easy trails
  • Versatile enough for hiking, walking, or even gym workouts

Cons

  • Overly spacious for those with narrow feet
  • Outsole shows wear quickly
  • The cushioned insole detracts from a true barefoot experience

Audience verdict

86
Good!

Who should buy

We recommend the Merrell Vapour Glove 6 if you:

  • Seek a barefoot-style running shoe capable of handling both roads and light trails.
  • Require a certain degree of protection in your minimalist trainers.
  • Are in search of a durable zero-drop, barefoot shoe suitable not just for running, but also for cross-training and hiking.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

Who should NOT buy

The Vapour Glove 6 might not be the right choice if you're after a zero-drop experience but still want some cushioning underfoot.

This shoe puts significant demands on your foot muscles and bones, and it's essential to be fully prepared for the barefoot experience. If you're new to this style, we suggest starting with something like the Merrell Trail Glove 7, which offers a bit of cushioning while still being zero-drop.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

Durability is another aspect to consider. The Vapour Glove 6's outsole tends to wear out quickly. In comparison, the Vibram FiveFingers V-Trek performs better in our lab, despite its softer rubber. However, in the barefoot world, outsole durability is often a trade-off. If your primary concern is just having a zero-drop shoe, the Altra Paradigm 7 excels in this area.

Breathability

The Merrell Vapour Glove 6 stands out, but its upper is similar to what you'd find in most running shoes. We were curious about its breathability since the upper looks highly breathable.

Our first, most visually striking test involved using a smoke-pumping machine to assess breathability. In the lab, we rated it a solid 3/5, which works for us since this shoe is intended for year-round use by most people.

We found less airflow than expected in the toebox, but pleasantly surprised by the nice ventilation in the midfoot area. This is great for everyday use.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 light

Then, we took a closer look under the microscope to understand why the toebox wasn't as breathable.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 microscope

The answer is straightforward—there's a dual-layer setup, with fabric below the mesh, which restricts full airflow.

However, this design greatly enhances comfort, and we think it's a fair trade-off, especially since this shoe is designed for all-day wear.

Test results
Vapor Glove 6 3
Average 3.8
Compared to 234 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

We spent a long time testing the shoe and handling the upper. As a result of it, we realised it's really soft and comfortable, which made us a bit concerned about its durability.

After conducting our Dremel test, we were relieved. The shoe scored an average 2/5, which is quite good for such a comfy upper.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Toebox durability
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 2
Average 2.4
Compared to 168 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

The heel area showed the same performance as the toebox, so we gave it another 2/5.

We don't think this is a major concern, except for those who often wear holes in the Achilles area.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Heel padding durability
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 2
Average 3.2
Compared to 164 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

The outsole of the Vapour Glove is made by Vibram. That equals fantastic grip.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Vibram

The maze-like lug pattern is engineered to enhance grip on a variety of terrains.

However, this time Vibram provided the EcoStep Recycle rubber. It's softer (75.6 HC) than other compounds from the Italian company, like Megagrip, and also softer than the average shoe's rubber.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Outsole hardness
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 75.6 HC
Average 80.5 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 285 running shoes
Number of shoes
52.1 HC
Outsole hardness
93.0 HC

Outsole durability

Given its softness, we had doubts about its durability.

Unfortunately, those doubts were confirmed when we found a 1.5-mm indentation in the outsole after our Dremel test in the lab, suggesting it might wear down faster than anticipated.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Outsole durability
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 1.5 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 146 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

Fortunately, Merrell requested a thick outsole from Vibram, and we found they delivered with a 3.9-mm one, which is beneficial considering the results of our previous tests.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Outsole thickness
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 3.9 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

Weighing just 5.6 oz (159g), the Vapour Glove 6 is among the lightest shoes we've tested in the lab. However, don't be fooled—its lightness is mainly due to the absence of a midsole.

In fact, the upper is quite heavy because of all the padding it includes.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Weight
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 5.61 oz (159g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

We mentioned that this shoe has no midsole, and that's exactly the case. The heel stack in this shoe amounts to just the outsole and insole combined, at a minimal 7.6 mm.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

What does this mean? For barefoot enthusiasts, it's great news. However, if you're used to running in cushioned shoes, you'll need to take it step by step with the Vapour Glove 6. There's hardly anything between your feet and the pavement!

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Heel stack
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 7.6 mm
Average 33.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
45.7 mm

Forefoot stack

We took our trusty calipers to the forefoot and found exactly what we were hoping for in a true barefoot shoe—a consistent 7.6-mm stack height. Fantastic!

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Forefoot stack
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 7.6 mm
Average 25.0 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
36.9 mm

Drop

Naturally, subtracting the forefoot from the heel measurement gives us a true, unequivocal 0.0 mm drop.

While this might seem obvious for a zero-drop shoe, manufacturing tolerances often lead some shoes to stray slightly from the perfection achieved by the Vapour Glove 6. Of course, the lack of a midsole certainly contributes to this precision...

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Drop
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 0.0 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The EVA-based insole measured 3.8 mm, and it's the only cushioning you'll feel in this shoe.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Insole thickness
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 3.8 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 300 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Secondary foam softness

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

The outsole of the Vapour Glove is made by Vibram. That equals fantastic grip.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Vibram

The maze-like lug pattern is engineered to enhance grip on a variety of terrains.

However, this time Vibram provided the EcoStep Recycle rubber. It's softer (75.6 HC) than other compounds from the Italian company, like Megagrip, and also softer than the average shoe's rubber.

Stability

Lateral stability test

Another huge advantage of not having a midsole and being extremely connected to the ground is the stability it offers. And the huge sidewalls also play a big role acting as a support element.

The Vapour Glove 6 is as stable as your feet, and it feels amazing while running. Oh, and these things just love taking corners at full speed... just saying.

Torsional rigidity

The torsional rigidity test is crucial for barefoot and minimalist enthusiasts, and we're happy to confirm that the Vapour Glove 6 is extremely flexible, scoring a 1/5 for us.

The video really speaks for itself!

Test results
Vapor Glove 6 1
Average 3.2
Compared to 283 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The story is the same with the heel counter. There are no added stability elements, no intrusive heel counters, absolutely nothing.

Test results
Vapor Glove 6 1
Average 2.8
Compared to 267 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Now, let's look into the midsole dimensions. In the forefoot, we measured a maximum of 104.6 mm, which is actually high for this type of shoe!

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 104.6 mm
Average 113.7 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The heel measured 77.0 mm, in line with our expectations. These foot-shaped shoes always tend to get really narrow in this area, and that's exactly as it should be to fit like a glove.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 77.0 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Doing this test was pretty cool. Usually, we have to apply some serious force, but this time we had to be super careful to push just lightly enough to avoid going past the 90-degree point.

And the result? A jaw-dropping 2.2N of force, proving that this shoe is incredibly bendable!

Test results
Vapor Glove 6 2.2N
Average 29.2N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Stiffness in cold

Following a 20-minute freeze, just like we did for the midsole softness test, we repeated the flexibility test. This time, the result was nearly identical at 2.5N.

Test results
Vapor Glove 6 2.5N
Average 38.3N
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.5N
Stiffness in cold
110.2N

Difference in stiffness in cold

With just a 12.7% increase, you won't notice any difference, even in cold temperatures.

Test results
Vapor Glove 6 12.7%
Average 35.9%
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

But one aspect where Merrell's approach to minimalism truly excels is the spacious toebox.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

Despite appearing just average on paper at 98.3 mm, it feels like a grand mansion in a barefoot shoe. This is fantastic news for those with wide feet who often struggle to find shoes that offer such generous room.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 98.3 mm
Average 98.4 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

The big toe area is a major contributor to the ample space inside the shoe. With an incredible width of 84.8 mm, any foot will have enough room for toe splay inside. It might even be too spacious for those with narrow feet.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 84.8 mm
Average 78.2 mm
Compared to 179 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The tongue is semi-gusseted, which is a nice bonus for those light trail adventures filled with small rocks and debris. In our opinion, Merrell deserves a bonus point for including this feature in a £90 shoe.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 Both sides (full)

Comfort

Tongue padding

This is pretty wild—the tongue is actually thicker than the shoe's stack height!

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

We're talking 8.2 mm thick here. It looks like Merrell really wanted to amp up the comfort in the upper as much as they could.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Tongue padding
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 8.2 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 302 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

There's no heel tab on the Vapour Glove, but we don't think it would fit with the design anyway, so it's all good!

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Heel tab
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 None

Removable insole

The insole is glued in and can't be removed. Additionally, the shoe's shape and its minimalist design don't make it suitable for third-party insoles.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Removable insole
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 No

Misc

Reflective elements

At just £90, we weren't expecting any reflective elements at all, and that's what we got.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Reflective elements
Test results
Vapor Glove 6 No