Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review

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The Trail Glove is my favorite all-round Minimalist shoe. It's not as light as the Mizuno Wave Universe, but it's a little more comfortable and lasts a lot longer. I've purchased my first pair of Trail Gloves over two years ago, and they're still going strong. I don't run in them much, but I wear them walking and I've nearly worn my first pair out. The Trail Glove is also a nice shoe for casual driving (it's not fire retardant for competitive driving.) I have the version 2 and 3 of the Trail Glove, and the changes are only cosmetic, so I'm grateful that Merrell hasn't screwed up a great shoe. While this is the Trail version, I find it's ideal for Road use as the outsole is not aggressive. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Merrell Trail Glove 3 top
Merrell Trail Glove 3 bottom
Merrell Trail Glove 3 inside
Merrell Trail Glove 3 outside
Merrell Trail Glove 2 top
Merrell Trail Glove 2 bottom
Merrell Trail Glove 2 inside
Merrell Trail Glove 2 outside
Merrell Trail Glove top
Merrell Trail Glove bottom
Merrell Trail Glove inside
Merrell Trail Glove outside

1 Cushioning, Running Economy, & Performance

There is scientific evidence that a little cushioning can improve Running Economy, which means it takes less effort to run at the same pace. The Trail Glove shoe does not offer enough cushioning to provide that increase in, so you'll probably be slower than you would be in a slightly more cushioned shoe.

2 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. The Trail Glove is a well-designed minimalist shoe with great longevity. It isn't a fast shoe by any means; it's actually the slowest shoe I've tested. If you want a faster minimalist shoe, go for the Mizuno Wave Universe, but the Trail Glove will last much longer. On the other hand, if you want a truly fast shoe, then look to the cushioned New Balance RC5000 or Asics Gel Hyper Speed. The extra cushioning gives an improvement in Running Economy that will make you faster in the RC5000 or Hyper Speed than any of the minimalist shoes. Note that while this the "trail" version of Merrell's glove series, it's the version I choose for road running.
  • Cushioning . There is no cushioning to speak of. There is a tiny bit of foam, and the outsole will give a little, but this is a true minimalist shoe.
  • Drop. The Trail Glove is zero-drop, as you'd expect (but don't always get) from a Minimalist shoe.
  • Structure. Because there's no cushioning, there's no scope for multiple densities of foam. The Trail Glove wraps the arch area, but doesn't provide any "arch support" to cause problems.
  • Flexibility. The Trail Glove is very flexible when compared to most other shoes but it's outsole does mean there is some slight resistance to flex.
  • Outsole. There is harder rubber over the entire contact patch of the Trail Glove. While this is marketed as a trail shoe, the outsole has only slight lugs and limited grip in soft or muddy trails. I've found the rubber is hard wearing and provides sufficient stickiness.
  • Shape. The Trail Glove is nicely shaped, and one of the few shoes where I don't have to cut open the toe box.
  • Upper. The upper is a little thicker than many shoes, but breaths acceptably well. There is no padding in the upper, but few seams and overall I've found the Trail Glove to be quite comfortable.
  • Tongue. The Trail Glove has a thinly padded, traditional tongue that is held in places by a tab for the laces.
  • Lacing. The laces are slightly rounded, but work okay; I've had the occasional issue with them not staying tied.
  • Heel Counter. Thankfully, there's not a traditional heel counter, just a thing strip of reinforcement that doesn't do much.
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3 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

4 Visualizing the Attributes of the Merrell Trail Glove

How Merrell Trail Glove compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Merrell Trail Glove compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Merrell Trail Glove compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Merrell Trail Glove compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

5 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

5.1 Merrell Trail Glove and Mizuno Wave Universe

The Trail Glove and Mizuno Wave Universe are both minimalist shoes, but they approach minimalism in different ways. The Wave Universe is extremely light weight, and less than half the weight of the Trail Glove. However, the Trail Glove will last far longer than the Wave Universe.

Merrell Trail Glove 3 top
Merrell Trail Glove 3 bottom
Merrell Trail Glove 3 inside
Merrell Trail Glove 3 outside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 top
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 bottom
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 inside
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 outside

5.2 Merrell Trail Glove and New Balance RC5000

While the New Balance RC5000 is stunningly light, it's not a minimalist shoe like the Trail Glove. Instead, the RC5000 provides more cushioning than you might expect, and enough for me to categorize is as an optimal shoe rather than Minimalist. Because the RC5000 provides enough cushioning to improve Running Economy it will be far, far faster to run in than the Trail Glove.

Merrell Trail Glove 3 top
Merrell Trail Glove 3 bottom
Merrell Trail Glove 3 inside
Merrell Trail Glove 3 outside
New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside

5.3 Merrell Trail Glove and Vibram FiveFingers

The FiveFingers are one of the earliest manufactures to focus on Minimalist shoes. I've had many pairs of FiveFingers, and there's a lot to like about them. However, getting the FiveFingers to fit right is tricky, as they need to match the shape of your foot quite closely or your toes won't go into the toe pockets. While having individual articulation for each toe is nice in theory, I've found that as long as I have enough room for my toes to spread and move naturally, I don't need that level of independence. As a result, I find that the Trail Glove is a better all-round minimalist shoe than any of the FiveFingers.

Merrell Trail Glove 3 top
Merrell Trail Glove 3 bottom
Merrell Trail Glove 3 inside
Merrell Trail Glove 3 outside
Vibram FiveFingers KSO top
Vibram FiveFingers KSO bottom
Vibram FiveFingers KSO inside
Vibram FiveFingers KSO outside

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 5
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Merrell Bare Access Bare Access Review Pending $95 5.0 7.2 17.8 15 12 -2 3.6 7
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 4
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 5
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 2
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 4
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Endorphin 2 Review Pending $115 7.4 5.5 10.2 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 8
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 5
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 5
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 6
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Hanzo Review Pending $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 5
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Kinvara 8 Review Pending $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 3
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 7
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 2
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 8
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.