Barefoot running, and the minimalist trail shoes that accompany the movement, is more than a passing fad. Ever since Born to Run idolized the way our feet are actually perfectly-engineered running machines, the barefoot movement has grown exponentially.
Merrell has a long history in the minimalist and barefoot running space, and the Trail Glove 6 is the latest in an iconic line of glove-like footwear. To put it succinctly: the Trail Glove 6 is a minimalist trail runner that gives the feel of barefoot shoes, yet provides a surprising amount of support. It’s a unique combination that places the Trail Glove 6 right in the middle of more classic trail runners and ultra-minimalist barefoot shoes.
They are incredibly lightweight, made to last as long as much burlier shoes, use mostly recycled materials, have an impressive Vibram outsole, and come in a large range of sizes and colors for men and women.
Unique Features of the Merrell Trail Glove 6
The Trail Glove 6 builds on an iconic line that Merrell has been iterating for years. This version sticks with their departure from truly minimal barefoot footwear to include a bit of arch support, a rock plate, and an aggressive Vibram outsole — akin to the Trail Glove 5, not the Trail Glove 4 — and it does so in a compact, ultralight shoe.
The Trail Glove 6 weighs just 8 ounces per shoe (for a Men’s size 8), and wants to fit you like a pair of socks. There’s a traditional mesh tongue with stretchy elastic connecting to the upper so that your feet slide right in and don’t slip. The rest of the upper is fully mesh, and quite breathable, yet it feels rugged in hand.
The lace system of the Trail Glove 6 is unique: it features standard laces along the top and then a secondary system underneath, which provides more close-fitting grip and adjustment. This does take a few moments to dial in (and get out of), but once you find the right amount of pressure and support the “Glove” mode engages. The extremely close fit pairs with a very flexible heel collar to move exactly like your foot does.
Barefoot or Trail Runner?
The big debate with the Trail Glove line of shoes — and the Trail Glove 6 in particular — is just how “barefoot” it is. The general goal of a barefoot trail runner is to provide a bit of traction and protection for your foot, while providing no other kinds of support. This means no ankle support, no heel-to-toe support (a zero-drop shoe), and relatively low “stack” (how much padding there is between you and the road), and a feeling that’s akin to running barefoot on the trail.
The Merrell Trail Glove 6 provides a surprising amount of support for a barefoot shoe. It uses features commonly found in more robust trail running shoes (and even hiking shoes), like a rock plate, 3 mm deep lugs, and small but noticeable arch support. This is all part of the Barefoot 2 construction, which, like its name, is an enhancement on the barefoot concept.
For runners who are transitioning to full barefoot running, or for those who actually need a bit of cushioning and want to take their shoes on extended backcountry hikes and trail runs, the Trail Glove 6 is ideal.
The feel is still barefoot — you can feel the trail beneath your feet, yet the aggressive lugs provide unparalleled traction for scrambling, scree, and hard running. The total stack height is 11 mm, which includes a BLOOM performance midsole, offering some cushion for long days and feet that need it. The Trail Glove 6 is much thinner than any typical trail runner, but a good deal thicker than minimalist barefoot shoes.
Finally, the glove-like effect is very present in the Trail Glove 6, and is probably the most classic “barefoot” feature. These shoes suck to your feet, lie flat on the ground, and move like you move. Worn with or without socks, you will feel like you have a slim pair of slippers on (albeit with serious traction), pushing you farther than you thought you could go.
It’s a true hybrid, and in a class of its own. With durability that matches proper trail running shoes, a fit like a true barefoot shoe, and cushion right in the middle, the Trail Glove 6 will do something for your feet that no other shoe can.
Who is Merrell?
Merrell is one of the most popular shoe brands in the outdoor world, and has long made footwear that works out of the box in a range of categories, including backpacking, hiking, water sports, and running. Their barefoot running line consists of the Glove and Vapur series.
This article is sponsored by Merrell.
Backpackers.com Affiliate Policy: This guide contains affiliate links, which help fund our website. When you click on the links to purchase the gear we get a commission, and this goes a long way to creating guides, gear reviews, and other excellent content.