Like many others who have been on the barefoot and minimalist journey, I was very excited by all the shoes that were announced last fall. I was eagerly awaiting the NB Minimus and the Trail Gloves. Merrell got my hard earned dollars because they released first and I was able to get some good early feedback from shoe review sites that these were good shoes. It didn't hurt that Jason Robillard, founder of barefootrunninguniversity.com and vagabond, was involved in the development process. I have great respect for Jason and I think he and I must have similar feet because his reviews are generally spot-on for me.
On to the "Science"
The Trail gloves are marketed as zero-drop and verified by many others in the blog-o-verse as such. The soles are very aggressive and you can feel the tread features when walking on hard surfaces. It is something I notice while walking but quickly disappears when running despite the surface.
For a fairly rugged trail shoe, the Trail Gloves are still pretty flexible. Are they barefoot flexible? No way but what did you expect. They are flexible enough that you can get a "foot massage" when running on rocky trail but they are rigid enough to protect you from the sharp pointy ones. They also flex well enough that you can grip the trail with your feet on the more technical stuff. They have really good grip on flat rock too.
My size 12 Trail Gloves fit me just right (I wear a 45 in VFF KSOs for comparison). I have plenty of room for my wide, but not freakishly wide, feet. My toes can splay nicely. They tend to fit snugly in the arch and metatarsal region. The lacing system and overlay material really hold my feet while running on roads or trails. Much has been made of the arch on these shoes in other reviews as some people find it too snug and annoying. I don't really notice this while running. I do, however, find the tight arch somewhat annoying when I wear the shoe casually. I'm wearing them now and my right arch is a bit sore. I have been dealing with some ankle and arch tenderness after hard runs so this is likely not due to the shoe but I can't say for sure.
I have the smoke and adventure yellow version and I really like how they can fly under the radar among runners and laymen alike. These will not get you weird looks like VFFs.
List price is $110USD on the Merrell site. This is steep but you can find coupon codes for online footwear retailers to take the sting out. If you want a rugged trail shoe that is zero-drop, it's a pretty good deal at this price.
When I am not honing my barefoot running skillz, I run in these shoes. I got them back in February and have logged almost every one of my trail and road miles in Trail Gloves. I've run in deep snow and torrential rains/mud. I've raced my first half marathon, a 15K and numerous shorter races so far and they did great. There is little sign of sole wear which speaks volumes for the vibram sole as my form is generally crappy. If you are in the market for a rugged trail shoe that will help you running with good form, I would recommend the Merrell Trail Gloves. Caution: These are my experiences and I encourage you to read many of the other great reviews out there.
A note on running in the rain, the shoes take FOREVER to dry. I can't compare this to any other shoes because I've only recently learned the shear joy of running in rain and through the mud and puddles.
Review Criteria: Since it appears that every blogger needs some type of schtick, I've somewhat uncreatively come up with my 6Fs. Flat, Fit, FLex, Flair, fPrice, Finale. There is no F synonym for price so I have taken the liberty of adding a silent F.