An in-depth look at the brand new Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove for men

Here at Rock/Creek, we’ve had quite a few people seeking more information about the new Merrell Barefoot shoes, including the Men’s Trail Glove. We briefly mentioned this shoe on Sunday, but thought we’d include some more information to help answer those questions. I’ll be adding a companion post for the Women’s Pace Glove tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that.

The concept for Merrell Barefoot is to provide your feet with just the right amount of protection, without altering your body’s natural gait or diminishing the sensation of being barefoot. Merrell calls the men’s Trail Glove a “natural adventure shoe,” but this shoe is primarily geared toward trail running. It allows barefoot runners and trail runners alike to take that barefoot approach off-road, without sacrificing the underfoot protection necessary to prevent bruising from rocks or roots.

So, how does Merrell marry these two seemingly-dissimilar concepts of freedom and protection? Rather ingeniously, actually. The minimalist Vibram sole is just 4mm thick, but the shoe also includes a flexible, shock-absorbing plate in the forefoot. This plate distributes pressure and protects the foot during the impact phase of your stride, without sacrificing flexibility. The result is a sole thin enough to let you feel the terrain beneath your feet as you move through your environment, without allowing that terrain to hurt you!

Beyond the sole, the upper of the shoe is as minimal as possible; the name is an apt one, as the Merrell Trail Glove fits the foot… well, just like a glove. In fact, other than securely holding the soles to your feet, the upper does a great job of staying out of the way. You could just superglue a pair of Vibram soles to your feet, but Merrell Barefoot has saved you the trouble.

Running and hiking in minimalist shoes has been shown to realign the body, helping posture and balance, as well as strengthening the muscles in your feet and lower legs that are neglected in traditional running footwear. Barefoot running also stimulates the senses, connecting you to the terrain below you, and this experience is not to be underestimated. There is a sort of child-like joy in running barefoot, and the Merrell Trail Glove allows you to take that feeling deep into the woods with you.

Despite being a brand new product, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and the Trail Glove has recently earned Best Debut honors from Runner’s World in their review of trail-running shoes for 2011. “Free your feet,” Merrell says, and the barefoot running community is nodding emphatically. Sometimes, less is more!

Ready to take the plunge? The Merrell Men’s Trail Glove is now available at rockcreek.com — click here — as well as our Rock/Creek retail locations. In fact, just for trying on a pair of Merrell Barefoot shoes at Rock/Creek, you’ll have the opportunity to register for Merrell’s “trip of a lifetime” contest. See full details in-store.

Merrell has provided the following video explaining the various features of the Merrell Trail Glove. It includes a neat cross-section of the shoe, which they have apparently sawed in half in the name of science, but it’s worth watching just to see the reviewer roll the shoe into a ball!