Merrell Trail Glove vs. Vapor Glove (Which is Right for You?)

Barefoot shoes are great for those of us who enjoy running and feeling the natural foot movement as if we’re not wearing shoes at all!

These shoes work by mimicking the foot’s normal position, allowing us to get the minimalistic feeling while still be protected from the risks of running.

In this article, we will be discussing Merrell Trail Glove vs Vapor Glove. Merrell brand outdoor gear has been gaining more and more popularity due to its high-quality products and reasonable price points. One of their most popular lines is the Glove line, which is a part of their barefoot and minimalist line of running shoes.

Merrell Trail Glove vs. Vapor Glove

What is the Merrell Trail Glove?

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The Merrell Trail Glove shoe is one of the most popular minimalist trail running shoes out there. It is a zero drop shoe with great traction and just enough cushion, so you don’t feel every pebble while still getting that great barefoot running experience.

Barefoot running really is what the Trail Glove is trying to emulate. For obvious reasons, (sticks, rocks, angry snakes) barefoot running isn’t totally feasible on a rough hiking trail. Recently so companies have been trying to produce the next best thing; a running shoe that feels like being barefoot.

With the Trail Glove, Merrell has done a great job at balancing that sought-after barefoot feel with the best parts of traditional running shoes. There is still some arch support, a small amount of padding, and enough shoe between you and the ground to keep your feet safe.

Traction is also a big deal when it comes to trail running, and the Trail Glove provides it in spades. Uphill, downhill, along the creek bed, it doesn’t matter. The Trail glove will keep you going where you need to go. This is an all-terrain shoe that will make you forget you’re even wearing a shoe in the first place.

What is the Merrell Vapor Glove?

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While the Trail Glove combines the best aspects of shoe running and barefoot running, the Vapor Glove attempts to as close to barefoot as humanly possible. 

In fact, the Vapor Glove has almost none of the trail running shoe features you’d come to expect from, well, a trail running shoe. Instead, it tries to recreate being completely barefoot as best as it can, sometimes to its detriment as a trail running shoe.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! All runners need and want different things in their running shoes. While some might desperately need some padding, a lot of trail runners have been searching for that barefoot feeling, sans splinters, for a long time, and the Vapor Glove provides.

The Vapor Glove has almost no padding, with the only real cushion being the layer of protection between your feet and the ground. The sole is much thinner than that of the Trail Glove, so it isn’t truly suited to really rough trails. With this one, stick to more manageable trails that have been smoothed out well.

Differences Between the Vapor Glove and the Trail Glove

Padding and arch support

The Trail Glove takes a minimalist approach to padding, which is to say there’s a small amount of padding. It’s still enough to add some comfort to the shoe and help with shock absorption. There’s also minimal support built into these trail runners.

The Vapor Glove line has even less padding and almost no arch support on the shoe. The main design of these shoes is to be as close to barefoot trail running as possible, which means there will be a lack of overall support.


Both the Trail and Vapor Glove have similar amounts of traction on the bottom of the shoe. There’s a pretty good amount of grip in the design, so you won’t have any issues with protection and traction even on rougher terrain.

Trail Suitability

Even though both shoes can be worn in similar locations, the Trail Glove has more support and durability to go on rougher and more difficult trails. If you’re planning on running over roots and rocks, this is probably the better option for you with its stronger heel and extra padding.

The Vapor Glove is more suited to manicured trails with less debris and obstacles in the way. The bottom of the Vapor glove is relatively thin, meaning sharp sticks and other obstacles could be felt more easily.

Final Thoughts

Both the Merrell Trail Glove and the Merrell Vapor Glove are fantastic trail running shoes, with similar but still slightly different uses.

If you want to experience barefoot running while still having a decent amount of shoe protection, go with the Trail Glove.

If you want to come as close to barefoot trail running as possible while still wearing a trail running shoe, the Vapor Glove is the right shoe for you.