The Merrell Women's Trail Glove 5 3D is an excellent minimalist trail running shoe. The burliest shoe in this review, it perhaps sounds like a divergence from pure minimalism—but not really. The TrailProtect rock plate plus the thicker, 11.5 mm stack height makes this an ideal shoe for those particularly rough trails. And the solid, single-piece uppers and plastic toe cap help keep trail debris out. Despite these added protections, the Trail Glove 5 3D is not a trail running shoe for anyone who hasn't trained adequate foot strength. The shoes feature the usual zero drop sole, a wide toe box, and minimal support (though they have more arch support than most models we reviewed). These shoes still allow excellent ground feel so your feet are able to bend, adjust, and grip the terrain underfoot. The sole design allows your feet to articulate naturally as you bound confidently up and down steep, rocky trails. It's our favorite on the trails, earning our Top Pick Award.
Merrell Trail Glove 5 3D - Women's Review
Cons: Thicker sole blunts ground feel, heavy, lacing system doesn’t cinch well
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Trail Glove 5 3D is an excellent minimalist shoe for particularly rough and rocky terrain. The sock-like uppers seal out debris, and the rock plate and thicker (relatively) sole keep your feet happier longer on rugged trails.
The Trail Glove 5 3D is a slight deviation from the previous Knit version we tested and took a minor hit in the Performance metric this year. The main reason is the stiffer lacing system which does not allow for the fit to be very smooth or customized to your specific foot profile. Webbing lace loops do a better job at this.
This version also still has more arch support than we often prefer in our barefoot style shoes, but the support makes it a great rest day shoe for when your feet are worn out from a long run in your even more minimalist shoe. We have also grown to appreciate the need to change up our footwear often, and be strategic about what shoe we wear when—and why. If we want to go out and focus on foot strengthening, we reach for a different pair. And if we're going to give our feet a rest, or tackle more technical and rough trails, we'll turn to the Trail Glove.
Otherwise, we were pleased, again, with the performance of this minimalist trail running shoe. This is the best minimalist shoe we have tested for rugged trail use, largely due to the TrailProtect rock plate. We were able to glide over particularly rough terrain in these shoes—unlike many barefoot style shoes where we have to pay the utmost attention to where we place our feet lest we nail a sharp rock the wrong way, jarring our landing.
As a barefoot inspired shoe, however, the Trail Glove does not blunt all ground feel. For our appropriately-strengthened feet, we still felt enough of the ground to feel in tune and that our feet were engaged and working. These shoes are the ideal blend of soft and supple for ground feel, stability, and proprioception, with a little extra protection for the barefoot enthusiast who still wants to move confidently over rough trail.
These shoes allowed us to feel nimble on the most rugged trails, making them an excellent addition to your minimalist running shoe wardrobe—but also an excellent all-around shoe to allow you to move more naturally over all types of terrain. Similar to the previous Knit model, this is a great rest day shoe when your feet need a little R&R.
The Trail Glove 5 3D gets the lowest score in the review for barefoot accuracy—but this is mainly because the competition is very stiff! Or rather, less stiff… The Trail Glove is the beefiest shoe in the review, with the thickest sole, so it blunts the barefoot experience the most of those we tested. The total stack height is 11.5 mm, with a 3 mm insole, 4 mm midsole, 1.5 mm web, and 3 mm lugs. All of this is glued together, so there is no removable insole. Your foot is completely surrounded by the knit, sock-like material inside the shoe.
This is certainly not a deal-breaker, however. The sole features a TrailProtect rock plate, making it an excellent minimalist running shoe for the most rugged trails. For the avid barefoot runner, this is one of the best feeling running shoes we have tested on very rough terrain. While this shoe might blunt too much ground feel for barefoot enthusiasts on roads and softer trails, it is just right for rocky terrain.
Strictly speaking, we did find that the sole had a little too much arch support. At first, we were worried that our barefoot-conditioned feet would rebel against this assault on our strong, well-trained arches. After all, we have come to really love the feeling of our feet absorbing each footfall with its three arches (medial and lateral longitudinal arches, and the anterior transverse arch)—just what feet were designed to do! After spending a lot of time pounding particularly rugged trails, we found that these shoes left our feet feeling the freshest. We didn't get the occasional stab from a sharp rock like we sometimes do when we push our luck and test the most minimal (like, 3mm stack height) shoes on rough terrain.
One thing we continue to love about the Trail Glove 5 3D is the knit sock-like upper. The inside of the shoe is essentially one continuous piece of material, as soft as a comfy sock. This makes these shoes comfortable to wear barefoot as well as with socks for added insulation. It also makes them particularly easy to slip on and off (and with the speed lace system, you can leave the laces loose). The only thing we love more than a minimalist shoe is one that is easy to slip on—and kick off!
The lacing system is a chief complaint on this version of the Trail Glove. The plasticized lace loops did not allow the speed lace system to glide and cinch as well as other versions with soft webbing loops. This made it difficult to tailor the fit to our foot and makes it more difficult to get a secure fit, especially if you have lower volume feet.
Otherwise, the shoe has all the basic requirements of minimalist footwear. Zero drop, wide toe box, minimal cushioning, and soft, flexible soles that will bend and adapt with your foot are all there so you can do the work and feel the ground.
The Trail Glove is not the heaviest shoe we tested, but they are close. They do feel a tad clunky, too. This is due to the burlier sole (in part due to the TrailProtect rock plate) which makes the shoe feel a bit heavier on the bottom. The major trade-off here is that the Trail Glove is the most well suited to particularly rugged and rocky terrain.
The Trail Glove 5 3D shoes weigh 14.5 ounces for a size 9.5 (or 40.5)—still under a pound for a pair. As the saying goes, for every pound of weight you put on your feet, it is as if you added anywhere from 6 to 10 pounds of weight to the backpack on your back! Footwear is the ideal place to save on weight and go as minimal as your foot-strength-training will allow.
The 3 mm lugs on the Trail Glove do a surprisingly good job of gripping a variety of surfaces for their relatively low profile. The shape and design seem to mimic the foot—there is a split design that separates the big toe from the rest of the toes, and a wider patterning under the anterior transverse arch (from toe-to-toe, roughly along the metatarsals). Even though the Trail Glove has a thick sole, we still were able to articulate our feet to grip the ground, and we think this sole design helps.
These shoes struggled a little bit to grip smooth rock, but that is a challenge for any shoe. If you're looking for the stickiest shoe in this review, we recommend checking out other models.
At first glance, the sock-like appearance of the Trail Glove does not inspire weatherproof confidence. In the field, however, we found them to be surprisingly adaptable to a variety of conditions.
First, the knit upper is breathable enough for warm weather, especially if you go sockless. Add some warm socks if necessary when it's cold out. Still, there's no way a knit sock can be waterproof, right? Well, no, not really, unless it's a Gore-Tex sock. But the tight weave of the Trail Glove 5 3D repels some serious splashes. When we stood in a babbling brook (and held them under running water for several seconds as a control test), no moisture seeped through. The solid design helps a lot here—there is no tongue or seams for water to sneak through.
The Trail Gloves were also totally adequate for a little late-spring snow stomping—you know, the kind of snow berms that are firm enough that you can walk on top, without postholing, but you inevitably get a few slush balls on your shoes. Additionally, the thicker sole and plastic toe cap help you ride higher through muddy or puddle-ridden terrain, and kicks off mud and moisture so it can't soak through at your toes.
The relatively simple design of the Trail Glove ensures this is a highly durable shoe for rugged trail use. The plastic toe cap wards off abrasion from rocks. This version has plastic lace loops instead of webbing—we did not reach a point testing either version to see if these would fail. Otherwise, there is very little to fall apart on the Trail Gloves. In general, minimalist shoes are purported to wear out sooner than other shoes—this is mostly due to the reduced sole thickness. With the thickest sole in this review, we think you'll be stoked on these shoes for a long time to come. You probably won't need to replace them until you wear down the lugs to little more than their nubbins.
The Trail Glove remains one of our favorite minimalist shoes for a rest day. The added support of the thicker sole and light arch support give your feet a day off—great for recovery from those runs where you went a little too hard or a little too long.
These are also excellent running shoes for rugged trails due to the TrailProtect rock plate and its sharp-rock-absorbing qualities. And that's not all—due to the sock-like design of the upper materials and the speed lace system, these shoes are also comfortable with or without socks, and easy to slip on and kick off for quick trips around town. So many uses!
These are pretty spendy shoes for this category. For the extra cost, however, you get a durable, comfortable, and versatile trail runner with the simplicity of the speed lace system—so you can kick these off, slip these on, run errands or rocky trails, all with the same shoe. Versatility is value!
The Merrell Trail Glove 5 3D - Women's remains one of our favorite minimalist trail running shoes. It is on the beefier side of barefoot-inspired footwear with its 11.5 mm stack height, but the shoes are zero drop and the sole is still supple enough to allow adequate ground feel. These trail runners are excellent for extended runs and hikes on particularly rocky trails due to the TrailProtect rock plate. They are also a favorite for rest days and around town activities because they offer a little more support (allowing your feet to rest) and have a super soft sock-like feel (no socks required!). Merrell continues to lead the charge in minimalist footwear of all types and uses!
— Lyra Pierotti