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Gear Guide | Zero Drop Barefoot Hiking
The perfect shoe for short term, on land adventures. Strong and durable it offers a lightweight alternative to the more traditional hiking shoe and provides great support when trail running.
Form
Function
Comfort
Value
3.9Overall Score
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If someone asked me, I’d call myself a runner…because I run regularly.

I go through fits and starts of running almost daily, and then due to our travel schedule I’ll have to take a week off as we commute to our next house sitting assignment or fly to our next destination.

However, up until a few months ago if you asked me the difference between a Vibram Fivefinger and a Trail Glove, I’d probably shrug and start rambling on about winter knitwear.

No joke.

WHAT IS A TRAIL GLOVE?

While running has always been an easy way for me to escape into my own world for an hour, I have never really taken an interest in the technicalities of what I put on my feet before I hit the road.

I had an old pair of Asics which I loved dearly and no amount of pain in my shins was going to get me to buy a new pair.

However, all that changed when we flew into New Zealand.

Land of the long white cloud and home to some of the best trail running in the world, I knew I had to mix up my routine and leave the smooth tarmac behind in favour of a run through the Kiwi bush.

After one session with a bush running club along the rugged coastal tracks of Laingholm just west of Auckland I knew I was going to have to say goodbye to my beloved purple Asics.

Sob sob.

FORM VS FUNCTION

I’m somewhat vein when it comes to my feet.

Bizarre I know however throughout my youth they always grew greatly out of proportion with the rest of my body and consequently the phrase ‘Clown Feet’ was often banded about during gym class.

I think I’ll take a moment for another ‘sob sob’ at this point.

Growing up with clown feet meant that my choice was limited when it came to buying shoes. I’ve bought men’s trainers for as long as I can remember and trying to find a pair of high heels in my size can be very painful.

So, when it came to replacing my beloved Asics I was not looking forward to the prospect of trying to find something feminine and affordable in my size.

ZERO DROP WHAT?

It was during the many hours of online research that I came across Merrell’s Trail Glove collection.

Of course the women’s collection would not fit me, however the slender cut and inoffensive colour scheme of the men’s collection prompted me to order a pair and try them on for size.

It’s been a little over two months since I first tied up the laces on my Trail Gloves and I’ve been incredibly impressed with their performance and versatility.

The Trail Gloves are a zero drop barefoot running shoe – both the heel and forefoot are on the same level, in standard running shoes the heel is elevated slightly.

Having spent some time online looking at the pro’s and con’s of the barefoot running system I knew that my Trail Gloves would never be an all-round shoe however I have found that they do have a dual purpose.

BAREFOOT RUNNER & DURABLE HIKER

Knowing that I would need to invest in an alternate pair of trainers with which to continue my love affair with road running, I wanted to test out my new Trail Gloves as an alternative to my archaic and clumpy Merrell hiking shoes.

We’ve been on the road for almost three years now and not once have I felt comfortable in my hiking shoes. They seem to weigh my feet down, perhaps because they are a Men’s shoe, and I despise how they add additional length to my already large footprint.

Sigh.

The Trail Gloves on the other hand feel lighter than air on my feet and offer great support across my arches. I do have a narrow foot and although I noted a few other consumers seem to have a problem with this more intimate fit I found it quite comfortable.

While the Trail Glove sole is Vibram and therefore suited to off road terrain the mesh top side is vulnerable to water and really, this is the only element which I think I’ll have issue with when using them as hikers.

TRAIL GLOVE CONSTRUCTION

Both Ben and I are fans of the Merrell brand.

Ben’s hiking boots with Vibram soles are only just starting to give into the test of time and he has literally worn them almost every day since we left the UK, so I was confident my Trail Gloves would be of sturdy construction and so far I can’t see any fault with this theory.

As I mentioned earlier the soles do feel as though they hug the base of my foot and because the actual sole curves around the foot I have felt as though my foot is a little prone to rolling out while standing still.

Despite this I’ve not noticed anything while running or hiking.

All the stitching looks solid as does each element of the shoe. I’ll update this post should I encounter any faults or issues.

FINDING MY STRIDE

Thanks to the level keel of the barefoot system I’ve noticed my stride has evened out and is neat and compact.

The Vibram soles have offered the necessary traction in all potentially slippery terrains while running and hiking, I’ve even navigated a rather involved coastal rock pooling route in them.

In short I love my Trail Gloves and have ditched my clumpy hiking shoes in favour of a duel use, compact, lightweight alternative that fits into my backpack with ease.

✈ ✈ ✈

Have you switched to a barefoot running shoe? Share your comments with me below.

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16 Responses

  1. Nicholas

    I bought these same shoes three years ago and now I have two pairs. When I first ran a couple of miles in them, my calves were really sore but they’re a lot stronger now. Did you face that too?

    Like Phoebe I pack them wherever I go. I can’t go back to shoes with raised heels now, not even for walking or work.

    Reply
    • Charli Moore

      I did struggle at first, and I have found that I definitely can’t run on hard surfaces like concrete with them. I love hiking and walking in them though. They gave me a boost to get out on the trails and run. I’m so pleased I took the plunge and bought a pair!

      Reply
  2. Bret | Green Global Travel

    These shoes look very comfortable, but in my eyes those Vibram finger-toe things are the tool of the devil, and should not be spoken of except in hushed tones, preferably while burning them. Coincidentally, I feel the same way about Crocs. But yeah, these look cool! 😉

    Reply
  3. Kimmy | AfterGlobe

    Loving the shoes. I recently got something very similar to these except they stay on much differently. They’ve worked great for hiking, inter-tubing, kayaking, and everything else I’ve put them up to. I think I will need to get another pair that laces up before we leave for traveling long term.

    Reply
    • Charli Moore

      They are comfortable for sure but if you do prefer something with cushioning then perhaps something from the Merrell hiking range would suit better. Thanks for your comment Jeff!

      Reply
  4. Adventures With Pedro

    Love the Merrell Trail Gloves, switched from Five Fingers a year ago as they weren’t durable enough.

    I’ve been a hiking guide for the last two month and with some training I’ve been able to carry loads 25-30kg for 27km and 2 days in these things.

    Reply
    • Charli Moore

      That’s great to know thanks Pedro. I’ve not carried any serious weight on them to date but may well be when we do some more serious hiking here in New Zealand.

      Reply
  5. Jenna

    Running through the bush in New Zealand sounds like so much fun! I love running, but hardly ever get out to do it! I have a lightweight shoe, but not a barefoot one–they have always sounded interesting though. I will have to try them sometime–thanks for all the great info!

    Reply
    • Charli Moore

      No worries Jenna, I hope one day you get to explore the bush trails here in New Zealand. There’s nothing like running through this fantastic landscape.

      Reply