As the snow melts and rains fall (for some of us), sloppy trails are beckoning even more loudly than they did just before Winter arrived. And, as if on cue, Merrell presents us with an update to their quintessential lightweight trial running shoe so you can heed the trail's call. Runners, meet the Trail Glove 2.0!
Very First Time
But, I think my inexperience with the old Trail Glove allowed me to enjoy the pleasant surprise of this one even more. This is a comfy, foot-hugging, toe-freeing trail shoe!
The first feature that impressed me is the Omni-Fit™ lacing that allowed for a quick hold on the middle of my foot while keeping the toes and forefoot unconstrained. This means that the shoe feels perfectly molded to the shape of my instep and upper foot without encasing it in a plasticy, foamy container. And, I appreciate that on the trail, because I have a greater sense of foot placement over hazardous ground.
Apparently, the Merrell designers modified the Omni-Fit configuration in the Trail Glove 2 to mimic the 2-lace-enclosure setup on the women's Pace Glove. (The original Trail Glove has/had 4 lace enclosures) The rationale behind this particular revision was to allow for more toe splay and reduce pressure on the upper forefoot, which, consequently, makes the shoe easier to put on.
Like the Road Glove 2, the Trail Glove 2 has tons of room in the toe box. (Although, I don't think it's as wide in the heel or midfoot as the RG2). It almost seemed like too much room at first, lengthwise. But, that isn't the case after giving the shoes a good break-in run. Now my size 12 Trail Gloves are a great fit, just like my size 12 Merrell [most everything else].
So, with the smooth fit afforded by the minimally structured upper and thoughtfully-constructed lacing/midfoot elements affirmed, I tested the flexibility ('Cause I'm a flexibility freak!). I had doubts about the midsole's flexibility, because I wasn't sure what that protective ESS(?) plate would do to the flexible potential of the Vibram outsole and 4mm EVA midsole.
Well, the Trail Glove 2's updated protection plate has some new grooves in it to aid in flexibility. And, the flexing results are flexing fantastic! (Too abstract?) It's a very flexible shoe, folks.
I've been fairly skeptical of protective plates, eschewing their worth for flexibility and ground feel. But, I must admit that the plate in the Trail Glove 2 doesn't hinder ground feel or flexibility any more than something with more EVA and no rock plate does. I'm thinking of the Trailroc 235 for comparison. The sensation from stepping on a sharp rock in that and the Trail Glove 2 is pretty much the same.
Outside Use Only
Out on some of my favorite trails, the Trail Glove performed splendidly over the varied terrain. The outsole, which is the same as it was on the original Trail Glove, gripped uneven surfaces easily. I ran across roots and rocks without losing footing. And, the hard-packed pathways were easy and smoth in spite of the lugs (aka studs, cleats).
Okay, yes, this isn't a particularly luggy shoe. In fact, I want to point out that the Trail Glove does not excel at gripping soft ground, like deep mud or loose leaves. I found myself slipping somewhat easily in both conditions. But, this is to be expected from an outsole like this one. If you really want to be almost slip-proof on soft ground, you need long lugs. But, of course, shoes with a more aggressive outsole really let you know it when you're not on soft terrain. So, there's a tradeoff either way.
But, regardless of the fault I find in the Trail Glove while slipping on a hill that's covered in mud, I'd still recommend the Trail Glove 2 as a great minimal trail shoe.
As is the case with all zero-drop, minimally cushioned shoes, you really have to pay attention to your foot strike. If you're landing on your heel, the impact on the back of the shoe will will smack your toes against the inside of the high-volume toe box, among other dastardly consequences caused by careless barefoot-inspired running. So, take care if you're new to these types of shoes.
Personally, I like the new design motif of the Trail Glove 2 a lot. The original Trail Glove looked okay to me. But, this one, with it's dark to light gradient and web-like reflective overlays looks cool, especially after the shoes get dirty.
As I write this review, I haven't seen all the colorways that will be released for the Trail Glove 2. (Although, I would bet that one other color option is going to be red, based on the video below) But, you know how Merrell is with color options, there are bound to be a few. And, we'll all get a look at them in a month or two, once the Trail Glove 2.0 appears in stores with an MSRP of $100.
Thanks for reading!
This is my foot in the Trail Glove 2. I wear socks. You don't have to.