If you’ve been running for more than a year, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced this phenomenon:
- You find the perfect running shoe.
- The manufacturer “updates” the model by radically changing the design.
- The shoe no longer works for you, which forces you to find another shoe.
It’s among the most common complains I hear as a shoe reviewer. Most of us have been there. It leads to all kinds of bizarre behaviors like hoarding bargain racks or buying used shoes off Craigslist. I have a friend that bought a dozen pairs of New Balance MT100’s after trying the successor (MT101.)
I’ve written extensively about the Merrell Trail Glove. It is the single best minimalist trail shoe I’ve ever used. It’s been an integral part of every ultra I’ve finished since about 2010 including races like Western States, Bighorn 100, and Grindstone. Not only is it the best trail shoe I’ve ever tried, it’s my favorite shoe ever.The fit and function were perfect for the both my foot and my style of running. I’ve used dozens of minimalist shoes over the years; none came close to the Trail Glove.
It has some sentimental value, too. Back when I ran barefoot, I was convinced shoes were inherently bad. Eventually I figured out there are some situations where shoes are needed (after two unsuccessful barefoot hundo attempts.) The TG was the first shoe I found that actually made me forget I was wearing shoes. The fit and function was so good, I was able to perfectly replicate my ‘barefoot” form.
If the zombie apocalypse hit tomorrow, I’d make room for two pairs of Trail Gloves.
Needless to say, Merrell’s announcement of the Trail Glove 2 scared the Hell out of me. Would Merrell make radical changes to the shoe? Would it still work as wonderfully as the original?
The introduction of the Ascent Glove gave me a little piece of mind because the shoe was close enough to the original TG to serve as a replacement. Still, I didn’t want to see my beloved Trail Gloves disappear. I don’t have room in the Robillard RV for a dozen extra pairs of shoes, damn it!
After the World’s Longest Lead-up, How Are They?
When the shoes arrived, I actually took a few deep breaths before removing them from the box. I reached in, moved the tissue paper, and got my first glimpse of the green and black sample Trail Glove 2’s.
The aesthetics changed significantly… for the better. The original Trail Gloves functioned flawlessly, but the look was, well, less than spectacular. The very first generation of Merrell Barefoot reflected their outdoor hiking heritage, which is code for bland. As time passed, the Merrell lineup moved more toward the aesthetics that appeal to runners- most notably adding colors and more radical designs.
The Trail Glove 2’s?
Dare I say they look cool. The new look is a HUGE improvement.
After I got over the new look, I took the left shoe out of the box. The sole appeared to be the exact same sole as the TG1. That’s a great sign.
I tried them on.
HOT DAMN, THEY FEEL EXACTLY LIKE THE ORIGINALS!
The TG2’s have a slightly softer interior. The originals were great; I never wore socks. The softer interior wasn’t necessary, but still welcome.
The other difference- the toe box seems slightly higher. This increases the toe box volume, which should make the shoe more accessible for people with taller toes. Yes, it’s a weird descriptor, but the fit of a minimalist shoe is among the most important factors when deciding which shoe is right for your unique anatomy.
Merrell also changed the lacing and Omni-fit. The new laces are slightly more textured, which would theoretically help prevent the shoe from coming untied. I always double-knot my shoes, so this was a non-issue. The change to the Omni-fit (which was thankfully retained) is mostly aesthetic and doesn’t affect function. I will once again go on record by asserting the Omni-fit is the single best trail running shoe feature I’ve ever seen and should be added to every shoe that will be used to run up and down hills. It’s that good.
So What’s Bad?
Well, the Trail Glove was my perfect shoe. Merrell didn’t change the way the shoe functions. My only complaint about the first version was the boring aesthetics, which was obviously updated. By not changing the shoe, the Trail Glove 2 maintains that “best shoe ever” ranking.
The caveat to that declaration- this is MY perfect shoe because it fits my foot perfectly. As with all minimalist shoes, fit is everything. Read the linked post above; follow my advice. Reviews alone should not be used to decide which shoe is right for you.
Having said that, fans of the original Trail Glove can transition to the TG2 without concern. If the original worked for you, the second will, too.
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This shoe was provided by the manufacturer.