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Merrell Trail Glove 2 Review

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 | 9 Comments

merrell trail glove 2 side view barefoot running university

If you’ve been running for more than a year, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced this phenomenon:

  1. You find the perfect running shoe.
  2. The manufacturer “updates” the model by radically changing the design.
  3. 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.


Well, mostly.

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 trail glove 2 sole view barefoot running university

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.

Shameless Plug: Want to give trail running or ultrarunning a try? Already do one or both and are looking for unorthodox tips to up your game? Check out my new book project:

Never Wipe Your Ass With a Squirrel


This shoe was provided by the manufacturer.


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  1. Thinnmann
    March 31, 2013

    I too get free barefoot-line shoes from Merrell in exchange for my blogging and influence in the local running scene. I felt exactly the same as you do about the original Trail Gloves and Sonic Gloves. I loved the updated Trail Glove 2.0 at first. Now, with less than 100 trail miles on them, the upper split from the sole on the inside arch area of both shoes. Not happy- never happened with the originals. How are yours going? Did I get a bad pair or are you having any issues? My original review was positive, but my long term review will not be. If I had paid $100+ for them, I would be angry.

  2. Jonathan Auyer
    March 30, 2013

    I agree with the awesomeness of the TG1. My only concerned was with the tread (or lack thereof). Anyone experimented with adding screw-in lugs to the bottom? I am afraid they would be too noticeable underfoot, but other than strapping on microspikes or something I don’t know any other way of dealing with wet/slippery conditions. Oh well…thanks.

    • Thinnmann
      March 31, 2013

      I have had not had any traction issues over all kinds of terrain with the TG1’s, including mud and snow. Hard ice, obviously slippery, for any shoe. I think the TG sole is a bit too thin even for the shortest available sheet metal screws.

  3. Steve
    March 25, 2013

    Good to hear that they really haven’t changed much. They were my perfect minimalist running shoe.

    Enough so that I’d picked up a couple pairs from some bargain outlets I’d found. Just because I was afraid they’d change.

  4. Martin
    March 22, 2013

    I’m glad to hear that the Trail Glove 2 is essentially still the same as the original version. For me, the TG1 is the best shoe I’ve ever had. After nearly two years of extensive and heavy use, my first pair is falling apart, but I bought two extra pairs already, because of the fear they will discontinue it or change it for the worse. The TG1 fits my feet so well, that I don’t even need to knot my shoes, even for running.

  5. Josh
    March 21, 2013

    What exactly is Omni-Fit?

    • Thinnmann
      March 31, 2013

      It’s the lacing system – sometimes they used to be called something like “gillys” – not really eyelets, but loops that are attached to thin straplike things that go farther down the upper of the shoe.

  6. Franklin Chen
    March 21, 2013

    I wish all these minimalist shoe vendors would provide wide shoes. The photo says it all…

  7. Barefoot Tyler
    March 21, 2013

    I am glad they raised the toe box a bit. I noticed that the tops of my toes start hurting as I tend to flex them up a hair when I run. Good news! Good shoes!