Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review of Merrell Trail Glove 3: First impressions on Mt Wilson 18 miler

Last week Merrell announced its new Trail Glove 3.  I was excited about this and immediately ordered a pair which arrived yesterday.  This morning I tested them out on an 18 mile out and back  on the Mt Wilson Toll Road with 4000 feet of climb and descent.  The TG3s were great.

 Over the last two years I've run almost exclusively in Merrell's "barefoot"  Trail Glove-1 (for runs less than 20 miles) and the Ascend Glove (for runs > 20 miles).  These shoes are without doubt the most comfortable running shoes I've ever run in.   I haven't found another make that fits me quite right, accommodating my wide feet and enabling me to run light and comfortably over ultra distances without blisters.

I'd been concerned as Merrell's  barefoot line had been drying up of late-  the Ascend Glove was discontinued as were many of  the various  Trail Glove spinoffs.    I'd  recently bought a pair of the Bare Access Trail but found it to be more of a conventional shoe design that doesn't fit my feet right, being too narrow up in the toe box for my paws.

Enter the new Trail Glove 3.  Some observations:

1.  The construction materials and construction quality hail back to the Trail Glove 1:  Double stitching, same tough fabric; this bodes extremely well as I have found that my Trail Glove-1 uppers simply do not wear out (whereas the Ascend Glove upper is a thinner fabric which is a bit prone to tearing).  I have a pair of TG1s that I wear around as walking shoes after honorable service in ultra training and racing  of probably close to a thousand miles, with the vibram lugs worn smooth:  They are still excellent day-to-day walking shoes.  The uppers are in near perfect condition still.

2.  The Trail Glove 3 toe box is wide -- seems a bit wider and more flared than the TG1 in the same size and the fit is very close to my Ascend Gloves in size 11.5.

Trail Glove 1 to the left;  Ascend Glove, middle, Trail Glove-3 to the right.  All are Mens size 11.5; all are new and unused (the TG-1 and Ascend glove are from my closet stash).
3.  The TG3 lugs are more aggressive than the TG1 and 2, almost as deep as  the Ascend Glove.    This is great as I've found TG1to be a bit marginal on the sand and gravel on steep terrain that I encounter on long mountain runs in the San Gabriel Mountains.  The TG3s were great on the Wilson Toll Road this morning.

Outsoles for Trail Glove-1 (left); Ascend Glove (middle); Trail Glove-3 (right).  Note the arch protection  in the TG-3 at right, which is firmer than in the TG-1 at left.
4.  The sole is a bit thicker on Trail Glove3 than the TG1, very close to the Ascend Glove in terms of thickness and ground feel.  (Both TG3 and the Ascend Glove are specified at 10.5mm stack height).   I like this as I tend towards longer runs (15 to 30 miles on the weekends) and for me the Trail Glove-1 is a bit skinny for anything over 20 miles.   The rock protection was great on this morning's Mt Wilson run.

5.  The Trail Glove 3, like the TG1 and TG2, has a swatch of rubber that conforms to the arch to provide rock protection.  The material used in TG3 is firmer than the material used for TG1.  It was unexpectedly noticeable when first donning the TG3s but seemed to disappear when I started running.

All in all the Trail Glove 3 looks like a great shoe, which is intermediate in "armoring" between the Trail Glove 1 and the Ascend Glove.  I'll be using it for longish runs ~ 20 miles this season.  I am very happy that Merrell is sticking with the barefoot line.


Note added March 20:  The more I  run in the TG-3s the more I REALLY LOVE  these shoes.  Lace them up tight and they feel like running barefoot but without the stone bruises.  Just fantastic.
March 22:  28 miles on Mt Wilson, 6071 ft of climb;  4:48.  Felt great.  Feet were soooo comfy.


  1. Great review. I'm in the same situation as you. I have TG2 for not so rocky runs, Ascend Glove for more rocky runs. I also have the Bare Access Trail which I didn't really like, but I got it because of the more agreessive lugs, thinking that it will help in runs where it is going to muddy.
    I ordered the TG3 and will be getting it next week.

  2. Great feedback! I felt like the TG1 would soften up too much after 50 miles or so and then I couldn't use it on rocks. Has anyone tried the TG4? What shoe replaced the Ascend Glove?