Merrell Vapor Glove 6 Review – Barefoot feel with a bit of squish

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Weight

4.59 oz/ 130g for men’s US9

Stack height

6mm total stack height (2mm lugs)
Zero Drop

Made for

Soft ground trails + road
Shorter distance Barefoot training

Fit

Low volume
Narrow/average wide midfoot
Average Wide Toe box
True to size

Feel

Very flexible
Maximum ground feel
Sock-like

Pros & Cons

+ Barefoot Feel
+ Price
– Too narrow for some people


I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t expecting to like this shoe. I’d heard about the Merrell “arch support,” which put me off in the past. 

Now, I’ve ended up with these shoes in my full rotation! Can you believe it?

The Merrell Vapor Glove 6 is a super minimal, flexible shoe with a narrow but forgiving upper. It is advertised as a trail shoe, but this model belongs on the road and very smooth trails. The Vibram outsole brings a bit of squish (don’t worry, that doesn’t mean cushion) and, hopefully, a shoe that’ll go the distance!

In this review, I’ll take you through the shoe’s fit, feel, and durability and help you decide if the Merrell Vaopr Glove 6 is for you! And if not, I’ll suggest some shoes to look at next.

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How do the Merrell Vapor Glove 6’s fit?

Does the shoe run true to size?

If you have a narrow or average-width foot, buy your standard size. I have a relatively average foot width and depth, and the shoe fits me very well. The length is near perfect, and the only situation where I’d suggest sizing up is if you have a wider foot. 

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Is the toe box wide enough for a barefoot shoe?

It’s not the widest toe box, but it may work for you. When you look from the top of the shoe, it’s evident that the toe box isn’t mega wide. But the feeling wasn’t bad when I put the shoes on. The big toe seemed to have some room; it was just the little toes that felt limited. 

The question is whether you have a wide splay or not. If you have a wide toe splay, especially on the little toe side, give the shoe a miss, but if you’re more average and have curled-in little toes like me, the shoe could work for you.

Will it squish my midfoot if I have a wide foot?

Lucky for us, the upper material is super flexible. So, even if the midfoot may look a little snug, the upper will accommodate most feet. Only those with super wide, voluminous feet may struggle. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 toe cap

Does the flexible upper create a good lockdown?

The combination of the flexible upper and the slippy lacing creates a comfortable lockdown. Slippy lacing may be a strange description of a lacing mechanism, but I say that because the laces run smoothly through the lace loops, allowing for a forgiving lockdown. That’s comfortable for some but a problem for others.

The “slippy lacing” can be a drawback for some people. You may find it hard if you need to crank down one area of the shoe to account for funky-shaped feet (we all have them!). The laces just slip through the lace loops, creating an even tightness throughout the foot. 

Is the shoe suitable for a shallow foot or a deep foot?

The depth expands to many different foot types. Generally, the shoe is shallow, but with the flexible design and forgiving lacing, the shoe can fit those with deep feet. I found the fit for my average foot depth allowed for a perfect lockdown with a secure feel. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 top view

Is the toe cap too hard or shallow?

The toe cap wraps up the front of the shoe and over the top of the toes. This could be the deal breaker for some people or at least a reason to shoot for a ½ size larger. When I first put the shoe on, in my standard size, I could just touch the toe cap with my big toe. I thought this was going to be a problem. 

In the end, I never had an issue when running, but I strongly advise against sizing down to ensure you have no problems with your toes bumping up against the toe cap. 

Can you spread your toes?

The toe box is not the widest in the industry. I’d compare the toe box width to Xero Shoes. This may be the sticking point for some people. There’s not enough room in the toe box for some to splay their toes without hitting the side walls. In particular in the little toe area. The big toe area did seem to have some more room than models like the Xero Shoes HFS II, but not quite the likes of the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

How do the Merrell Vapor Glove 6’s feel?

The feel is where the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 won me over. I love the flexible outsole and sock-like fit. I recommend this shoe to anyone who wants to improve their barefoot training! 

How much ground feel does the shoe have?

It’s minimal but with a slight squishy feeling without using a cushion. The shoe has fantastic ground feel with a twist. To explain that twist, you have to look at the outsole. The lug pattern underfoot extends throughout the outsole, but the surface area that touches the ground is relatively minimal. It’s almost like a hybrid trail/road shoe. And because the lugs are pretty thin, they flex when under load, creating an interesting “squishy” feeling. It almost acts like a cushion but with no cushion. 

You feel everything, with the outsole dulling pain from sharp objects. Because the outsole is thin, you feel a lot! That’s great for ground feedback but tough on the feet. The lug pattern does help dull the feeling of sharper objects, but it’s important to be mindful of the surfaces you run on.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outsole heel

Are the Merrell Vapor Gloves trail shoes or road shoes?

The lugs hint at a trail shoe, but the feel is suited to the roads. I will predominantly use the Vapor Gloves on the road because there is not enough protection for rocky trails. You may find that the shoes work in parks or the occasional sandy trail but don’t expect traction in the mud. It’s safer to stick to the asphalt with this one. 

Is it a flexible shoe in all dimensions?

They roll into a ball! They twist into a fusilli pasta shape! And they curl like a taco! In short, yes, they’re super flexible. That’s why I’m confident in suggesting the Vapor Gloves for barefoot training. 

Could you use them for the gym?

Because the shoes are perfect for barefoot-style activities, gym goers will love them! If you’re not working out in the gym barefoot (or close to), you’re doing it wrong! Why would you exercise all your muscles but not your feet? The Vapor Gloves are an excellent choice for a gym shoe.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

Are the Merrell Vapor Glove 6’s durable?

The durability may be the weakest point of the shoe. I’d expect so, too, as this shoe comes in $20-$80 cheaper than its competitors. 

Can we trust the outsole just because it’s Vibram?

I was happy to see the Vibram brand on the outsole, but the rubber feels softer than I expected. Softer usually means more grippy, but at the same time, less durable, and that concerns me. My hunch tells me I should just trust that Vibram has the durability aspect sorted, but I won’t put my 100% guarantee on it!

Will the upper break down prematurely?

Gluing fragile material onto soft rubber seems like a recipe for disaster. It could quickly fail if your foot pushes out on the upper in any seamed area. I hope this doesn’t come true, but the small blobs of glue I found on my newly boxed pair didn’t inspire confidence. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 toe cap

You can find it cheaper, but does the build reflect that price?

At $100, the Vapor Glove is value for money. And if you find a discount, they’re a bargain. The material selections don’t reflect this low price, but the build quality does somewhat. If you’re buying for longevity, I suggest trying a different brand. But if these are your workout shoes for 3-4 hours a week, they’re a good choice.

How does it compare to shoes in this price range?

If you go cheaper, there’s a significant drop in quality. I’ve tried options from WHITIN’s, and the quality difference is stark. Yes, WHITINs are more affordable, but the Merrell price point is as low as I’d go for now. 

Spend a little more, and you’ll get more life out of the shoe, but the feel may not be the same. An excellent example of quality is the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III. The upper is much more durable, but with that comes stiffness. Some of us don’t like that because it can restrict the foot muscles, so it all comes down to personal preference. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

Conclusion

Hopefully, I’ve made it clear that I kind of love this shoe. I didn’t want to. I thought it was a big brand faking a barefoot shoe for the sales, but it’s not! 

And while some of the die-hard Vapor Glove fans may have written off this model, I will argue that and tell you it’s a buy (as long as it fits!).

So how do you decide it’s for you? 

If you’re on a budget and want a lot of ground feel:

If you need a wider, minimal shoe

For more durable shoes

For a wider toe box but equally shallow fit

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Merrell Vapor Glove 6

Nick
Nick

Nick is a UESCA-certified ultramarathon coach and avid barefoot runner, having over 5 years of experience in barefoot training and has competed in multiple ultra marathons wearing barefoot shoes. Starting his journey in the running industry over 10 years ago in New Zealand, Nick evolved from a running shoe salesperson to a passionate advocate for the transformative power of barefoot running. He believes in its potential to enhance running experiences for all and combines his unique insights from both personal achievements and professional coaching to guide and inspire the running community."

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Nick,
    Did you ever try the Trail Glove? Sizing wise the TG 7 is like the Vapor Glove but with a little bit more underfoot protection and the upper is more robust, too. You will definitely notice the “arch support” but far less than in previous models. I feel it is less an arch support but improves the fit, in my opinion fit wise the TG is the best shoe I ever had for technical, steep downhill running. At least as long it´s not in the deep mud. So that might be a showstopper for you in the UK.
    Great review by the way, as always.
    Kind regards Wolfgang

    • It’s funny you mention the Trail Glove, I have the 7 right now, and I’m “trying” to review it. I say trying because I’m almost at the point where I can’t run in it! The upper materials are much more stiff meaning the narrowness in both the midfoot and toe box is noticeable to point that it’s uncomfortable for me. I feel the arch support there, but notice it less when I’m running, similar to Topo options I’ve trying too.
      Anyway, thanks again for dropping in here! And I hope to have a Trail Glove 7 review out soon!

  2. Hi Nick,
    I understand so well what you mean. For running uphill and downhill on trails the TG is a great shoe. But it feels completely awkward when running in the flat, especially on pavement. Especially if you are used to flatter and wider shoes like (my favorite) the Prio. That said, I did a race this year in the mountains (70k with 4.500 vertical) and the TG was great, no issues. Did a similar one earlier this year with the Altra Superior which also did a great job. (in Superiors I dispatch the sockliner and put two strips of tape in to avoid slippage inside the shoe, works great for me) I´m planing to do a long one in Switzerland in July, most likely will neither use the TG nor the Superior but the Mesa Trail. Still some work to do for my legmuscles. Looking forward to read your TG review!
    Best wishes Wolfgang

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