Increased surface area for traction and ground control
Versatile outsole for hybrid road and trail use
Wider heel may feel roomy for some users
Contoured insole feels like an arch support (a cardinal sin for minimalists)
Increased stiffness compared to first generation shoe
Best for runners who are past the “transitional” stage and want the next step closer to minimalist running, or those looking for a natural running shoe that can spend equal time on roads and trails.
Merrell’s Barefoot Road Glove 2 represents just how granular the spectrum of natural running shoes has become. When the original Road Glove debuted in late 2011, it was the most minimalist shoe offered by any major footwear manufacturers to date. Fast forward 18 months, and the Road Glove 2 joins a sizeable field of low-profile, zero-drop running shoes – and they aren’t even the most minimalist shoe in Merrell’s own lineup anymore (that would be the Vapor Glove).
At 7oz, the Road Glove 2 is slightly lighter than its predecessor, and sits firmly in the “pretty good but not great” range of 6 to 8 oz for natural footwear.
Fit and Comfort
The most noticeable thing you’ll feel when cinching up the shoe is that the arch area is built up higher than the heel and forefoot areas, placing pressure against the arch of the foot. And while the midfoot fit is otherwise outstanding thanks to Merrell’s traditional lacing system, the tighter you secure the laces, the more you feel the built up arch underfoot. From a minimalist standpoint, this is terrible news.
The heel area is wider on the Road Glove 2 compared to the first edition, to the point of feeling a bit roomy at times – especially if you leave the laces slightly slack because of the arch issue. From a breathability standpoint, the upper of the Road Glove 2 is thinner, cooler, and ventilates more effectively than the original.
Although midsole thickness is the same at 4mm, the Road Glove 2 feels a bit stiffer from heel to toe than its predecessor, particularly in the rearfoot area. You can still do the “roll it up onto itself” trick with this shoe, but it takes more effort than it should to get there.
Total stack height is 9.5mm, which is relatively low-profile compared to others in the zero-drop midsole category. Ground feel is compromised somewhat by the stiffer midsole, but augmented by the larger contact area on the outsole surface.
Traction and Durability
Merrell partners with Vibram for its outsoles, and the new tread pattern introduced on the Road Glove 2 is definitely an improvement over the original in terms of both traction and durability. The TC-1 rubber maintains its grip in wet or dry road conditions as well as all-weather track surfaces.
While the outsole lug size isn’t remarkably high, its pattern is definitely grippy enough to handle groomed trails and even gravel fire roads without compromising traction or performance. The upper has proven tear-resistant on some off-road excursions, so it’s easy to go from road to trail in the Road Glove 2.