Merrell Barefoot Vapor Glove ReviewMarch 16, 2013
- Very lightweight
- Highly flexible
- Low stack height
- Outsole suitable for hybrid on/off road use
- No tongue padding can cause mild discomfort at top of foot if laces are cinched too tightly
- Slightly compromised traction in slick conditions
Dedicated minimalists will find a lot to love about the Vapor Glove, and will be able to use it for a wide variety of conditions. There’s just enough shoe to provide a bit of protection and comfort, and nothing else to get in your way – basically, it’s what minimalism is meant to be.
At 5.0 oz, the Vapor Glove is the lightest running shoe in Merrell’s lineup. The mesh upper is quite thin at approximately 1mm thick, even through the tongue. Aside from a thin synthetic heel band, there are no overlays and no unnecessary padding to add bulk.
Fit and Comfort
The Vapor Glove last is very true to the shape of the foot, and the toe box provides enough room for toe splay without excessive roominess. Fit feels secure through the heel and midfoot, and a traditional lacing system allows you to customize the tension to your preference.
Although there’s very little padding around the ankle collar or elsewhere, the interior surface is comfortable for sockless use. There’s a thin microfiber lining around the heel area, and none in the midfoot or forefoot. The mesh uppers didn’t cause irritation against the top of the foot during testing.
Twist it, fold it, roll it in a ball … there are absolutely no restrictions to movement in the Vapor Glove.
Outsole thickness is a mere 3.5mm, with 2mm of insole cushioning, for a total stack height of 5.5mm. With highly flexible outsole rubber and a very low stack height, ground feel in the Vapor Glove is very strong.
Merrell uses Vibram TC1 rubber throughout the outsole, with equal emphasis throughout the entire undersurface – in other words, it bucks the current trend of reinforcing some areas of the outsole heavier than others. In my book, that’s a good thing, in that it accommodates a wider variety of foot strike patterns with equal durability.
The tread pattern is more than adequate for roads, and grip proved to be surprisingly steady on gravel and groomed trails as well. There was mild slipping on wet asphalt and also on all-weather track surfaces during sprint workouts.
With about 150 miles of total use, the outsole of the Vapor Glove shows little sign of wearing down, and the uppers have proven resistant to abrasions and punctures when venturing off road. The junction of upper and outsole has maintained complete integrity, and the lacing system has minimal deterioration as well.