“You’ve gotta be Zen about it, man.” I’ll never forget the hippie we passed while hiking on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast who was hiking the trail barefoot. I asked him if it hurt and that was his reply. While I respect the whole Zen thing, I’m not counting on being “Zen about it” if I want to enjoy a barefoot-style shoe. This year, Merrell embarked on a serious barefoot initiative and I’ve been able to test the office-friendly Merrell Tough Glove barefoot shoes long enough to give some honest feedback.

Merrell Tough Glove Features:

  • Full grain leather upper wraps the foot
  • Merrell Omni-Fit™ lacing system provides a precise, glove-like fit
  • Internal support construction secures the midfoot for optimal fit and support
  • Non-removable microfiber footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution resists odor
  • 4mm compression molded EVA midsole cushions
  • 1mm forefoot shock absorption plate maintains forefoot flexibility and protects the foot by distributing pressure
  • 0 mm ball to heel drop keeps you connected to your terrain
  • Vibram® Trail Glove Sole/ Rubber Compound TC-1
  • Weight: 14.2 oz (pair)
  • Colors: Brown/Honey (tested), Aluminum, Black
  • MSRP: $120

Merrell Tough Glove Barefoot Shoes Review

With all the hubbub about barefoot shoes, I took my time hopping into a pair. While I’m surrounded by Vibram Five Fingers fans, it took my friends at Merrell to finally get me into the groove. I opted for what I call the “Office Glove” since they are some of the first truly office-friendly barefoot shoes on the market. Yeah, you can go with VFF shoes in the office, but you end up looking like Adam Sandler on “Mr. Deeds”. Yeah, not so bueno.

Giving the Tough Gloves the rundown, they are built with a proprietary Vibram outsole and a minimalist midsole that offers a glove-like fit. The integrated insole features soft, suede-like materials that cradles your foot in all-day comfort. Since they are such a tight fit, you’ll want to keep in mind that you need to have ultrathin socks. Still, getting the Tough Gloves on is a bit of a chore. you have to open up the laces and slowly wiggle your way in. It does get better over time, but it’s never as fast as slipping into a regular pair of shoes.

Once you’re in, lacing them up is quite easy and the Omni-Fit Lacing System really cradles your feet well. A single pull does the job and sets you up for all-day comfort. The toebox has good wiggle room to allow your toes to stretch out — thus providing a comfortable fit for sitting, standing and walking.

Adding to the well-thought-out construction, the suede-like lining keeps your feet firmly secured in place. This is critical to the overall performance and feel of the shoes.

The shoes don’t have much of a break-in period, but I did. It took me a couple of wears to really enjoy the experience. As someone with extremely-flat feet, I’ve long been a user of SOLE and Superfeet insoles. But, in recent years, I’ve become much more conscious of my stride and have focused on being a forefoot runner and walker. That has made it easy to transition into the Tough Gloves. I love the strenghening I feel in my arch and calves when wearing these shoes and know it is helping my feet, ankles, knees, hips and back.

I’m really enjoying wearing the Tough Gloves around town, at the office and casual walking. I do find that the low-profile nature of these shoes does cause me to drag my pants on the ground or step on the cuffs, so keep that in mind with longer pairs of jeans as they will drag more and you will occasionally step on your pant legs.

The outsole provides good traction overall except in wet conditions. I know… I was a bit surprised there as I walked into my garage with wet feet and noticed a general lack of traction with each step. I think a softer durometer rubber may help there. Moisture from the inside is also a little problematic as there are no vents or mesh material to aid in breathability — something I’d like to see on the next version.

Good Tough Glove

  • Comfortable, glove-like fit (you’d hope so)
  • Good overall feel with just enough protection, but not too much
  • Much more office-friendly than Vibram Five Fingers
  • Surprisingly enough, joint pain is relieved
  • Uppers are wearing well with little signs of wear

Bad Tough Glove

  • Breathability could be improved
  • Difficult to get on at first
  • Kind of have a dance shoe look
  • Wet traction could be better

Bottom Line: Merrell Tough Glove Shoes Review

As the first “Office-Friendly” barefoot shoe, the Tough Glove provides a good way to get onto the barefoot wave in a non-VFF way. You can easily wear them around town and at work and enjoy the benefits of going minimalist.

Buy Now: Merrell Shoes at REI

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

1 Comment

  1. Good review on the Merrell Tough Gloves. I agree on the lack of breath-ability on the shoes but they are a full leather upper so that is just what I expected. I noticed that do better if I wear socks. The socks help with breath-ability and moisture transfer. If you want to try a similar shoe with a sportier look but also more breathable, try the True Gloves. Same fit but with a different upper. I have done a review of the on my site. All in all I like the Tough Glove and I did not notice any slippage when wet but I live in the high desert so we do not get much in the way of wet conditions. Good review, glad to see others have had the similar success with these shoes.


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