Trainers. I’ve had lots, like lots but loved few. Equate it with anything else you’d like but finding the perfect the match is difficult. Why? Because it’s a very personal preference. For years I’ve been courting Inov8 shoes but recently I’ve been Beadled (dealt a bad hand) by a few!
My issues have been exacerbated by my transition to forefoot running as I have not really wanted to run in anything other than a zero drop. It’s not me being purist but I’ve always enjoyed a low drop shoe and if I’m going in on the forefoot I’m going in hard! I have always had a preference for minimalist shoes as I carry enough weight without having a pair of heavy shoes thrown into the mix so the hunt was on.
In researching I turned to RunRepeat to find users views on zero drop shoes and read with interest the findings on my alternatives. Enter the Merrell Vapor Glove. Ever the Northerner I opted for last seasons model to ensure a fair price and picked up my first “barefoot” shoes.
As I recently stated my journey to barefoot has not been easy but now the Merrell Vapor Glove has been my favourite chariot. As the Merrell Website states the Vapor Glove has a “minimal look” and allows for “maximum performance” albeit short lived as the fine mesh upper is uber light but not particularly durable. It is a barefoot shoe which has a sock or slipper like feel paired with a Vibram® sole allowing for almost zero ground-to-foot separation. In the day and age of chunky trainer this may be some peoples worst nightmare but for me it’s been a revelation.
Once you get over the pain of a stone on the forefoot (through greater running awareness due to the intense pain) you find a roomy shoe with a wide toe box that’s big enough for my ogre / flipper hybrid feet. They fit “Like a glove” (said like Jim Carey in Ace Ventura).
The shoe is so light (6oz/172G per shoe) it feels as if you’re not wearing them but there is just enough depth to the sole to give protection from anything untoward on your path. The weight is a result of the shoes 6.5mm stack height which for those less technical is the thickness of material between the foot and the road. In this case the sole at 6.5mm which is more than a number of other minimalist shoes such Vibram’s KSO Evo or Inov -8’s bare access shoes but less than the Vibram Fivefingers V-RUN.
The Vibram outsole is ridiculously flexible but in a great comfortable way. It means the shoe truly enables the biomechanics of the forefoot strike as it easily flexes in all directions. Obviously if you used to a built up shoe with loads of support it is going to be a long transition.
The toe bumper is an extension of the shoes sole which looks pretty cool but is also comfortable having stumbled over a couple of rocks and bumps whilst off road it is sturdy enough to offer protection to the toes.
The upper is made of a synthetic mesh which is very soft and adds lots to the comfort of the shoe. What is brings in comfort however it loses in durability which leads me to the next point.
So what’s downside?
Quite simply they wear out pretty quickly. Tears started to appear after about 100 miles so if you’re going to purchase a pair expect to get less miles out of them before needing to replace or if you’re northern too then just keep on running until the sole falls off like me! The photos below are still my “working” pair! This may seem like a major downside but the shoe is relatively cheap in the minimalist market and is often on offer. Checkout RunRepeat for the best prices.
My next purchase of trainers will be another pair of these beauties. It’s a five star review from me for the Vapor Glove 3 as the comfort, weight, zero drop and feel of the road beneath my feet are exactly what I’d been searching for.