Friday, August 23, 2013

Minimalist Showdown: Merrell Vapor Glove vs. Vivobarefoot The One.. Review and Giveaway!

As you know, my preference is to run trails whenever I can, but I still get my share of road/track running in while training.  So, I was excited to get the opportunity to test out some minimalist road shoes from two terrific companies, Merrell and Vivobarefoot.

The shoes in question are the Merrell Vapor Glove and the Vivobarefoot The One.   What I love about both of these shoes is that they are a true minimalist shoe, or at least the most minimalist "shoe" I have run in.  In my book, a minimalist shoe must be zero drop, flexible, and allow your foot as much freedom to move as naturally as possible.  Granted, inside of this definition leaves a lot of room for differences in stack height, ground feel etc.  So, stick around and I'll give you my impressions of both shoes, and also an opportunity to win a pair for yourself!

 Ok... first off, just a few of the specs on these shoes.  The Vapor Gloves have a 5.5mm stack height, breathable mesh upper, vibram sole, and the typical TPU heel sling found on other Merrell minimalist shoes.  They are very light weight, with the spec sheet noting them at 5 oz.

The Ones sport a 3mm puncture proof sole made of V-sense TPU (no, I don't know what that is, but it sounds really cool!), and a 3mm removable poly insole for a total stack height of 6mm. The weight on these is closer to 8 oz, but I believe if you remove the insole you are probably closer to 7 or less.


When comparing the two shoes, there are a variety of areas that they share similar features.

Both shoes are very very flexible.  The are easily rolled up or folded lengthwise.  And they weigh next to nothing.  In my book they are very light and very comparable.. I mean when you are 25 lbs overweight, what's an ounce or so between shoes? :-)

That said, the Vapor Gloves may be just a tad bit more flexible as you can see in the pics to the left here, however compared to other minimalist shoes I run in, these two are by far the flimsiest.  But that isn't a bad thing.  I believe that both of these shoes have made a giant leap towards a truly minimal shoe, and perhaps shoes that might be tolerated by those who choose to only run barefoot.

The uppers on both shoes are very breathable and comfortable to wear in warmer temps.  I wouldn't venture far in these in the winter, or in wet weather unless you are wearing socks for those conditions.

Finally, they both have very comfortable inner linings.  I kept the insoles in the Vivo's to keep a similar stack height comparison.  I always run with socks in my shoes (light weight Injinji's), so I can't speak to how well they work sockless.  Both shoes utilize a anti-bacterial treatment in their fabrics, so hopefully odor is at a minimum!


Ok, so what sets these great shoes apart from each other?

First off, the soles are quite a bit different.  While they are relatively smooth overall, the Vapor Gloves have deeper grooves in the sole. This allows it to be just a bit more flexible, however it means picking up a lot of the tiny chunks of decomposed granite that seems to be everywhere in Colorado. I often have to bend them and pick the rocks out if I ever walk inside with them (which I guess I shouldn't, but anyway)

The sole on the Ones is very smooth with just the slight hexagonal impression to provide some traction, but this pattern does not pick up stuff from the road very easily. Also, the material used has a less rubbery feel as compared to the Vibram sole on the Vapor Gloves.  I've put about 40 miles on each pair so far, but not enough to notice any difference in wear.

In addition to the difference in the sole material and pattern, you have also probably noticed that the Vapor Glove is more narrow than the Ones. The Ones carry the signature wide toe box of most of the Vivobarefoot models, while the Vapor Glove seems to be modeled more closely to the original Trail Glove in terms of width and structure.

OK! enough with the blah blah blah already... I mean how long can you go on about shoes?  Well, if you are talking about me, obviously a long time!   By now you just want to know 1. How do they perform? and 2. Which one is best?!

Honestly, both of these shoes perform amazingly well. I've run in both on training runs and in a few races and I've not been disappointed.  If you are looking for a really minimalist shoe that lets your feet do what they were built for, you can't go wrong.  However, the greatest difference in these shoes is the fit, and what kind of fit you prefer.  If you have narrow feet, the Vivo's will probably be too wide and roomy.  If you have wide feet, the Vapor Gloves are probably going to be too constricting.

Now.. if you have "average" feet like mine (at least I think they are average), you can really go either way.  Basically the Vapor Glove truly fits like a "glove". When I wear them, it feels like a second skin. Sometimes it feels a little constricting, but the shoe is so light and flexible, I am ok with it.  The Ones fit much more freely, going the opposite direction by allowing your feet and toes the freedom to relax stretch out and just run.  So, it comes down to what you prefer... the feeling of feet dipped in rubber and ready to fly, or the feeling of freedom and a shoe that is barely there.  Either way, both shoes do terrific job of letting you run naturally and comfortably.

Also, from a ground feel perspective, the stack height between the two shoes feels very similar, and the feeling on smooth pavement is about the same in both shoes. However, if you run across anything like a rock, the Vapor Gloves will delivery a much sharper sting, as compared to the Ones, which seem to disperse a poke a little better.  Much more relevant for trail running, vs road running.

Finally, the MSRP for the Vapor Glove is $80 and for The One it is $115, BUT I've seen prices all over the map depending on the retailer and size.. anywhere from $55 to $80, so shop around!

Ultimately I lean towards the easy feeling of the Vivo's, but that is really a personal choice, and I can easily and happily run in either!

Ok... if you have made it this far.. congratulations!  You must be a total minimalist shoe nerd like me!  As a reward for sticking it out, I'm happy to say that the great folks at Vivobarefoot have provided a pair of The Ones to one of you!  If you'd like to enter, just use the Rafflecopter thingy  below..  I'll run this contest until Thursday August 29th, 2013 10PM MST, and then select a lucky winner randomly. Oh, and this contest is open to the residents of planet Earth only!

Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Trails!



Shaun D. said...

Great review!! Would love to win a pair of these!! Size 10 1/2 :-)

Rowald said...

I have been looking at both of these shoes, it appears my wide foot would prefer the Vivos

Amy said...

I have tried some Merrell minimalist, and i think they are a bit too constricting. So I guess I would look for a bit more "freedom" like what you found in the Vivos. Thanks for the chance to win!

Anonymous said...

Wel I typed out a nice long comment but by lovely computer deleted it all.. I have Xero Shoes, Vibram Bikila LS, and Merrell bare access. All work well. I would love a pair of The Ones prefferably size 14.. but I suppose I can squeeze into 13's ;)

patrick voo said...

my favourite shoes to date are the merrell road glove (1st iteration) - roomy, light, flexible, durable, versatile! most of my shoes are zero-drop, although i will be trying a 4mm drop skechers gorun 2 for my next marathon.

Aarón MF said...

These would be fun to try out!

Kristie said...

I love my VVB Ones but I still prefer my EVO for road..I switch out tho.

Taylor said...

Thanks for the awesome review! I'm always on the lookout for wide minimal shoes!

Iris @ ManicRunday said...

LOVE the Vapor Glove. Vivos tend to be too roomy for my feet, but the One looks like a good Vapor substitute for the more paddle-footed among us. Great review!

Erik Ammon said...

I look for something that will let me "feel" the road, and has the room I need for my feet.

Jonathan Lee said...

I love my Vivobarefoot Evos but they're starting to get a little bit torn up after almost 300 miles!

Jane said...

Love the look of the Merrell's, particularly as I have a narrow foot! I have been wearing New Balance zero drop Minimus for short runs, Saucony Kinvara 4mm drop for longer ones. Could really do with a new pair of minimalists!

FireRunner2379 said...

I like a lightweight road shoe with a snug fit. It's also nice to have some protection from the ground in case you have to run through rocks or broken glass!

Paweł Ignac said...

Nice review. I consider Vapor Glove the most minimalis shoes I've ever had. However I've never tried the One.

Mel B said...

Nice Review. I have worn Merrels before and would like to try the Vivobarefoot ones as well.

meredith m said...

I look for comfort and style

Stefan Fuglsang Toft said...

300 miles?? I got almost 2000 km (1850km to be exactly) from my VB Evo II :-) It just got the first real hole in the sole and I think I'll have to retire them now as the rest of the shoe is showing signs of the hard use.

Love the Vapor Glove but the second pair in a row just got a big tear on the outside of the right shoe. It is from running on normal roads and the track. No problem to have them exchanged the first time though and I hope it will be easy this time as well. Just a heads up even though I haven't heard about many others with that problem.

The Vapor Glove is very close to the perfect shoe IMO. I truly believe that and big ups to Merrell. If it just didn't tear so damn easy! I think I'll give the One a try sometime in the future.

Anonymous said...

Both look amazing but I would prefer the VB due to the wider toebox.

Kathy Nguyen said...

Great review. I have a pair of Merrell Bare Access and I was looking for the road glove because they look more like the NB Minimus my favorites. I like how fexible they both seem.

Katie Hughes said...

I have wider feet and the Vivobarefoot look amazingly comfortable. I like to have room for my toes to wiggle!

Florian Frühstück said...

I'm looking for some cool stuff, just like the vivos but -true- I'm a fan already ;-)

ORRunner said...

I have the merrells and love the fit. Would really like to try the Vivos!

Tracey said...

I haven't run in any yet, but want to start.

Dylan Graves said...

I own both a pair of the vivobarefoot neo and a pair of merrell trail gloves. I definitely prefer the Merrells, but that doesn't mean I don't like my Vivos, as well. Different feels. I'd love to win a pair of these, as they're even more minimalist!

Anonymous said...

Kristin Troska: comfort!

Jonathan said...

I've been looking for a pair of minimalist shoes that have the same flexibility as my Xero Shoes, and these both look like great options. Also, I prefer a wide toebox :)

Jeff Gallup said...

I haven't tried the Skechers yet.. you'll have to let me know how they are!

Matt Gawlowski said...

I have some Vapor Gloves and find them useful at not getting kicked out of hotel fitness rooms for running on the treadmill in my Xero shoes (yes, that really happened, something about them not being proper fitness attire). They're not bad for a shoe, I'm happy with them. I'd be interested in trying the Vivos out to see how they compare.

Cecil Vermule said...

Since I've never had a minimalist road shoe, I'd say that I'm up for any pointers!

Scott Loonan said...

Now to find if any stores around here carry Vivobarefoot to try them on.

Jeff Gallup said...

Hmm... most Vivobarefoot stores are in the East ( not too many) BUT.. I did find them on REI and with free shipping. Might be able to ship to store, or at least return to the store if they don't fit.

Florian Frühstück said...

Oh I'd love to win one! ;-)

Tan Puay Tze said...

Yes, nice shoes indeed ;D

Tan Puay Tze said...

Tan Puay Tze is Insane Runner in Tribesports

Will McKenzie said...

Been using my Vivo Neo's for everything from capoeira to slacklining them, love them to bits. Just need some more pairs so I can rotate them.

Anonymous said...

The main things I look for in shoes are mainly light weight and durability. Just by using minimalist shoes can reduce times in running but sacrifices cushioning and puts more strain on your legs. Also the more durable shoes, the more stress you can put them through without worrying about damaging them.

Ebola Grey said...

I've been running in both Xero Shoes (from when they were called Invisible Shoes)and the Vivo Evo III for a year or so. I love the Evo's but no way are they close to the Xero's in flexibility or feel. And nothing compares to the bare foot. But I use the Evo's for longer runs (over 10k), at least until my feet get stronger. And wow! have my feet changed in the last year, both in strength and shape!

But I LOVE those Evo's! Long lasting, too.

My daughter has the Vivo Stealth, which is similar to The One with the 3mm sole, but has the more traditional Vivo tread pattern. She ran a marathon in them a couple of weeks ago and was really, really happy with them, and finds them a bit more flexoble than her Evo I's.

But the Xero is her footwear of choice for running and daily wear when she isn't barefooting.

Anonymous said...

I love trail running in my Vapor Gloves, they rock. But the trails here in Colorado are smoother than those gnarly things back east ... My road shoes? I was born with them. :D Agree on the cold issue, when it gets down around 0F, I switch to different footwear.

Unshod Ashish said...

Thanks for providing this comparison. How disappointing to hear that Merrell's "barefoot" shoes constrict the forefoot. We ALL have "wide" feet, if we would just allow them space to expand to their natural width.

Mike O'Brien Art said...

Thanks for the insights! ! Any advice on how to purchase the merrell vapor glove regarding size I saw on other sights people giving reviews claiming that they ran larger than most merrells but im not sure what to think after after reading this which suggests their not that roomy.. I currently wear New balance minimus road size Uk 11.5/US 12...


Jeff Gallup said...

I have the same size in the Vapor glove as I do in my other Merrell's. Perhaps they are just a tad bit longer? but hard to say. If they are, it works better for me as I'll take a little extra space, especially since they fit snug around the midfoot. Not for folks with wide feet for sure, as these really fit like a snug glove! Hope that helps..



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Anonymous said...

wtf man - first line I read and alreadz I DO NOT AGREE with your saying: I USE THESE SHOES WHILE BACKPACKING! IN A LOT OF CONDITIONS THE EXACT WEIGHT OF THE SHOE PLAYS A CRUCIAL ROLE, saying it doesn't matter in a missing the point. sorry mate, you may return and sit down :(

Jeff Gallup said...

Not sure what you don't agree with? My comment that 1 ounce doesn't matter when you are 25lbs overweight? Well.. to me 1 ounce doesn't make difference when comparing one shoe to another... 4 ounces maybe?

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