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September 7, 2011

Merrell Barefoot Kids Trail Glove Review

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"Put on your kid gloves, put on your kid gloves -
Then you learn the lesson that it's cool to be so tough ... "

- Rush, "Kid Gloves" (video after post)

Earlier this year I reviewed a handful of minimalist shoe options for kids that included a sampling of traditional shoe manufacturers as well as some dedicated minimalist brands. Noticeably absent from that collection however, were options from a company who excels in both categories: their traditional footwear is well established, and their minimalist credentials are also outstanding.

I’m talking about Merrell, who thus far has done everything right in embracing the minimalist movement. In the spring they introduced an entire Barefoot line of running and casual footwear – including the men’s Trail Glove and women’s Pace Glove which have proven to be among the most durable styles of minimalist shoes I’ve reviewed.

Merrell Barefoot Big Kids Trail Glove

All that was missing from the lineup were kids shoes – and this summer, Merrell took care of business there as well, debuting junior versions of both the Trail Glove and Pure Glove, each of which is available in “little kids” (sizes 10-3) and “big kids” (sizes 3.5-7) models.

Unlike the adult versions, the Kids Trail Glove isn't gender specific; it can be worn by both boys and girls, with a collection of colors that will complement the most masculine or feminine wardrobes. (Of course, my little girl got the black and blue pair, but testers can’t always be choosers. Better she learns that hard lesson at an early age.) The Pure Glove is a slightly more girlish style, but has a light blue option that might be OK with boys - it's kind of a judgement call. My daughter has been testing the Trail Glove, and has used it for everything you can think of, from hiking to tennis to an everyday school shoe.

Flat, flexible, yada yada yada ...

Besides being gender-neutral, the Kids Barefoot shoes are the equivalent of the grownup versions in virtually every other way, with just a few stylistic exceptions. Of course, the most important features of the adult Trail Glove are here: a zero-drop platform, a wide toe box, and a completely flexible midsole and outsole for natural foot movement. It’s even got the same 1mm shock plate that the adult version uses to diminish impact forces in the forefoot.

Vibram TC-1 rubber outsole

The outsole looks a little bit different – a more kid-friendly appearance, for sure – but it’s made of the same Vibram TC-1 rubber that all Merrell Barefoot shoes utilize. This rubber compound is extremely durable, as my Trail Gloves have yet to show significant signs of wear after more than 200 miles of running. In other words, there’s no way your kid will wear these down before he or she outgrows them.

Wide base of support in heel

Proportionally, Merrell’s kids’ shoes have a wider base than the adult Barefoot line, which supposedly improves ground contact and stability for little feet. I understand the concept here, but I don’t know that it’s completely necessary; when my girl runs around barefoot, she doesn’t have any apparent problems with stability. But perhaps that’s just me being finicky.

No socks required

Inside the shoe, the kids’ Gloves are made of the same microfiber footbed that keeps the grownup foot secure on the midsole without slipping. Like the adult versions, the kids models are designed to be worn with or without socks, using a soft sockliner and a completely seamless interior to prevent irritation against bare skin.

Kid-friendly on/off functionaliity

From a construction standpoint, the only significant difference between the Kids Trail Gloves and the adult version is the upper; instead of an Omni-lacing system, the junior models use elastic laces with a Velcro strap across the top. This results in a much easier open/close mechanism for little fingers …

… and in a related story, the Merrell “M” on the strap reminds my daughter of the Monsters Inc logo. That’s definitely an upside.

Basically, Merrell’s Barefoot Kids shoes are everything you’d want children's shoes to be: flat, flexible, durable, lightweight (roughly 4-5 oz, depending on the size) and low profile – but best of all, they allow your child’s feet to function naturally for virtually every crazy activity they might encounter. They retail for $60 from Amazon.com (the link on the page says men's, but the sizes are toddlers' and kids') in multiple sizes and colors.

*Product provided by Merrell
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.

Reaching way back into the mental archives for this one: no, it has nothing to do with the shoe review - but everything to do with me being a complete music geek in junior high school. OK ... make that ever since junior high school.

Rush, "Kid Gloves" (click to play):

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Turi 9/7/11, 7:37 PM  

Wow, I wish they made those in all black, so my kids could wear them to school with uniforms...

Michael Shane Helton 9/8/11, 6:36 AM  

About time some decent kids shoes came out. Time to go buy a few pairs of those.

Suunto Pedometer 9/8/11, 1:46 PM  

Looks nice! Think im going to order a pair from amazon and slap a review of them on my site. Thank you for the tip!

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