Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR trail running shoe | Tested and reviewed

Merrell have developed a lightweight, elegant, and understated trail running shoe in the Vapor Glove 6 – but will it last?

from Merrell
RRP  £115.00
The Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR minimalist running shoes

by Pawel Baranowski |
Updated on

When the Vapor Glove 6 LTR arrived at our office, we were a bit confused. Elegant, minimalistic line, toned down colours and upper made of genuine leather made us check Merrell’s website twice to confirm it was indeed a trail running shoe.

The Vapor Glove 6 LTR from Merrell is an ultralight, sleek, and minimalist trail running shoe which is sure to impress any barefoot devotees. It has a remarkably thin outsole which delivers trail-to-foot feedback by the bucketload.

It's also got surprisingly good grip, with 2mm lugs that are better at clinging to uneven terrain than digging into sloppy mud. But, can this super-thin outsole really be sustainable in the long term? And how do the shoes fare when the weather takes a turn? Let's take a closer look...

product shot of the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR minimalist running shoesLFTO

Pros

  • Great grip
  • Can easily turn into a smart-casual shoe
  • Comfortable integrated insole

Cons

  • Durability concerns in the soft outsole

Design and features

We're pleasantly surprised by the look of this shoe. With the Vapor Glove 6, Merrell decided to diverge from the usual colourful-verging-on-garish design philosophy of most trail running shoes. Instead, they opted for neutral tones and a monochrome approach. The result is a shoe which would match your chinos for a Sunday barbecue – we'd call them discreet.

Lugs on the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR minimalist running shoes
©LFTO

The outsole is a single piece of Vibram rubber which is rather soft. With 2mm lugs, we're worried about the longevity of this sole. Certainly the grooves will wear away in no time if you're an avid runner. However, we did find the Vapor Glove 6 decently protective (for a barefoot style shoe anyway). The outsole wraps around the front to create a toe box, and it also wraps around the hell well, giving a snug, stiff feel.

Heels of the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR minimalist running shoes
©LFTO

The upper is made from genuine leather and might be the only part of this shoe that isn't recycled. The leather here is very soft, with a matte finish, and we can only see it getting better with time. However, if this material isn't your style, Merrell also offer a non-LTR version of the shoe (which, we're now realising, LTR probably means leather). The regular version has a typical mesh upper instead.

Performance and comfort

True to their name, we're happy to report that these shoes do indeed fit like a glove. They have a 6mm stack, which is fairly typical if slightly high for such minimalist shoes. And, of course, they're zero drop. The first thing we noticed in testing was the surprisingly cushioned feel; the integrated insole works in tandem with the soft rubber outsole to create a remarkably comfortable footbed.

Toe box Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR minimalist running shoes
©LFTO

After a handful of runs, our durability concerns for the Vapor Glove 6 were once again raised. Because the lug pattern is so uniform and dense, the only direction for the sole to bend is out, and we can see the edges deforming ever so slightly over long runs, which must certainly put some strain on the glue. That said, the shoes are still in one piece after a three month test, and the leather upper will last forever.

The Vapor Glove 6 can handle most terrains fairly well, though we found them a bit slippery on wet tarmac and concrete. Luckily, once you hit the trail, the grip kicks in. They excelled on wet grass, as well as sandy trails, and you'll be fine on rockier paths, but be careful of small loose stones – you will definitely feel every one. The soft feeling underfoot seems to have sacrificed some protection, but if you love minimalist shoes because of their ground-to-foot feedback, then this is your perfect shoe.

Toe box Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR minimalist running shoes
©LFTO

The use of leather for the upper makes them quite resistant to water, and most puddles weren't a problem for us. However, the Vapor Glove 6 has a very low profile, so anything deeper than a few inches will be trouble. We ended quite a few runs with wet socks.

Sustainability

As we alluded to earlier, this shoe gets very high marks for its sustainability. According to Merrell, the laces, the mesh lining, and the mesh footbed cover are all 100% recycled. In addition, the outsole is Vibram's Ecostep compound, which uses 30% recycled rubber and retains all the same durability and grip that you'd expect from such a prolific brand.

Side profile of the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR minimalist running shoes
©LFTO

Merrell recently announced their sustainability goals for 2025, which included a pledge to ensure that 100% of their products would contain some organic, recycled, or renewable materials. They also made a commitment to save a few hundred thousand pairs of shoes from ending up in a landfill with their ReTread programme. Although, at time of writing, this programme doesn't seem to be very active in the UK. Nonetheless, and please pardon the pun, these are all steps in the right direction from Merrell.

Verdict

If you are after a minimalistic running shoe that can be worn for everyday activities (for that barefoot feel) this will fit the bill. Elegant, understated, discreet, yet well performing on a trail. Though the soft rubber in conjunction with not very deep lugs can quickly turn into equivalent of slick tyre.

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR minimalist running shoes
©LFTO

Of course, your milage will vary – where you run, how you run, and your weight will play as crucial role in your shoes longevity. In all, it's one of the best minimalist shoes on the market, even though we do have a feeling the leather will outlive the rubber.

How we tested

The Merrell Vapor Glove 6 LTR trail running shoe was tested by Pawel Baranowski, one of our expert gear testers who also moonlights as an IT engineer.

Pawel started his running adventure in 2013, dipping straight into half marathon with no training (don't try this at home). Things escalated pretty quickly, and now Pawel enjoys all day escapades with 50 miles being his favourite running distance. He has gained a reputation with us for destroying most shoes we send him, so if he gives anything his seal of approval, you can be sure it's pretty darn tough.

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