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Casual Minimalist Work Shoe Reviews: Merrell Tough Glove, Merrell Edge Glove, Vivobarefoot Aqua, Vivobarefoot Neo

Merrell Tough Glove PairI’ve spent a lot of time on this blog writing about minimalist running footwear. Much of this stems from my own personal journey from more traditional running shoes to more stripped down models. However, one of the things I have begun to notice over the past year or so is that I have a much wider tolerance for variation in running footwear than I do for casual, all-day shoes. While I don’t mind running in a shoe with a bit of heel lift, I now spend the vast majority of my shod, non-running time in zero drop shoes with a wide toebox. It’s what my feet have come to prefer, and I’d find it hard to ever go back.

One of the challenges to going zero-drop full time is that options are more limited among casual shoes, particularly shoes that are suitable to wear to work. Given that my dress code as a professor is a bit more casual than in, say, the business world, I’ve been able to manage without much trouble. I do get asked quite frequently about minimalist work and casual shoes, so I thought I’d write up a post about the current rotation of shoes that I wear to the office (and while lecturing in front of a crowd of 90+ students!).

Here are the four shoes in my current work rotation:

Merrell Tough Glove

Merrell Tough Glove TopMerrell Tough Glove sole

Merrell Tough Glove

From an appearance standpoint, the Merrell Tough Glove is my favorite of the four shoes reviewed here – it’s a really nice looking shoe. They are made of full-grain leather and are nice enough that I can wear them with a sport coat, and have done so at admissions events where I have to present to large groups of prospective students and parents. The fit is great – they hug my feet like gloves through the heel and midfoot, and widen nicely in the forefoot (though not as much as the Vivobarefoot Aquas – see below). Flexibility is excellent.

My one complaint about the Merrell Tough Glove is the sole. It’s the exact same sole as that found on the Merrell Trail Glove, and while the sole feels great on soft surfaces, it’s not as comfortable on hard ground. The heel is slightly rounded and is composed of firm rubber so it tends to concentrate pressure under the center of my calcaneus when I walk. It’s not painful, but I’d prefer a flatter, slightly softer heel in a shoe meant for walking. (Update 10/2012: The sole does seem to soften a bit with continued use – they have been my go to work shoe so far this school year.)

The Merrell Tough Glove has been discontinued, but stock is still available at Zappos. Get a pair before they’re gone forever!


Merrell Edge Glove

Merrell Edge Glove TopMerrell Edge Glove sole

Merrell Edge Glove

The Merrell Edge Glove is a relatively new offering in the Merrell Barefoot collection. Made of suede leather, the Edge Glove is a bit more casual than the Tough Glove. Like the Tough Glove, it is both zero drop and flexible, and offers a very roomy fit. It feels a bit roomier through the midfoot – while the Tough Glove is clearly a close cousin of the Trail Glove, I would compare the Edge Glove to the Merrell Road Glove in terms of fit and feel. Like the Road Glove, the Edge has a flatter, wider sole (particularly in the heel), and is thus more comfortable for walking on hard surfaces. However, also like the Road Glove it has a bit more support under the arch. This does not bother me, and I find the Edge Glove quite comfortable for all day wear.

If Merrell took the sole of the Edge Glove and combined it with the upper and fit of the Tough Glove you would have one fantastic shoe. As they are, both are great choices, and personal preference will largely dictate whether aspects like the heel of the Tough Glove or arch of the Edge Glove will be a problem for you.

The Merrell Edge Glove is available at Zappos.

Vivobarefoot Aqua

Vivobarefoot Aqua

The Vivobarefoot Aqua is hands down the most comfortable of all of the zero drop shoes that I wear to work. The sole is ultraflexible, the toebox is expansive, and they honestly feel like a broken-in pair of slippers. They aren’t necessarily the best looking pair of shoes, but when it comes to pure comfort they are tough to beat. I have also found them to be remarkably durable – after over a year of use there is barely any wear visible on the sole, and this despite using them almost exclusively last Spring semester and most of the Fall semester. Fantastic shoe. I have posted a full review of the Vivobarefoot Aquas here.

The Vivobarefoot Aqua is available at Planet Shoes.

The Aquas are probably not nice enough to wear with a suit, so for a shoe with a similar build you might check out the Vivobarefoot Ra. Although I have not tried them myself, I known a few people who wear the Vivobarefoot Ra with a business suit.

Vivobarefoot Neo AirmeshVivobarefoot Neo Sole

Vivobarefoot Neo

As I mentioned above, one of the benefits of my job is that I can get away with fairly casual attire and footwear. Last summer Vivobarefoot sent me a pair of black and yellow Neos to try out. I’ve worn the shoes a few times on runs, but although they give great ground feel and have a wide toebox, I’ve always felt that they looked more like a casual shoe than a running shoe (a problem with many Vivobarefoot shoes…). Furthermore, the black/yellow color combo didn’t appeal to me very much.

Several months ago Vivobarefoot released an airmesh version of the Neo, and I purchased a pair in the olive color shown above. This is definitely a casual shoe and not one you would wear on a dressier occasion, but it works fine for my work environment where I am often hanging out in a lab filled with dead animals. The Neo is a great fitting shoe like the Aqua, though the sole is a bit different – it has those hexagonal lugs seen in the photo above and is made of a firmer rubber. Despite this, it’s a super comfortable shoe for walking around, and I could use it as an ultraminimal running shoe with great ground feel should I desire to do so. Unfortunately, it appears that Vivobarefoot may have discontinued the olive colorway that I have (I really like the look of it), but a few other airmesh colorways are available at Zappos

Well, those are the four shoes I wear most often to work these days. On occasion I can go a bit further toward the casual side and be spotted in lab wearing Inov-8 Bare-X 180’s(my personal favorite out-and-about shoe right now – simply awesome!), but for a laid back work environment that does not require a suit, any of these shoes would be a good choice.

If you have any other suggestions that have not been mentioned here, please share in the comments. And if you have any suggestions for minimal shoes that work with a suit (since I’ve only worn a suit only about twice in my life!) please share as well.

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Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science
About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. John LaFalce says:

    As a clinical professor for a Chiropractic College and runner that attempts to wear as flat a shoe its been a challenge to find the right work shoe. Since I have to wear a shirt and tie daily I need a more “dressy” shoe. What has worked best for me are Cole Haan driving mocs. When I was wearing this model… I developed a strange metatarsal head issue which resolved when I went to a shoe of theirs with a flat “non nubbed” sole. Thought I would share with others that there are options out there if you’re looking for a shoe with a flat sole.

  2. Pete, this post is well timed. I just took the plunge & purchased a pair of Vivobarefoot ‘Franklin’ boots for work (unfortunately discontinued, I think). As a paramedic living in Australia, my employer supplies me with military style leather boots. Heavy, lifted etc.
    Since they are most likely a discontinued model, I would love any recommendations
    for future replacements!

  3. I can’t say if they’re any good yet, as I’ve just ordered them and they’re still in the mail to here in Switzerland, but the Leming Primal Origins have interested me enough to commit to buying them. Not quite as ‘smart’ as the Tough Gloves, but they look to be a nice casual shoe.

    •  Wayne, I’ve had Leming Footwear (formerly Stem Footwear) shoes for a several months and I must say they are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever had — and they look good as well!  The sole seems quite durable.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

      • I have two pairs of Lemings and like them very much. But I haven’t tried any other minimalist shoes so I’m not sure how they compare.

      • Aaron R. says:

         The sole is definitely durable – more so than I thought it would be.  In addition to general use, I have run about 50 miles in my stems with no additional wear and tear on the soles.  They are just really great shoes.  I can’t say enough good things about them.

  4. Last summer Old Navy had desert boots that are marvelous. My favorites! They have a wide cut and very flexible suede leather. They are certainly more comfortable than the original Clark’s, even then their fellow GAP’s version. But they are not available anyomore. 
    I haven’t tried them out yet, but Soft Star’s shoes look very comfortable, too. And the DASH RunAmoc looks like you could wear it with a suit:

  5. I hope to check out the New Balance NewSky:

  6. Minimalist Runner says:

    i have a Vivobarefoot Ra which i use for work. comfortable, excellent ground feel, but you do get to step on the back of your pants a lot. i also own a Vivobarefoot Evo, which has a sole similar to the Neo, and comparing the 2, i prefer the sole they use for the Ra

    • Eric Waskowicz says:

      Agreed.  Really like the Ra, and in black its very inconspicuous, which is a nice trick for a shoe with a big rounded forefoot, and no heel.  Works well for me in a semi-formal business environment.

    • David Propst says:

      I have been wearing the black Ra for four months almost every day to work (12 hr shifts and lots of walking).  Prior to that I wore VB Aqua for almost two years to work with very little wear. The Ra is as comfortable as Pete describes the Aquas, yet work well in a dressier environment as well as they go with jeans. The Ra does have a stiffer leather heel cup that needs some breaking in (wear socks!). They now offer a dark brown leather/black sole version which I just ordered from Two Rivers Treads (, They were not listed on their website yet, but I called and they had them. I was really happy to see the dark soled brown leather option.

    • Canadian says:

      I wish they made Ras for women! I would buy a men’s pair if they came small enough. :(

  7. I rotate two pair of the Edge Glove for my work shoes.  I thankfully work business casual, and have had no complaints about them.  They’re comfortable enough.  The only problem/complaint I have is that both are size 15 (the lack of availability of shoes for those of us with large feet is another issue), and one pair is slightly smaller than the other.  Not enough to be a huge deal, but well, I noticed it, didn’t I?

    Otherwise, great lineup.  I wish I could check out Vivobarefoot in person, but I know of no store around me that carries them, much less in my size.

  8. Gary Nuila says:

    I have worn a pair of Patagonia Loulu shoes to work for the past few months and have absolutely loved them. I regularly get compliments. They look incredibly sharp, they have a wider toe box than my Altra Insticts I run in, they are flexible and the insoles and footbed are virtually flat with little to no drop. Some reviewers say the soles wear out quickly, but after three months of wearing them almost every day I haven’t noticed that. The only thing I can’t make them work with is a suit.

    • Hi, 
      Those Loulus look good! I would really appreciate if you could share how thick is the sole, can you remove the midsole, what is the ground feel (e.g. compared to Vibram FiveFingers)?

      • Gary Nuila says:

        The sole has a fairly thin feel, kind of like it looks, but it has held up good so far. The shoe only has the sole and the removable insole, which you could easily replace or keep out altogether. There is fairly significant ground feel in the ball of the foot. I’ve never worn five fingers, but I’m guessing there is slightly less ground feel than those. There is less ground feel in the heel as the insole is a little bit thicker and harder there. Without the insole there is significant ground feel across the whole foot. 

    •  I have these as well along with another pair of the Patagonia’s with a wide toe box.  I especially like the wide toe box on my causal business shoes.  I never knew what I was forcing my toes into before I went to shoes like this.

  9. Jeff Mihailoff says:

    My everyday is the Vivobarefoot black Dharmas.  I’m in professional sales and occasionally rock a suit.  Never had a negative comment ever, but the occasional positive comment – especially from one of my clients who owns 4 pairs of Dharmas!

  10. I routinely wear the minimus trail to work but I think I may spring for the NB NewSky (… It looks like it is built on the same platform as the minimus but has some eco friendly upper. Win-win?

  11. I tried the Ra’s, but they were the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. Also probably a tad too causal for my work.

  12. My son has problems with shoes that have too high an arch, he says they hurt.  He was told by his dr that he has flat feet and should wear an arch support.  So for track he bought a pair of Nike’s that turned out to have too much arch support for him.  He put in the arch support and now he’s ok.  So my question is, do you think he should try minimalist shoes for running and everyday? He is sprinting at this time though, not long distance, and will need cleats.

  13. You missed the best causal shoes out there yet, Pete:

    Leming footwear (also known as Stems).
    More casual looking than the tough glove that I use for biz, but the best I have.

    Another nice one I noticed is the new balance MT10LR, brown or black.
    These look the most good looking biz shoe so far (though not drop0, but 4)

    • Pete Larson says:

      I actually do have a pair of those, forgot about them! Yes, very comfortable, but I don’t wear mine much because they sent me a pair with the baby blue color and it’s not my style…

      • Stems ? Baby blue or the MT10LR ?
        Stems (Leming) come black, brown, Gray or green afaik.

        I have the brown, they are awesome, though after intensive 8 month of sock less use they start to smell …

  14. Paul Magno says:

    I bought a pair of Born shoes (not sure what model) and love them.  Below is how they look.  The insoles that came with it were pretty thick but they work great now after replacing them with the extra insole from my vivobarefoot neo.  The outsole is relatively thin and is pretty close to being zero drop.  Plus, they have a lot more room in the toes than most casual shoes.

  15. Scott Douglas says:

    Best shoe ever in this category: Sanuk Usual Suspect. Unfortunately, Sanuk no longer makes them. My first pair lasted four years, and I was able to get two pairs on eBay once they were discontinued, so I’m good for most of the rest of the decade.

  16. David Propst says:

    Pete, How does the toe box on the Bare X 180s compare to the Aquas?

  17. Just an FYI – all your Zappos links are broken. They look like gibberish domains set up to redirect to Zappos, probably with some kind of referrer credit. There’s a slight chance it’s being caused by malware or stolen credentials (either on the computer you posted this from or your Google account for Blogger). 

  18. David Underhill says:

    Did they discontinue the Aquas?  Most stores seem to only have the “Lite” version now.

    • Pete Larson says:

      The links seem to work fine when I click them. My understanding is that when something like this happens it is usually due to malware on the users computer and not the host. A lot of times user installed toolbars attempt to redirect affiliate links.

  19. Lindsay Knake says:

    One great thing about being a woman is wearing flats to work. They are fairly cheap, look nice with jeans or work clothes, flexible and quite minimal. Nice to have options like that.

  20. Aaron R. says:

    I have been wearing Stems for about three months now. They are easily the most versatile shoes I own and are really comfortable. I also have a pair of VivoBarefoot Dharma slip ons that work great at the office.

  21. Surfing_vol says:


    I will vouch for the Vivobarefoot Ras.  I wear the Ras (I have two pair — brown and black) everywhere except court.  Curiously, the brown pair seems to have less of a “clown shoe” look than the black pair. 


  22. How sensitive would you say these are to sizing? Some shoes I guess you might need to fit exactly right, while others are more forgiving. These felt good when I first tried them on but now when I run down hill my toes feel smashed. Did I get them too small?

  23. Aaron Hines says:

    Has anyone here heard of Soft Star shoes (

  24. any thoughts on something as simple as the converse allstars? granted the toe box isn’t as wide and they aren’t marketed as a minimalist shoe… but they’re pretty flat and have very little padding… not exactly a shoe to wear with a suit, but I find them a great casual option…

  25. Angus Robins says:

    I don’t work in an office any more…when I did I wore my Ra’s religiously: great shoes. However, life has a way of taking us by surprise and I’m now a window cleaner. So, I’m looking for something with maybe a bit more uderfoot support for standing on ladders for serious amounts of time. Most hiking shoes/approach shoes are quite narrow. I’ve seen the Papuan tribes that build tree houses climb branch-scaffolding barefoot, but I’m not a Papuan! Recommendations please.

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