Catch 22 in the blog world: I love having the opportunity to do product reviews, however, I hate the timelines they often come with. I mean, let’s be honest: can you really tell in one workout how an item holds up? Maybe. But what about long term? Over multiple runs, washes, and outdoor abuse? The kicker of course is that everyone wants to be the first to review new items; PR people want the buzz behind their product ASAP. I get it. But as an athlete who wants to be honest with my readers, I get a little frustrated at times.
Point of my rambling: I’m excited to bring you the following shoe review, despite the fact that these sneakers have been on the market for some time now, and countless reviews are already available. I, however, have abused these shoes in many ways, and can have the complete satisfaction of telling you that almost two months and countless miles later, they are still amazing.
So here you go: the Merrell Ascend Glove.
I got my hands on this beautiful pair of shoes on my trip out to Portland, OR where I had the opportunity to hangout and discuss the world of running with my friends from Merrell. I couldn’t wait to get home and try them out. And I took the very first opportunity I had to test them…though I wouldn’t recommend doing the same to anyone else: I wore them straight out of the box to a race.
And not just any race, but an obstacle course race.
And then I took them home, threw them in an industrial washing machine, let them air dry, and took them out running. Muddy trails, pine needle covered trails, bridle trails, and even a bit of pavement. Washed them again, took them out again, continued with the above abuse. And now, I’m ready to tell you why they are my second favorite Merrell shoe ever.
What Merrell says:
“Cushioned for longer runs and more demanding terrain, our lightweight and durable Ascend Glove stays true to your natural stride with its barefoot profile. Charge over mountains and rocky terrain with its aggressive, grabby lug design and TrailProtect pad for extra off-road support.”
•Fabric and synthetic upper
• MotionMesh engineered for optimal breathability and range of motion
• Breathable mesh lining
• M-Select FRESH naturally prevents odor before it starts for fresh smelling feet
• Wash as needed in cold water (gentle cycle). Air dry
• 0mm Drop / 6mm Cush / 10.5mm Stack Height
• TrailProtect pad in the forefoot and heel offers additional support for the roughest terrain
• Non marking outsole
• Vibram® outsole
• Vegan friendly footwear
• Women’s & Men’s Weight: 8ozs (1/2 pair) –
WHAT I SAY:
If you read the first few paragraphs of this review, you already know that I love these shoes. But instead of another generic “OMG these are the best shoes ever” review (someone needs to invent a sarcasm font), let me tell you exactly why I love them.
One specific aspect that has been missing for me in all of my other Merrell barefoot shoes is the tread. While I love racing OCR’s in my pace gloves, the lack of tread has caused me to slip and slide all over the place. Things like rope climbs using my legs become near impossible, and soaked, muddy trails become a fall waiting to happen. Not with the Ascends, however. The lugs and tread on the Ascends certainly aren’t as aggressive as you may find on a traditional trail running shoe, but they are certainly sufficient for my needs, and seem to be a great compromise between trail and barefoot shoes.
LACING: A lot of people are fans of Merrell’s Omnifit lacing system. I can understand why, as it hugs your foot and gives a more natural fit. I, however, encounter a problem in that I have a very narrow, yet long foot (hello, size 10!) and the Omnifit lacing doesn’t allow a snug fit around my foot, as seen in the picture below. The Ascend glove has traditional eyelet lacing, and therefore, I was able to get a nice, snug fit.
|Left: Pace Glove 2, right: Ascend Glove.
Note, I am still able to easily fit my finger underneath the omnifit lacing when it is tied as tight as it can go.
OVERALL FEEL: The Ascend Glove, while still incredibly minimal with a 0 mm heel to toe drop, still has a somewhat “burly” feel to it, while maintaining the flexible and lightweight properties you would expect from a barefoot shoe. The 6 mm cushion, combined with the tread, rock plate in the forefoot and heel, and the reinforced toe cover, give an overall feeling of reassurance on the trail that you aren’t going to break a toe kicking a small rock or stepping on something sharp, a hesitation I sometimes feel with many of the other barefoot shoes I’ve run in. They fit true to size, and have a very minimal upper surrounding the ankle, allowing for natural movement.
BONUS: I’ve put this pair through the washing machine 3 times (air-dried) and each time they have come out looking *almost* as good as new, and fitting just as well. Zero sign of wear on the fabric or other materials.
In conclusion, If you love your barefoot Merrell shoes and are looking for something a bit more aggressive for trail running or obstacle course racing, this is the shoe you need to try. These have become my go-to shoe for any outdoor activities under the 10K distance (anything longer would be the Mix Master Move Glide, review HERE)
Questions or comments about this shoe? Post them below. If I can’t answer, my friends at Merrell will certainly chime in.