Merrell Ascend Glove: Trail Running Gear Review, Part Two | 407.61 Miles

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I won’t lie, I was pretty psyched to tie on a pair of freshies for today’s run and gear review. Especially since they are my first pair of zero drop barefoot running shoes, the Merrell Ascend Glove. I’ve been sneaking up on the barefoot running scene by gradually reducing the amount of drop my shoes have. A good bit of the last 500 miles where spent in a pair of Keen A86 TR’s and I’ll admit I had to ease in to them by only running a few short runs a week for the first couple weeks. But, within a month or two I actually experienced a bit of discomfort moving back to more padded shoes for my long runs then I did working into the minimalist Keens.

Whodathunk? Perhaps there’s something to the Tarahumara strategy?

When a great deal came through on the Trail Glove Ascend, touted as a zero drop shoe with more padding then most Merrell barefoot shoes, well, I jumped on it. I was pleasantly surprised when I slipped them on and laced them up. They felt, well, right. Ergonomic like a European kitchen utensil.

Today I hit the trail for a break in run of just over 13 miles. It’s my typical long run during the week, and it’s about 7 miles shy of what pushes my ability, so I figured it was a safe bet. Here are a few thoughts:

PROS:

  1. Very, very light weight and super breathable.
  2. Solid traction in mud. (And I’m talking West Virginia black tar more slippery than snot mud.)
  3. Sufficient padding so that I didn’t feel like I was beating my knees and shins into pumice. In fact, they seem to have more padding than my Keens.
  4. Thin enough padding that I could feel the rocks under my feet, feeling connected to the trail, but not taking painful blows to my instep.
  5. Drained and dried out well even after running through creeks.

CONS:

  1. The Vibram soles have poor traction on wet, slippery objects like rocks, boards and roots. My instinct tells me that the Vibram recipe on these shoes is geared for mileage, and thus more on the hard side then the sticky side. Additionally the soles have a siping like  texture (thin slits) that probably lack the surface area for good traction on hard surfaces.
  2. Absolutely no cup holders or USB port. None. So…. yeah.

Well, I suppose the ample pros tell the story. I was very pleased with these shoes. I’m sitting here on the couch with my feet propped up and don’t feel any odd aches or pains. I probably should mention that I wore medium cushion merino wool running socks which certainly added some amount of additional cushion. I believe most people roll barefoot in these shoes, or at least that is the designed intent.

They do seem to run a tad long, but not enough to cause trouble. I completely ate dirt towards the end of my run after a toe stub, but I’ve gone down in the same spot with my other shoes… so honestly I think that was due to sloppy footwork brought on by the tired, poor form sprint at the end of my last half mile.

Stay tuned for a long term review.

792.39 miles to go.