Merrell Ascend Glove Trail Shoe Review and Six Pair Giveaway!

Merrell Ascend Glove DirtA few weeks ago I had the opportunity to fly out to Portland, Oregon to attend an insights meeting with Merrell Footwear. Merrell has organized a meeting like this each year for the past 3 years, and they basically invite a collection of individuals throughout the running footwear world to solicit feedback on trends, marketing directions, etc. It’s always a fun event, and it’s a great way to get to know the people behind the brand (they’re a great bunch, and a blast to hang out with!).

At each meeting Merrell typically provides attendees with a pair of one of their new shoes, and this year each of us received a pair of the Merrell Ascend Glove to try out. I’ve now put in about 25 miles on the shoes, mostly on trails, and am ready to render my verdict.

To allay any fears of bias that may taint my review given my relationship with Merrell, I will say that I have not been crazy about some of their recent offerings. I think the Road Glove 2 is a step back from the original, and the Proterra Sport is a nice shoe, but the sole is too stiff for me and as a result my heels got torn up on a hike in the shoes. I like the Bare Access 2, but it’s too firm for me to use it for long distances on the road. In contrast, the Ascend Glove hit a sweep spot for me, and I’ve been absolutely loving it so far.

I’ve seen the Ascend Glove described as the Trail Glove with more cushion and a luggier sole, or as the Bare Access with a rock plate and tread. Both are reasonably accurate descriptions – think of it as a hybrid of the two shoes.

Merrell Ascend Glove Yellow

Merrell Ascend Glove (Gore-Tex version is picture here)

Upper, Fit, and Feel

The fit of the Ascend Glove is classic Merrell – wide in the forefoot, glove-like through the midfoot and heel. Of note is the fact that though there is arch support, it does not feel as intrusive to me as in some of the other Merrell Barefoot shoes. The interior is suitable for sockless running, though as is typical for me with Merrell Barefoot shoes the lack of cushion around the ankle collar means that I get skin-ripping abrasion near my Achilles insertion. Thin socks solve this problem.

IMG_2309[1]

The upper is composed of a double-layer of synthetic mesh – the inner layer has a tighter weave to keep debris out, and the outer layer is more open. The result is a shoe that is highly breathable and that sheds water really well. I did 5 miles on trails with my friend Nate a bit over a week ago and he took me through quite a bit of mud and water. The Ascends let the water flow in, but it flows right back out without issue. Some silt got into the shoes through the weave, but mostly very fine stuff and I didn’t have any issues or discomfort.

The lacing system on the Ascend Gloves uses traditional eyelets rather than the Omni-Fit system featured on the Trail Glove. This will disappoint some, but works fine for me.

One final comment about the Ascend Glove upper has nothing to do with function or performance, but the shoe looks fantastic, probably my favorite Merrell shoe in terms of appearance since the original Trail Glove.

IMG_2312[1]

IMG_2311[1]

Sole

The sole of the Ascend Glove is zero drop with a stack-height of 10.5mm (6mm midsole cushion, the rest is the Vibram rubber outsole). This is slightly less midsole than the Bare Access 2, and as a result the Ascend Glove feels more flexible to me.

The sole incorporates a rock plate in both the forefoot and heel. I’ve run over quite a bit of pointy crushed rock in these shoes and will say that they provide better protection than a thinner-soled minimal shoe, but you will feel rocks if you take a direct hit. That being said, I have not experienced any discomfort running on crushed rock sections of trail. They provide better protection than a shoe like the New Balance MT10, and comparable protection to the Inov-8 Trailroc 235 or Altra Superior.

IMG_2310[1]

Merrell Ascend Glove Sole (yes, I have dogs!)

One of the things I like about the sole is that it is full-contact – no cutout under the arch as in some other Merrell Barefoot shoes. This makes for a very smooth ride. The outsole is luggier than the the Trail Glove, but only slightly so. This is not a mud shoe like an Inov-8 X-Talon, but I have not had traction issues on any of the trails I have run (though admittedly I have not tackled thick mud). The benefit of the flat lug design is that the shoe handles well on roads as well as trails, making it a solid hybrid shoe. The ride on roads is firm, and feels great on softer surfaces.

Performance

As I mentioned at the outset I’ve put in about 25 miles in the Ascend Gloves. They are similar enough to other Merrell shoes that I feel this is sufficient to get a good handle on them, and the experience so far has been very positive. My first run in them was a quick 3-mile trail run out in Oregon, and my immediate reaction was that they were a lot of fun to run in, especially downhill. Very reminiscent of the Inov-8 Trailroc 235. I’ve put in another 10-15 trail miles back in NH, along with 5-10 on the road, and the shoes have handled just about everything well. I even took them along on a camping trip last week and wore them almost exclusively out and about, including a full day at Santa’s Village. They are super comfortable as a casual shoe, and I love their versatility.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a zero-drop trail shoe with a rock-plate and a wide toebox, the Merrell Ascend Glove is definitely a shoe to consider. As mentioned a few times, closest competitors would be the Inov-8 Trailroc 235 and Altra Superior, and maybe the New Balance MT10 (though it lacks a rock plate). The Ascend Glove holds is own with all of these, and in my opinion is the best looking of the bunch (because we all know that’s the reason most people choose a shoe!).

The Merrell Ascend Glove can be purchased at Amazon and Zappos.

Merrell Ascend Glove 6-Pair Giveaway

The folks at Merrell were kind enough to offer up six pairs of Ascend Gloves for a giveaway – 3 for the guys and 3 for the ladies. To enter, simply follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below:

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Pete-
    How do these compare with the Mix Master 2 in terms of cushion/protection? Less? I know they are zero drop vs the MM2′s 4mm drop. I’ve liked my MM2s but am always lured by something new!
    Thanks!

  2. Steve Purcell says:

    For those of us in Europe, I just wanted to note here that a Merrell rep told me the Ascend Glove will be not be available until September, in time for the company’s winter line-up.

    Shame, ‘cos the uppers on my Trailroc 235s are ripping apart after 100 miles on the fells, which makes their £100 price tag seem excessive.

  3. cesalec says:

    I twitterd it directly but it says: “I just entered to win a Garmin Forefunner 10 on @Runblogger! link to runblogger.com… …”

  4. Louise Bourque Cunningham says:

    Great giveaway!

  5. Ian Bucholz says:

    I’m having a hell of a time trying to decide if I should grab a pair of these or the Merrell MM2′s for a 50k trail race I have in October. Currently running in trail gloves, but my feet feel hammered after a rocky 12-15 miles.

    Here in New England there is rocks and roots galore, mostly sharp talus and traprock. I am kind of nervous that the ascend’s will be better, but not quite the protection I need.

    Would you still give the nod to the MM2′s for a tough 50k, or do these trump that?

    • Pete Larson says:

      I’d opt for the MM2 personally, a bit more protection over the long distance.
      Sent from my iPad

  6. Robert Osfield says:

    I just got a pair of F-lite 232 that literately just arrived in the post, and oh boy they are sexy shoes. Zero drop, anatomical last, just 6oz on my scales for my pair of UK 6.5′s. They are much more flexible than the Trailroc’s I’ve had, and have for me perfect amount of cushioning and bounce, in theory they overlap with the Trailroc 235′s but man they are just glorious to put on your feet.

    I mention this as you related the Ascend Glove to the Trailroc 235, but believe you really need to add the F-Lite 232 into the mix as well. You really really need to get a pair, they are the first shoe that I’ve ever got that just gave me a grin from ear to ear when I put them on and took my first jog.

    • Pete Larson says:

      You’re killing me Robert! I was just starting to chip away at my review backlog… Have you tried the Mizuno Cursoris? I have the same feeling about it in roads.
      Sent from my iPad

      • Robert Osfield says:

        I haven’t tried the Mizuno Cursoris, was curious but not enough to risk an online purchase on. My wide feet constrain my shoe choices, and not having any large running shops locally have to resort to online purchases to get the niche shoes that I want.

        The F-Lite 232′s was a bit of punt. I have Trailroc 245 and 255′s, and tried a 235 but had to send back due to a manufacturing fault in the toe box, but I did at least get to try them on and new that I’d get along fine with them, but was surprised that the soles felt quite stiff. My 245′s are worn out with 800 miles on them, and my 255′s while tough as old boots they are a bit warm for summer. So I could have gone for the Trailroc 235′s, but felt like a bit of change from the Trailroc range.

        Th F-Lite 232′s lack the rounded heel of the Trailroc. For me this is a good thing as I’ve found that in wet conditions descending down open hillside can be rather slippery in the Trailrocs. I suspect the F-Lite’s even with their shallow lugs will cut into the ground a bit better.

        The F-Lite 232′s also having less toe spring than the Trailroc’s which puts less pressure on the front of metatarsal heads when just standing around, and as my bout of metatarsalgia hasn’t yet clear up this is great news.

        I have the orange ones and they are pretty lurid, but they look fast, put them on and they feel fast, light, low to ground, perfect fit, flexible, great grip. I was hopeful that they’d be great shoe, but am surprised by reaction, even before I’ve been for a run in them I *know* they are going to be shoe I’ll adore.

        • I tried a pair of the Mizuno Cursoris on and ran in a pair of Mizuno Levitas. I didn’t like the in-step on the Cursoris so I didn’t bother running in them. At first I thought that I liked the Levitas, but after a few runs my ankles started to ache. It turns out that because of the really cushy heel my heels would sink into them causing my ankles to feel as though they were over-flexing. I land mostly forefoot on the outside edge and roll back to my heel before push off (if that makes sense). For comparison’s sake: I tried the New Balance MR00′s in EE and didn’t like the in-step, found the Saucony Virrata’s to be too narrow where the forefoot starts (wanted to love those), The Mizuno Levitas felt perfect in a 12.5 (I normally wear a 13), and the Merrell Bare Access 2 didn’t feel right.

          I’m currently running in the Merrell Road Glove 2′s and they seem to work well for me. It just took a little bit to get the lacing right so that my feet stayed in the ankle more securely without the top of my feet feeling as though there was too much pressure.

        • Steve Purcell says:

          Now that you’ve presumably taken a run in them, what do you think?

          • Robert Osfield says:

            I haven’t yet done proper runs in them I’m currently waiting for a pesky foot injury to heal before I return to training. I can’t wait though, they just scream run, run, as fast as you can you won’t catch me because I’m the gingerbread man ;-)

            I’ll break out of my enforced rest in the next few weeks and then write up a review.

          • Steve Purcell says:

            Thanks – get well soon! I’m thinking the F-Lite 232 might be a good shoe for the Snowdonia Marathon, which is mostly on the road, but has a couple of trail sections…

          • Robert Osfield says:

            I have little doubt it’ll cope just fine with lots of road and little bit of trail, runners have been competing in the old F-Lite’s with the narrow performacne last for years on such terrain combinations.

            The rid is quite firm, with small bounce to them, this help makes them feel fast when running. However, if you aren’t used to a firm ride it might be tough to complete a marathon in them.

            My next race is the Devil O’Highlands 43mile ultra and will probably use my Trailroc 255′s for them as the rock plate might just be important for the rocky bits of the trail. Anything less rocky and shorter the F-Lite will almost certainly be my goto shoe.

            You just have to try them on though, if you do and they fit I’m pretty sure you’ll end up buying them!

          • Steve Purcell says:

            Well, I ran last year’s Snowdonia Marathon in Bare-X 180s, so firmness isn’t an issue, but I’d like a bit more protection this time round. :-) I can afford to wait a while for a good price to appear, but yes, I’ll probably try a pair!

          • Robert Osfield says:

            It’s a no brainer then, you’ll love um.

            I get my from sportsshoes.com for £84, but this was with an extra 20% discount – unfourtnately that deal ran out at the end of June.. now they are back up at £98.

          • Pete Larson says:

            Is sportsshoes.com a good retailer? They just contacted me about an affiliate relationship. Trying to add more non-US options since 40% of my traffic is from overseas

          • Robert Osfield says:

            I would describe sportsshoes.com as low cost rather than high quality service.

            Back in the sping I had a bit of saga with them sending me a faulty Trailroc 235 (the toe box upper was pucked at pushed down on the big toe), I returned it and got a replacement right away – but it was *exactly* the same same shoe. I sent it back and got a refund, no questions asked but also no appology…

            The saga continued with another retailer that sent me a Trailroc 245 with a faulty pucked toe box, just pucked over the third toe this time. They refunded but only once they had returned the shoe for Inov-8 to confirm that it was classified as a fault rather than “within” manufacturing tolerance.

            Buying stuff online is lottery, especially it seems with the Trailroc line that clearly has some manufacturing fault and Quality Assurance issues at their manufacturing facilities.

            I’m a sucker for a bargin, and can’t get shoes that I want from any of the local running shops so am stuck shopping online for niche shoes. In the UK sportsshoes.com do regularily have the lowest cost shoes for a given type, while I really didn’t want to return business after their f*ck up with the returns it’s hard to ignore being 20% cheaper thanks to discounts. If decent running shoes cost less this would be critical, but with them retailing at £100 it’s a hard to justify buying them. If I had narrower feet I could probably get away with cheaper shoes like the MT110′s but with my hobbit feet I’m stuck with the one of the few lasts that fit – so far that’s seems to be just the Inov-8 Natural/Anatomical and Vivobarefoot last.

          • Pete Larson says:

            Thanks for the info Robert!

            —-
            Pete Larson’s Web Links:
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          • Mal Lau says:

            Pete, long-time reader from Australia. Any chance, you have or will have, in the future affiliate relationships for us down here?

          • Pete Larson says:

            Would love to, who are the major online retailers for running stuff in Australia?

            —-
            Pete Larson’s Web Links:
            -My book: Tread Lightly: link to ow.ly
            -Blog: http://www.runblogger.com
            -Twitter: link to twitter.com
            -Facebook Page: link to facebook.com
            -Discussion Forum: http://www.runblogger.com/forum

  7. I have run a lot of miles with both the new Ascend Glove and the TrailRoc 245, mostly on the rocky trails above Boulder, so thought I’d put in my own 2-bits.

    The 245 has a touch more protection for pointy rocks, though it’s pretty much a wash between the two shoes. I’d imagine the 235 could be an even closer comparison.

    The 245 has somewhat better rock traction so is the better shoe for crossing/climbing boulder fields. The Trail Glove is my all-time favorite shoe for the foot-hugging shape of it’s last, but I feel that the 245 holds onto the back-end of my foot slightly better than the Ascend Glove. The Ascend glove is a good, flexible shoe, but I can’t seem to secure the heel down like I can with the trail glove.

    I really do like the Ascend glove, but am not sure yet if I can trust it for ultra-distances, though I did make it through a 15-mile mountain run without any real foot problems. It does appear to be holding up better than the 245 though – the toe on the Innov-8 is starting to separate from the upper. Merrell build quality is pretty hard to beat.

  8. Pete, how does the ascend glove compare in sizing against the original trail gloves? (I am a US9 in the TG).

  9. Hi Pete, after reading this review I went for the Ascend gloves and love the fit and feel of them they just seem to, well, fit like a glove. They have a great combination of low stack height coupled with a great combination of ground feel and just enough cushioning. I tried the NB MT10v2, but they were a little lacking in general traction and not as roomy up front. However, the only criticism I have of the Merrell’s is that they cannot cope with the worst of what UK winters throw at it. They are great all rounder, but cannot cope with muddy conditions. Could you advise of something with a similar fit (roomy toe box), weight & feel, but with a more aggressive lug pattern? Oh and whether to size up or down based on your recommendations! I did look at the Walsh PB Elite Racer, but I cannot find many detailed reviews.

    • Roomy toebox with big lugs is the tricky part. Things that come to mind as luggy shoes are the Inov-8 X-Talon line, Salomon Fellraiser/Fellcross, La Sportiva Anaconda, but not sure how wide the toeboxes are on those. The Inov-8 Baregrip and Vivobarefoot Neo Trail may have roomier toeboxes and are luggy, but lack of any cushion could be an issue. The New Balance Trail Zero v2 may fit the bill for what you are looking for but not out yet: link to youtube.com

      • Ohhh! Those NB’s might just be what I am after. Lightweight, low stack height, some cushioning and big lugs. I tried some Inov-8 Roclites, but found them a little restrictive. I look forward to a review.

  10. Mark Hewitt says:

    Have been looking at the Merrell Ascend Glove
    these can be bought at moment for £50 inc postage direct from Merrell UK. Thanks Pete for your great work! It is hard work trying to find ‘the shoe’ which best fits your gait, biomechanics and sense of proprioception. Many thanks, Mark

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