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From the moment I received the shoe (May 22, 2013) I was enamored with the bright Racer Blue color. Once I actually touched them I was in love. I can really see this shoe being a big part of my rotation. The toughness and protection of the soles and the great fit and support of the upper, roomy toe area, low cut heel. All of this providing the freedom of movement and confidence needed in an all terrain running shoe.
The biggest eye catcher is the Vibram sole- a great pattern rounded with the contour of the shoe, the lugs are close enough to allow a great grip on almost anything, yet far enough apart and shaped in such a way that small rocks and grit doesn’t stick. For those who know me, I complain about the crushed gravel I run on frequently- the bits wedge in the sole of many shoes, most recently the Saucony Virrata. I have, however, always been quite pleased with the soles of the Merrell line. They seem to be attentive to the outdoors in general.
The midsole is a 0mm drop, 10.5mm stack height providing 6mm of what they are calling “cush” for a reasonable level of protection in ordinary situations. There is also what Merrell calls a TrailProtect pad in the forefoot AND HEEL for more support on rough terrain. This is awesome protection from the occasional sneaky sharp stone underfoot.
The insole is a built in sock liner that basically provides a smooth surface for the foot. I use either the Balega or Injinji thin type socks myself although many go with naked feet. With the gravel surfaces I complain about a thin sock keeps me from the irritation I don’t need.
The mesh upper is really cool. There seems to be a variety of densities with the mesh. A very tight knit around the heel, loosening up along the sidewalls where the impregnated straps are located, this seems to really open up the ventilation potential. The toe area is again a tighter knit, but tighter still at the contact points with the toe box and lacing system. This integrated system provides an amazingly secure feeling in the mid foot whilst letting my heels and toes act naturally- thank you Merrell!
I am a big fan of the low heel collar and fit in the Merrell M-Connect series for sure. Not having the edges rubbing my ankles in any way, feeling sort of loose yet supported laterally. Damn fine set up I say.
The mesh upper really allows the toes to breathe, flex, spread out and live the good life. Having that kind of freedom truly allows a better fit and a responsive feel. I think if more runners experienced that, they would demand it from every manufacturer in at least a few models. The old style squeeze play on the forefoot is very difficult to get accustomed to once you’ve been set free in this way.
The tongue is a full length variety, secured above the toes at the base of the lacing system. This might be the only part I’m a bit concerned about. Reaching in and feeling around the base of the tongue it is sewn in but also has a flared portion of material glued to the upper. I noticed the sticky edges and without any effort whatsoever I was able to sort of peel it back and re-stick it. Having run in them I haven’t noticed anything askew so far, once they get wet, dirty and such I sure hope that this stays stuck or I can see this possibly being an annoyance in a big way. Fingers crossed.
The lacing system is the same as the Road Glove 2 and the Bare Access 2 that I currently run in. I really like the way they fit. I don’t use the last hole at the top because I like the freer feel, but I do swing my laces through the little “M” tab at the top- it just makes me feel good ( amirite?).
Well, if you haven’t yet noticed I’m impressed with the shoe. I love to run (right?), so using these shoes makes it so I can really just run. The extra protection and grip in the sole is SO appreciated. I feel like the Merrell folks read my mind recently. I mean in almost every instance I can get by with the Trail Glove 2, Road Glove 2 or the Bare Access 2 and I have for many miles. However, having the ability to just let fly without worrying about anything on rough terrain is a beautiful thing.
My pair has only about 70 miles on them so far. I have used them on the crushed gravel surfaces flawlessly, trails, grass, dirt of all kinds. The run up to and from on paved roads for a few miles is also smooth and comfortable. In a month or so, I will be spending a few weeks running on rough mountain trails robust with skree and other challenging surfaces. I will update this post upon my experiences there.
Although I wouldn’t want to waste those sweet Vibram nuggets on pavement- it works. This new Merrell Ascend Glove is a winner, folks!