The Merrell Ascend Glove Gore-Tex is one of the most impressive barefoot style running shoes that Merrell offer. Described as a plusher, longer distance barefoot model, this is a shoe that is all round more durable and cushioned than a natural road running shoe and yet stays true to its barefoot roots.
The first thing that you notice about the Ascend Glove is the sole. Made from a high quality Vibram rubber compound, the sole is incredibly grippy, yet is also lightweight and flexible. Unlike many trail running shoes with thicker soles, Merrell really seem to have struck a balance between building both as sturdy sole and a wearable sole as running in the Glove feels a lot more natural than running in a conventional trail shoe, despite the heavy duty rubber material sole.
The glove is a shoe that has been built in conjunction with feedback from real trail runners as this model includes a sole that curves around both the toe and heel section of the shoe to give you grip even when you are running on tiptoes or skidding down slopes. Anyone who has ever run over wet rocks will know that at the best of times you might only have a small fraction of your sole connected to the terrain at any one time and so you need to maximise any grip that you can get from that small connection. This really is a shoe that gives all round grip via a proven rubber compound that really means business (thank you Vibram!)
Natural running has taken the running world by storm over the past few years and for good reason. Although not everyone gets along with a minimalist style shoe there are several models that aim to mix both natural running ethos with a practical shoe that is suitable for runner looking to make that first leap into the natural running world. Newton shoes are famed for offering both plush cushioning and a zero heel to toe offset but these are aimed more at speeding along roads as opposed to storming over mountains. The Merrell Ascend Glove on the other hand has been built with the ruggedest of terrain in mind but has also managed to stay true to natural running philosophy. Built with a zero heel to toe offset as well as a sturdy sole means that you are encouraged to land on your mid-foot even when running over rough terrain.
To achieve a Glove-Like Fit a highly supple upper has been developed with two different GORE-TEX®
laminates being combined into one unique lining system. A GORE-TEX® laminate with a soft feel
is applied to panels of the shoe which are more static, whilst a more stretchy GORE-TEX® laminate is
applied to areas of the shoe which move more allowing the shoe to comfortably hug the foot with every
GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort product technology delivers exceptional Climate Comfort by ensuring
the highest levels of waterproof and breathable performance wherever and whenever the shoes are used.
This ideal for moderate and warmer conditions, and great for high aerobic-output activities.
At the heart of this GORE-TEX® product technology is an extremely thin membrane that’s durably waterproof, windproof, and breathable. It has over 9 billion pores per square inch (yes, that’s right!). These pores are 700 times larger than a water vapour molecule which means perspiration passes right through.
The end result is a very high performing shoe that is breathable, dry and windproof as well as being incredibly comfortable to run, walk and train in. Versatility really is the name of the game with this shoe as the Gore construct means that you can wear this shoes in all moderate climates no matter if you are trail running, city running or walking to the shops!
Upper Comfort and Feel
The upper can often make or break a glove style shoe. Sometimes the outer material is so flimsy that the shoes barely survive the trip back from the running store and at other times the material is so stiff that it can feel like you are running in army boots. Merrell have had a tough job with the Ascend as the upper needed to be sturdy enough to resist all that the trail can throw at it as well as not smothering the foot’s natural movement and negating the whole point of the zero mm heel offset. Thankfully Merrell seem to have more or less struck the right balance. Although I have only run 20 miles in the shoe the upper was flexible enough to make the shoe feel like a glove but at the same time protecting my feet from the loose debris the trails have thrown at them.
Overall impression? Comfort-wise the shoe seems to be a winner. A lower heel support means that comfort is improved but at the expense of stability. Then again, if I had have wanted a stable trail shoe I would have opted for one as the main ethos of this shoe is minimalism and flexibility – and that is exactly what you get. I am used to running in natural road running shoes and so making the jump to the Ascend was relatively painless with no rubbing or blisters as one would normally expect with a new shoe. I have even worn these out and about around London as a every day trainer…I just like them that much! The high performing GoreTex material that we have come to know and love provides an incredible amount of moisture wicking, breathability and waterproofing which makes the Ascend an incredibly versatile shoe to run in.
For more information on the Merrell Ascend Gloves, check out the Merrell website