Already a fan of Merrell, (particularly their colour schemes), I was keen to get my hands on their latest creation, the Ascend glove, a minimal trail shoe in collaboration with GORE-TEX.
So what’s special about these? They are designed to provide the most natural feeling possible whilst offering protection on the trail. A glove-like fit created by the ultra light and flexible upper keeps the foots secure with every movement. Natural motion during each stride is encouraged by the minimal construction, allowing the shoe to contour naturally to the foot. GORE-TEX add some weather protection to the mix. The shoes are durable, waterproof, windproof, lightweight and ultra breathable; ideal for most conditions.
On test runs, these faired pretty well. From the offset they felt snug on my foot, a glove-like fit indeed! The shoes are relatively narrow and have a 0mm drop from heel to toe, so will need adjusting to If you’re used to cushioned or structured shoes. If you are new to this style of shoe, get used to walking in them first, then build up the miles slowly on soft surfaces to begin with, combined with plenty of calf stretching to avoid over-stressing your lower legs.
If you're already well rehearsed in a minimal shoe and wish to venture from road to trail, then these shoes are well worth considering. Traction on dirt paths, forest trails and most other surfaces is decent, though you may struggle for grip in really muddy conditions, but then if that's your chosen playground, a different shoe would probably be advisable.
Although minimal, the Vibram sole on these also means they are tough and durable, which helps on uneven or rough terrains. The fit also creates a feeling of stability. Most notably for me was how minimal footwear heightens your running intuition and encourages you to be more aware of your feet; where they land, your cadence, which part of your foot hits the ground first and so forth. The latest from Merrell hasn't failed to maintain their reputation as they continue to rate highly in our books.
See more of Merrell's range here.