Friday, 11 October 2013

Merrell Ascend Glove GTX review

CavemanClarke has had the opportunity to try the new waterproof Ascend Glove GTX (Goretex version) trail running shoes from outdoor brand Merrell. In the past, Merrell has produced some fantastic trail running products, leading the way with trail blazing shoes such as the Merrell Trail gloves; an innovation in the minimalist and barefoot community, allowing the runner to tackle technical terrain with confidence whilst still being able to run naturally and feel the ground beneath their feet. The most recent and exciting addition to Merrell's trail running arsenal is the release of the Ascend Gloves. Available in a Gore-Tex and non-Gore-Tex version, they cater for a variety of weather conditions and requirements.

After already being incredibly impressed with the standard model, I was really excited to see the difference and versatility of the Gore-Tex version. To see my extensive review of the standard non-Gore-Tex Ascend glove follow this link:

So, in true CavemanClarke fashion, let me start you off with a close look at the Merrell Ascend Glove GTX:

To start you off, as I did with the other Ascend Glove last month, here is what Merrell write about them:

Cushioned for longer runs with waterproof and breathable fabric to keep your feet dry, this barefoot running shoe stays true to your natural stride through the thick of it. Charge over mountains and through creeks and rocky terrain with its aggressive, grabby lug design and TrailProtect pad for extra off-road support.

• Fabric and synthetic upper  • MotionMesh engineered for optimal breathability and range of motion  • GORE-TEX® ConnectFit delivers amazing glove-like fit, exceptional breathability and waterproof performance.  • M-Select FRESH naturally prevents odor before it starts for fresh smelling feet 

MIDSOLE/OUTSOLE  • 0mm Drop / 6mm Cush / 10.5mm Stack Height  • TrailProtect pad in the forefoot and heel offers additional support for the roughest terrain  • Non-marking outsole  • Vibram® outsole


To help you understand how these shoes perform I will score them 1 - 10 (1 = low, 10 = high) on the following categories which encompass a good minimalist shoe, giving them a score out of 100:

1) Weight
2) Ground feel
3) Protection
4) Natural foot position
5) Natural shape of foot
6) Comfort
7) Grip/Traction
8) Durability/Quality
9) Pricing
10) Design

Please note: 
1) As these shoes are a Gore-Tex version of the standard model, those of you who have read my previous review on the Merrell Ascend Glove will notice some parts of this review are the same as my previous review as these aspects do not change between the two versions, but I want all the information available on both reviews for those who have not read the previous review.
2) The Gore-Tex is used to keep feet dry and warm, and therefore a lot of wearers will choose to wear these with socks. I wear a UK size 10 in Merrell shoes as I usually do not wear socks when I run, but in the case of these shoes I went up a half-size to a UK 10.5 so I could wear them with socks, as I see these as winter and colder weather runners and would therefore like the option of keeping my feet warmer with socks. 

1) Weight: 9/10
These shoes weigh in at 280g for a UK10.5. They are marginally heavier than the standard versions as the addition of the Gore-Tex adds a few grams. Also, if like me you wanted to size up to accommodate wearing socks, the addition of the extra material used to size up adds a few more grams, as does the socks you are wearing. Therefore, I did notice a weight increase when wearing these and they therefore are not as light and agile feeling as their non-Gore-Tex brothers.

2) Ground Feel: 7/10
The Ascend Glove contains a Trail protection plate in the forefoot and heel sections of the Vibram outsole to improve comfort on longer runs over more technical terrain. The lugs are more aggressive than on previous models to improve grip over a variety of conditions and surfaces and there is 2mm more cushioning in the Ascend Glove (6mm total) over the Trail Glove (4mm total) therefore leaving the foot a little higher off the ground. The total stack height is 10.5mm. Therefore, what you gain in grip and protection you lose in ground feel. This being said I am very happy with the level of ground feel in the Ascend Glove, and it is more than welcome on longer runs on rocky surfaces and terrains.

3) Protection: 8/10
The protection provided by the sole is an ideal balance, leaving enough ground feel to feel confident your feet know what they are running over. Where the Ascend Glove loses a couple of points is in the upper. Although the upper is lightweight and breathable as I will discuss later in the review, it lacks some protection in the main sections of the uppers; the sides and above the toes are left a little exposed to sharp sticks and vegetation poking into the foot. But this is only likely on certain terrain types through fields and forest so is a minor point really.

The waterproof protection offered through the incorporation of the Gore-Tex 'ConnectFit' into the Ascend Gloves is brilliant. The 100% waterproofing is provided by two types of Gore-Tex; thinner and flexible Gore-Tex 'Jazz' in the areas of the shoe that need to bend and flex more and stronger Gore-Tex 'Stride' along the sides and all other areas which need less flex and more protection. I have had no water leakage and the breathability is good for a waterproof product.

4) Natural foot position: 10/10
When something is ideal, that is all there is to be said really! The heel-toe drop, or differential as you may have heard it called is 0mm leaving the foot in its natural position to work as efficiently as it can. Perfect.

5) Natural shape of foot: 10/10
The fit of these shoes is amazing for me. The forefoot is wide and allows natural toe-splay, the midfoot sits snug and the heel is comfortably held firm into the shoe. I have not wished it to be any wider or narrower and I feel it allows my feet to work in their natural unhindered form and way.

6) Comfort: 7/10
No blisters, no movement inside the shoe, no hot or sore spots. I wear them with socks and have found them to be extremely comfortable straight out of the box. This is a must for me as shoes that start uncomfortable very rarely 'wear in' and remain somewhat uncomfortable. The lacing system holds the foot in well and prevents movement within the shoe, and allows for adjustment across different parts of the foot. The points lost is due to the slightly loose fit around the ankle and the loss of breathability due to the Gore-Tex lining. This lining, although efficiently completely waterproofing the foot up to nearly the ankle, it does leave your feet feeling sweaty and hot, and should a puddle splash or exceed the height of the lining, the whole foot becomes wet. With the standard shoe this water quickly makes its way out of the shoe through the uppers, and your feet dry out in no time at all. With the Gore-Tex lining, any water that enters the shoe will remain in there for a long time, unable to escape, usually for the rest of your run.

7) Grip/Traction: 8/10
The Ascend Glove grips fantastically on dry and wet rocks, dirt tracks, compressed trails, forest trails, roads and grass. Where it loses a couple of points is in the same category most minimalist shoes fall short; wet and muddy conditions. I don't see how this individual shoe could be improved in this way as it would make it a different shoe altogether if you put large studs on it like the Salomon Fellcross or Inov-8 Baregrip 200/X-Talon-190, but I would like to see Merrell produce a mud/fell version of the Ascend Glove.

8) Durability/Quality: 9/10
The seamless and stitchless motion-mesh upper material is pure quality! It moves from large weave holes to tight weave holes where needed around the foot. In places where air and breathability are needed the weave is larger, allowing greater air flow. But where the shoe needs more durability the weave becomes tighter and tougher. Genius!!! After a fair few km the shoes show no signs of wear on the upper or the Vibram outsole. The toe cap protects the toes and front of the shoes from damage and the upper seems pretty resilient to breakdown. The only reason I have deducted a point is the lack of protection for the upper in the metatarsal flex points where most shoes rip and fail first. I would have liked to see the toe protection continued around the side a little more to protect the upper from debris and rips. Apart from this minor point the Ascend Glove is a quality product all round.

9) Pricing: 7/10
At £125 for the Gore-Tex version these are a very expensive pair of running shoes, especially as they are so minimal. It always surprises me the cost of minimalist shoes, but Merrell have priced themselves alongside other companies producing products of a similar type. My problem is not with Merrell's pricing, but rather the pricing of the whole minimalist shoe industry. Still, they are not as expensive as some Vibram FiveFingers or Salomon S-Lab products, so they sit around the right price in their market.

10) Design: 9/10
This is purely a matter of opinion I know, but a descent looking shoe screams for you to take it out on the trails! I give the Merrell Ascend Glove 9/10 as I think they are a very good looking shoe, however I don't think they are the best looking shoe on the market. I prefer the look of a more aggressive trail shoe, but this is only my opinion I know. You make your own mind up whether you love the look of this shoe or not, but in the end, it performs extremely well, and that is what really matters.


These are another fantastic product from a top brand manufacturer. I do, however, prefer the cheaper and lighter non-Gore-Tex Ascend Gloves that I have now been running in the past few months. The ability to keep cool feet in hotter weather and to run through water of any depth and know the shoes will allow quick drainage is important to me. Also, the standard model allows a much freer feeling when running which is another plus for me. 

But, I do think that these shoes have an important role to fulfil. On recent cold and damp mornings with dew present on all the surrounding long grass and vegetation, these Gore-Tex trail runners have allowed me to nip out walking or running on well known trails without deep water and to keep warm and dry feet all the way round. Now that is something that many runners will be looking for!

So the decision you need to make is this; do you want a light, fast and breathable trail runner capable of most terrain and weather conditions or do you need a waterproof, warm and comfy winter running version for trails you know won't have deep water? The combination of the standard and Gore-Tex versions of the Ascend Glove cover both these bases, so if you have the funding I would recommend the combination of the two. If, like the majority of us, funding is a little tighter than simply allowing you to go out and buy two pairs of premium trail shoes, I would have to lean towards the non-Gore-Tex version. However, if you are after getting yourself a warm and waterproof winter runner I would have no hesitation in recommending the Merrell Ascend Glove GTX.

Happy running, any questions or comments feel free to do so below.


  1. Hello Caveman, what a great Blog, thank you very much for your reviews and your other thoughts, very helpfull!

    Happy running
    Omar from Hamburg/Germany