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on June 9, 2013
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of these for a couple of months now. I fell in love with the original Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves soon after trying them out and put well over 500 miles on them over the last 5 months or so. However I began graduating to longer distances and rougher terrain and began seeking out shoes with a bit more padding and protection. I originally opted for the Inov-8 Trailroc 235s because these had yet to come out. Unfortunately those really caused me a lot of foot pain and I couldn't avoid blisters in them despite using duct tape and 2 pairs of socks.

Once I learned about these I was only too happy to throw my Inov-8s behind. After breaking them in for a week (I know I was glutton for punishment) I ran my first 50k over a very rocky and muddy course. I honestly couldn't believe how well they performed. I didn't have a single blister at the end of the race and experienced no discomfort whatsoever. I utilized no pre-blister treatment before or during the race, just one pair of injinji trail socks and I was set for the whole race (which took a staggering 7:26 thanks to some muddy conditions).

In all fairness they do have a small downside in that they lack some traction that other shoes in this class have. But given how comfortable they are and how well they fit compared to some of those other shoes in that class it's really a no-brainer for me.

In summary, if you've enjoyed the Merrell Trail Gloves or M-Connect series and are looking for something a bit tougher or with a bit more cushioning; these are the EXACT shoes for you.

Update 3/19/14:

Ended up using these for a cold marathon in late October in Canada and was still thoroughly impressed with the comfort they provided. I dislike running on pavement and yet I had no problem finishing despite being out there for 4+ hours.

With regards to a couple reviews saying they fall apart; I've had no such problems. When I take them off they are usually caked in mud and grit but I haven't seen any significant signs of wear.

So supremely satisfied with these shoes after searching for a long time that I'll probably end up stocking up on them should they ever be discontinued.
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on September 7, 2013
I've had my ascend gloves for a while now and really like their wide forefoot fit. The sole is much grippier than Merrell's trail glove and affords much more protection from rocks and roots while still keeping a nice minimal feel. The one MAJOR drawback is the durability of the upper. I have minimal sole wear, but the uppers are already falling apart. They are made of a flimsy, cheap looking mesh that is at its weakest on either side of the forefoot. Whether you under or overpronate these uppers are likely to blow out.

I really don't know what Merrell's designers were thinking with these uppers. With a more durable design these would be the perfect trail shoe for me.
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on May 20, 2014
This is my second pair of Merrell Trail-Running shoes, and I'm now fully convinced that these are not really shoes, but the remolded and chopped off feet of wizards. They fit my foot perfectly, I barely even feel like I'm wearing shoes (which in turns makes me more mischievous), and I swear that if I tried hard enough, I could probably levitate. 5 stars.
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on September 10, 2013
I love Merrells! I have been wearing Merrells for 12 to 14 years for work and play. Decided to take a chance on the new ascends for trail running and they did not disappoint great traction when climbing or descending. Very grippy when jumping from rock to rock.
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on August 28, 2014
I got these and immediately did a Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire. This is roughly 25 miles of rugged trails, often on sharp boulders. These shoes were awesome. My feet were barely sore at all at the end of this trip. These have a "rock plate" in the front half of the shoe and in the back half of the shoe, allowing the shoe to bend in the middle. As long as you land on the balls of your foot or your heel, you are protected from the sharp rocks.

The shoe fits as expected. I wear a size 13 and my right foot is slightly larger than my left foot. I usually have problems with my right foot hitting the ends of the shoe when I go downhill. Not with these shoes. The toe box on these is huge. I did not hit the end once on my whole trip. There is also room side to side. I even had a pair of light smartwool socks on. The rest of the shoe is tight to you foot.

My feet took a dunk at one section and got wet in the toe box. These shoes offer tons of ventilation and were dry within the hour. You do not need waterproof shoes if they dry this fast.

The one con I can say is for durability. The foam along the sole is already all torn up from hiking. Also where the sole meets the upper on the heel is coming detached already. I believe this is from dragging the back of my foot on some rocks, however they seem less durable than my last pair of Merrell Moabs. Time will tell how they hold up.

All in all a great shoe for hiking. I have not tried running yet, but they seem like any other minimalist shoe. They are a little heavy, but they offer great foot protection. I also got a great deal on them (under $40), so well worth the money.
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on November 10, 2013
I've been using Merrell's minimal running shoes for about three years. I used them for training and running two marathons. I have not had a single blister. This is the third pair I bought mainly for winter conditions. The first time I put them on for a day long hiking, and they worked well.
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on August 20, 2014
I bought these because they were the shoe I thought had everything I was looking for to wear at the next Spartan Race. I wanted 0 drop, minimalist shoes but with a thick enough sole to offer some protection from the rough terrains.

PROS:

- The sole is thick enough to provide good protection but it's still light and thin enough to feel the ground under your feet
- They drain water extremely well, even when completely submerged in water they don't "splosh" after
- 0 drop if you are looking for that
- Very comfortable to wear

CONS:

- Absolutely NO traction when wet
- The sole holds onto mud and doesn't let go, furthering the traction problem
- Debris seems to go into the shoe fairly easily, even when running in paved roads it seems like little rocks somehow magically make their way into the shoe

I wore these to a Spartan Sprint and Beast in Kualoa ranch and it was the worst shoe I could have worn. I have never had trouble getting out of the mud pits before but this time it felt like I was wearing skates. I had to get help a couple of times otherwise I'd probably still be in there. When climbing over walls I had to use momentum to get my feet over because pushing off the wall was pretty much impossible. Forget rope climbs, I couldn't get a lock on the rope and I was one of the first few heats so the rope was still fairly clean and dry.

Then there was the insanely slippery muddy climb of the Beast loop. I had an extremely hard time getting my way up there, every step felt like I was skating and as the shoes grabbed on to the mud it got even worse. The worst part of course was when it was time to come back down, it rained during the race and it was muddier and more slippery than the way up. These shoes offered no help at all, like I said before it was like skating.

In case anyone is thinking "but these shoes aren't meant for those conditions," they couldn't handle grass either. With a very light misty rain going downhill on grass was horrible, every other step was a slip. I will say these conditions were probably a bit of an extreme but for a trail running shoe I would expect it to handle minimally wet grass and some mud well, or at least allow me to walk through it without slipping every other step.

The only reason I give them three stars is because I'm keeping in mind that these were very extreme conditions and they are comfortable shoes. But, wearing them and walking on a slightly wet stall mat also becomes interesting, so maybe it's not just the extreme conditions.
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on March 24, 2014
Coming from the OG trail glove, which I run in exclusively, I was very pleased. There was nothing to get used to or tweak with these. My running terrain is usually very rocky and steep and I appreciated the couple extra millimeters of cushion on these, big difference. We will see how long they last. So far good shoes.
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on August 21, 2014
Just want to write this so people who are wondering about the shoe size as I couldn't readily find it in the feedback or questions. The size is at least half a size larger than your normal size. I am a size 8. I usually order a size 8.5 for a little room and comfort. I have the New Balance minimalist shoe and 8.5 fits me quite comfortably. With this in a size 8, it feels a lot looser than the NB in 8.5 size. So just a heads up for people who like this shoe and weren't sure about what size to order. Either order your size if you like it loose or a half a size smaller if you want it to fit better.

As for the shoe, it is quite comfortable and lives up to the reputation of Merrell. Haven't worn them long enough to give you a informative review. I will get my chance as I bought this for my 2 months trip backpacking through Vietnam. In comparison to my New Balance Minimalist shoe, it has more padding and a little heavier. I hurt my toe so the padding will help me a little better. Both has wider toe for people with big feet like me. Will update more when I get back from Vietnam in 2 months.
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on June 6, 2014
Unlike vibram 5 fingers, these "barefoot" shoes pretty much require socks due to stitching at the instep that will rub you raw if you don't. That's why I didn't give these shoes 5 stars. Other than that these are great shoes so far.
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