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8.0 oz | 0mm drop | $120 | merrell.com
The Dirt: Designed to be worn with or without socks, the zero-drop Ascend Glove sports a highly breathable upper, and is machine washable for easy care.
It improves on previous renditions of the Glove series with additional midsole material and protection, as well as a wider toebox.
For $160, a Gore-Tex version is available.
Best For: Short runs—on trail or road—where ground feel is a priority. Said one tester, “Good shoes for playful recovery runs or wanting to fine tune a stride.”
Traction: The versatile lugs lend confidence on everything from soft earth to hardpack to slick rock.
Fit: True to size, with a medium-to wide-fitting toebox that allows toes to splay out.
The Downsides: Lack of rock plate or significant cushioning, especially in the heels, left this shoe unsuited for longer runs on rocky terrain.
Tester-Monial: “I feel like a billy goat in these shoes—wore them on steep scrabbly downhills and never worried about losing grip.” –Elizabeth Kimble, Fort Smith, AR