Merrell All Out Peak Review

Merrell is by far the most often seen trail shoe brand on the Taiwanese market, both in stores and on the trails. With more than 15 shoe designs Merrell isn’t shy to release new models that might cater to the current running trend. Released in October 2015, the All Out Peak is Merrell’s contribution to oversized, ultra distance shoe category with its additional padding and rugged design. It has met the market with positive reviews and is currently the top Merrell shoe on the popular running shoe website Run Repeat, piquing my interest that this could be the perfect ultra-trail shoe.

20160208_112714Merrell has, unfortunately, never been my favorite brand. Their minimalist shoes seem to be too barefoot for comfort or protection, and their more highly cushioned shoes seem rigid, not giving me enough ground feel or flexibility. So, what is it about the All Out Peak that tempted me to part with my hard-earned cash and give them another try?

For me, the perfect ultra-trail shoe has some cushion underfoot and should be able to lock down my mid-foot, leaving me enough room for my toes while not allowing my foot to move back and forth  too much. Given that trail in Taiwan is technical (roots, rocks and other unforgiving debris), I am willing to sacrifice a bit of ground feel for protection. Lastly, my shoes must be ready for all sorts of terrain – trail in Taiwan is really mixed, so this must be one versatile shoe.

Featuring a 6mm drop, 19 – 25mm cushioning, a new “Hyperwrap 360 degree” lacing system, and a Vibram outsole, the All Out Peak seemed to be the perfect fit. Trying it on in store, I found it to be roomy enough for my toes (I even had to size ½ down), the cushion was great, and the lacing secure.[1] Style-wise, the colours didn’t really play into my tastes[2] and the sides of the outsole are reminiscent of icing on the side of a cake, but $120[3] later they were on my feet and ready for their first trail run.

The HyperWrap lacing encourages midfoot secureness and includes tongue gauze to prevent pebbles from slipping into the shoePer first impressions, the cushioning and lacing system performed perfectly on the trail. On long runs, I’ve never had to re-lace or worry about my toes, and the protection is unstoppable. As with most shoes with a higher stack height, the cushion does sacrifice a lot of ground-feel, and responsiveness is similarly moderate. Both of these are non-issues in this shoe and ensure comfort for an ultra-length run. Flexibility of this shoe also takes a hit, typical for a shoe of this stack height, but luckily, the “Hyperwrap” lacing system ensures that the shoe moves well with the foot and doesn’t sacrifice agility. All of while not severely affecting weight (M: 295g/10.4oz, W: 244g/8.6oz).

6mm lugs offer great traction on varied terrain and a long lifespan for the All Out PeaksWhat really takes the cake for me though, is the Vibram sole. It grips everything, hard or soft, dry or wet. Given the large lug size and high quality, I’m not even afraid of running generous sections of road in them seeing as the 6mm lugs don’t show much wear or cause any discomfort.

Longer runs, unfortunately, did reveal a darker side to the All Out Peak: heel blistering. Flat or downhill sections aren’t an issue, but inclines that shift your body weight to the back of the shoe can cause serious rubbing. I’ve tried different lacing strategies and socks, all to no avail. Could this be a throwback to my aforementioned problem with Merrell’s rigidity? Granted, it could just be me, but I had to dock them serious points for this – especially when faced with Taiwan’s undulating terrain.

With all this in mind, what kind of trail would I choose the Merrell All Out Peak for? Well, ironically, not ultra, the blistering is just too much. I’m most likely to take these on a easy paced training run (<2 hours) during a high mileage week. Although I won’t be tackling serious hills in these, it’s nice to have a highly cushioned, durable shoe that will crush any type of terrain as part of my collection.

Has anyone else tried the All Out Peak? With its protection, grip, and comfort, it’s a pretty perfect shoe for just getting into ultra-trails, if your heels can handle it.

Pros: Durability, quality, traction, weight, cushion, lacing system, large toebox, versatility

Cons: Flexibility, overall comfort

Best for: Training, high mileage. Could be good for ultra racing, depending on overall fit.

[1] As you can see in the pictures, I recently switched out the laces for some locally-made quick laces for added convenience. All comments regarding comfort and fit are equally applicable to the original laces that came with the shoe.

[2] Merrell just this past week expanded their original three colours to six for men and to four for women.

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