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Vibram Fivefingers Trek Ascent Review

The Vibram® Fivefingers® Trek Ascent™ Review

The Trek Ascent™ was originally launched by Vibram® in 2015 and was designed to replace what was the most popular trail shoe in the range at the time, the TrekSport™.

There was much discontent from the barefoot community that the best shoe had been dropped.....but they needn't have worried. This was to become their best selling shoe second only to their biggest seller the KSO EVO™.

The Trek Ascent™ with its striking dynamic treaded sole, out performs its predecessor in almost every respect. The look, the grip, the fastening of the upper for added security, the improved fabric that's more like a "conventional" trainer upper... in our opinion the Trek Ascent™ has become "the" best all round trail shoe in the Fivefingers range.

The Trek Ascent is a minimalist / barefoot running shoe aimed at those who like to go off the beaten track rather than stick entirely to the roads.  It's a cross running shoe if you like. If you're inclined towards hiking or trail running rather than pounding the tarmac, the Trek Ascent is probably the best shoe in the Fivefingers range.

Vibram pitch the Trek Ascent as a 'hiking shoe' and regard the V-Trail™ as the preferred trail running shoe.  But the Ascent fits the bill almost as well.

The V-Trail™ is a great shoe for trail running and dissipates impacts of small stones for example, very well due to its embedded ballistic Nylon™ layer between the sole and foot-bed.

When you're out on the trails in very wet or muddy conditions it's important to feel assured under-foot. The maximum sole thickness of the Trek Ascent is around 9mm with a maximum tread depth of around 6mm which is very similar to the V-Trail and some may argue that is a little too thick to be considered a true barefoot shoe.  

But the reality is when it comes to finding a good solid, reliable barefoot trail shoe there has to be some compromise.  Huge 10mm lugs on a barefoot shoe simply won't work!  Both the Ascent and the V-Trail do the job almost as well as each other but just be prepared to watch your step on the trails.

So let's take a look at 5 things that we love about the Vibram Fivefingers Trek Ascent:

  1. The impressive MEGAGRIP™ sole is a total of 9mm thick including the maximum 6mm treaded cleats and offers superb grip and assured stability on different terrains. It copes well on the trails in all weather, yet the tread isn't overly aggressive meaning you can still use this shoe for road and indoor training too.
  2. Close ankle cuff.  It's annoying getting stuff in your shoes during a walk or run. The cuff goes some way to prevent this ever happening but like everything, it's not perfect.
  3. Quick-drying fabric. The upper is lightweight making it extremely breathable. If you get caught in the rain or across long wet grass, the technical fabric dries very quickly.
  4. The quick-lace system. Familiar across the whole Fivefingers range now, quick lace system with the Velcro tab is perfect and don't come undone.
  5. The look. The Trek Ascent is one of the less garish styles and has an almost acceptable appearance looking sleek and stylish.

The Trek Ascent™ in Summer

Perfect.  The Trek Ascent™ really hits the mark during the warmer, dryer months. The relatively aggressive tread grips the ground in an assured way giving you confidence on any surface.  Winding woodland tracks are no problem as is descending grassy banks keeping you controlled and balanced over rocky outcrops as well.

If you're looking for a minimalist trail shoe for summer, the Trek Ascent™ should be on your go-to choice.

The Trek Ascent™ in Winter

Let's be honest, there is no perfect minimalist shoe for winter. The very nature of barefoot running is to be "minimal" and the low profile of any barefoot shoes means you're always leaving your feet susceptible to water ingress through the fabric of the shoe.

Vibram do have the Trek Ascent™ Insulated in the family billed as a winter shoe. The insulated version of the Trek Ascent is fantastic when it is cold and dry but it's not waterproof and never will be. The thicker wool insulation inside the shoe takes time to dry but they do still provide insulation even when wet.

The Trek Ascent is therefore in our view, the better model even for winter. The lightweight upper fabric won't keep your feet warm on its own but match them up with with a pair of Injinji® NuWool™ Merino Wool Toe Socks and you have effectively created your own "insulated" shoe that's far easier to dry out.

Your feet will remain warm and toasty during your run, the technical fabric of both sock and shoe help to wick moisture off the skin effectively and if your feet get wet, the fabrics are lightweight enough to dry quickly.  

The Trek Ascent™ isn't waterproof and it is all the better for it. So called waterproof shoes often end up wet on the inside anyway either from condensation due to reduced breathability or from water seepage no matter how much Nikwax® you tend to use.

Trek Ascent™ for Walking?

For the seasoned barefoot runner they are perfect.  But many walkers find it hard to walk for miles barefoot. Even in the most minimalist shoe such as the KSO EVO™ or the EL-X™, the impact from heel-striking when walking long distances can be bruising. However, the extra thickness and durability of the Trek Ascent's sole really softens the heel impact making it a fantastic walking shoe without giving up the true barefoot feel and feedback.  

Trek Ascent™ for long-distance running?

The Trek Ascent™ is perhaps the most suitable shoe in the Vibram® Fivefingers® range for long-distance running where the terrain is variable.  The relative cushioning makes it a wise choice for distance running for minimalist/barefoot runners.

Trek Ascent™ for road running?

Yes is the simple answer.  Due to the Trek Ascent's sole tread being not too aggressive, you can use this shoe on the road comfortably. The Trek Ascent™ makes a good hybrid for use on both road and trail.

However, you may want to consider a road specific shoe if the majority of your runs are on the black stiff.  Think of your running shoes as you would a bike. A road bike with its slick tyres and lightweight frame is without doubt best for the road.

Similarly shoes designed for the road generally use lighter fabrics, tend to have less aggressive tread and are faster on tarmac. If you want a road shoe, consider the Vibram® Fivefingers® V-RUN (formerly the Bikila EVO™) which really is a light as a feather and has a cushioned 0° neutral drop sole ideally suited to the streets. The Trek Ascent™ is pitched for on and off-road so think of this shoe like a hybrid bike covering on and off road use.

If you only want one pair of Fivefingers to do (almost) everything.........this is probably it!

Trek Ascent™ in the gym?

Again, the tread is not too aggressive making this a capable shoe for indoor training. However, for a minimalist shoe that is more geared toward indoor use, the KSO EVO™ or the V-Train™ are both much better options.

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