I woke up at 3:00 am the morning of the PCT 50 Mile Ultramarathon and decided to break one of the oldest rules in long distance running. I wore a brand new pair of shoes, right out of the box. A completely untested, never used pair of Merrell shoes that have just been introduced to the market. I removed the paper from the inside of the shoes and slipped them on. They fit like a glove. “This will work”, I muttered, still half asleep. I had run the Lost Boys Desert to Mountain 50 Miler the previous week and my body was still hurting. I knew it had nothing to do with the shoes I had worn in that race but I figured that change would be good so I made this game time decision to wear the untested Merrells. “What better test than 50 miles through the mountains”, I thought to myself.
Race day turned out to be very interesting by Southern California standards. The day before it had snowed above 5000 feet and rained below. Since the race started at 3000 feet and the first 13 miles forces you to climb to 6000 I knew we were going to get a nice combination of snow and slick trail mud. Couple that with endless rocks the PCT doles out and what you have is a real ankle snapper. The Merrell All Out Peak comes equipped with a sticky rubber bottom from Vibram. I have never had a shoe with so much traction that stuck so well on smooth wet surfaces: rock, roads and wooden bridges. It’s Vibram Mega-grip tread pattern should be copied by other brands! The All Out Peak performed like a champ allowing me to glide over the sharp rocks on the PCT the same way I would if I was wearing a Hoka. When the rocks were larger requiring some light bouldering the ALL Out Peak gave me confidence allowing me to practically stick to the rocks. During the last 13 miles of the race the course drops 3000 feet. When your legs are tired that confidence in your footing is of utmost importance and the Merrell delivered. Win #1 for the Merrell, All Out Peak.
One of the attributes that really stuck out to me was the great fit the All Out Peak provided. I am not a newcomer to maximalist shoes. I had the first Hoka Mafate when it came out and also wore the Altra Olympus 1.0 since its inception. The problem I have had with Hoka is the narrowness of the toebox. It is too constricting and if I wear it on long runs or races it typically results in blisters. The Altra Olympus on the other hand is much roomier in the toe box. However, it is roomier in the midfoot and the collar as well! When running uphill my foot almost comes out of the shoe. The fit is so bad in this regard I have resorted to lining the inside of the collar with velcro or moleskin to try to prevent ankle slippage. This even resulted in an injury to a tendon in my anke (Posterior Tibialis) as I was driving up a hill and my foot and ankle kept coming out of the shoe. Who did they build this shoe for, Fred Flinstone? The Merrell All Out Peak has a tremendous fit. While it is roomy in the forefoot it is snug in the midfoot and the ankle collor wraps around your foot and ankle like a good trail shoe should. The wrapping effect of the upper provided a much better all around fit than either the Hoka or the Altra. Win # 2 for the All Out Peak.
The All Out Peak provided 3 attributes that I have been looking for in a shoe.
1. Cushion – While thicker than most traditional trail shoes it is not “clownish” like the Hoka or “snowshoeesque” like the Altra. The cushioning is just right allowing you to run over most rocks that you would have to pick your way through if you were wearing minimalist shoes
2. Fit – The All Out Peak fits like a glove. The collar is snug around your ankle, the upper wraps around your midfoot and the toebox is wide enough to allow for your foot to spread naturally during impact.
3. Traction – The traction is superior. The Megagrip Vibram bottom is sticky yet it does not let mud stick to it! It gives you confidence when running over wet surfaces and also performs well in the street.
For those of you who are into the technical aspects of running shoes here are the specs
6mm drop / 24mm cush / 32mm stack height
6mm lug depth
10.4oz (men’s sample size)
I can’t say that I would have been as confident running a mountain 50 miler in extreme conditions with any other shoe “out of the box”. The All Out Peak is my new go to shoe based on the fit, feel and performance. If you have a problem with the Hokas being too narrow or you blow thorugh them to quickly you need to give the All Out Peak a try. If you have an issue with the Altras being too wide, heel and ankle slippage then you need to give the All Out Peak a try. Or, if you just love shoes and having different shoes in your “quiver” then you will defintely want to add the All Out Peak to your shoe arsenal….it will not dissapoint. My 9th PCT 50 complete….win #3 for the All Out Peak!