Merrell continues to invest in their women’s-specific line, including with the updated Merrell Antora 2 ($110) and Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex ($140). This is great news for the trail running women of the world!
I had my first — and very positive — experience with Merrell trail running shoes a little over a year ago with the Merrell MTL Long Sky which I reviewed. At that time, Merrell had joined forces with mountain athlete Anna Frost to create a high performing trail shoe specially designed for women’s feet and biomechanics. Merrell had also just released the women’s-specific Antora around the same time, and collaborated with Trail Sisters and Banshee Artwork artist Sarah Uhl for a unique design. I loved this concept. Now, Merrell has released the Antora 2, the second version of this model. A wide variety of colors are again available, including another featured-artist collaboration.
This is one of those shoes you can take out of the box, pop on your feet, and go run just about however far you’d like. There are a few tweaks I’d make here and there, but I was quite pleased with the lack of a break-in period for a “moderately supportive” shoe and was able to test them thoroughly on various trails and in all types of weather throughout the Colorado Front Range and in our high country. I love that Merrell is offering the same shoe in both a regular and wide option with no up-charge for the increased width, as well as offering the Gore-Tex regular and wide option. This is something I hope we see more of in the trail running shoe industry, as a wider variety of fit options in the same shoe equals more happy runner feet!
Though the Antora 2 is a bit heavier than its predecessor, the shoe feels pretty light and agile for it’s 9-ounce (270 grams) weight in the women’s size 7 and for the amount of protection and traction offered. According to Merrell, the weight is the same in the regular and wide width of the Antora 2; interestingly, the Antora 2 Gore-Tex purportedly weighs the same in both widths as well. I tested both the standard and Gore-Tex versions, and the only way I could tell what was on my feet was the color and waterproofing, so if there is any difference in weight, it’s very subtle.
Both models have my preferred 8-millimeter drop with the same offset of 28.5mm in the heel and 20.5mm at the toe. Surprisingly good traction is provided via the same 5mm-deep multidirectional lugs in both models, which really broadens the usability of these shoes over a wide range of terrain and conditions.
Men, or those who prefer a men’s fit, the parallel shoe you’re looking for is the Merrel Nova 2 ($110) and Merrell Nova 2 Gore-Tex ($140) in both regular and wide widths. The design, construction, technical features, fit, and specifications are similar, meant to be the directly compatible option. Like the women’s Antora 2, the Nova 2 has a wide variety of colors and also feature an artist collaboration print option.
A note on sizing, I wear the same size in Merrell as I do in La Sportiva, which is at the upper end of my size range in my quiver of shoes (9.5 in Merrell and La Sportiva being equal to Salomon’s 8.5). I chose the regular width which I found to be just fine.Shop the Women's Merrell Antora 2 Shop the Women's Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex
Merrell Antora 2 and Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex Upper
The upper of the Merrell Antora 2 and Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex are nearly identical in both look and feel. Like the Merrell MT Long Sky, it has a semi-curved last with moderate toe box volume in the regular width. On prolonged and steeper downhills, I found myself wishing for just a bit more room at the third through fifth toe zone as the curvature here encroaches a bit on my toes — it’s not an overall length or size issue but rather a curve problem. It would likely only take a few millimeters more length in that portion of the forefoot or a degree or two less curvature to eliminate my issue. I’d hesitate to try the wide option as the rest of the shoe fits perfectly. Thankfully, I didn’t have any issue with abrasion to the tops of my toes even when I over-grip on sketchier descents, so the overall volume of the toe box is adequate for my feet and style of running. Both versions of the shoe hug my midfoot nicely once laced, and the snug heel cup with the well-padded ankle collar and Achilles notch are perfect for keeping my foot and ankle bones comfortably and securely on the shoe even in rocky and off-camber lines.
The upper is constructed with breathable mesh in the midfoot and forefoot, with further support and structure provided by thin TPU overlays in the familiar Merrell web pattern. These integrate with the lacing perforations around the midfoot. This larger-pore material breathes well, but seems to let a bit of extra sand and dirt through, though not enough to cause blister issues in the standard version. The Gore-Tex version does not seem to let in the fine debris, likely thanks to the waterproof membrane incorporated.
Similar TPU overlays on both versions of the shoe form the semi-flexible rand surrounding the toe which functions very well in conjunction with the rising outsole as protection from the inevitable rock and root incursions. In the heel portion, the mesh is a tighter weave (similar in style to the original Antora’s upper) and has a thicker overlying strap to provide supportive structure for the heel above the more dense heel cup below. Incidentally, the Gore-Tex version’s heel cup is slightly more flexible than the standard Antora 2 to the squeeze, but I didn’t notice a difference in function at all even when in really rugged trails or slippery, punchy snow conditions.
The tongue is the classic padded and gusseted tongue. I love this style: it keeps the anterior ankle tendons happy, and it provides adequate protection from the round cord-like laces and the flat webbing lace guides. I’d love to see a flatter lace or even a sausage-style lace used instead, because one of the few drawbacks of these shoes is the fact that the laces can come undone even when double knotted. I didn’t notice improvement in this aspect as the miles and number of knots added up, so I just resigned myself to the occasional re-tie on the trail.
The waterproof membrane in the Gore-Tex version is bonded with InvisibleFit construction for enhanced breathability and a general feeling of a non-protected shoe. As I said earlier, the fit and feel of this shoe was so similar to the non-Gore-Tex version that only the waterproof function and color stood out; this is really fantastic given that so many Gore-Tex shoes are significantly stiffer and less comfortable. Thanks to late season wet snow and a very rainy early summer, I had a ball seeing just how well these would work. In two hours of running through three to four inches of fresh, wet snow, nothing in the shoe was wet at all except two small spots at the Achilles where snow clumps had climbed up. (I purposefully didn’t wear gaiters.) On a warmer day with some slush, stream crossings, and large snow drifts, the bulk of the midfoot and forefoot stayed dry, while the heel was wetter from the obvious water-over-the-top scenario. Once the water gets in over the top, it’s more of a test of breathability and drainage, but I can attest that for a waterproof shoe with overlays, it drains and breathes better than many and surpasses some non-waterproof shoes as well. I never had issues with blisters or hot spots due to moisture. With waterproof gaiters, the water stays out and the interior remains dry for up to the three-hour mark at which point I stopped playing in the water and headed home.
Compared to the non-waterproof Antora 2, the Gore-Tex version does run a little warmer, so unless water was a prime feature during our warm to hot summer season, I’d keep the Gore-Tex version exclusively for winter and spring running.
Merrell Antora 2 and Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex Midsole
The midsole of the Merrell Antora 2 and Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex is more technical than might be expected. The women’s specific Q FORM 2 dual-density EVA foam midsole features light pronation support medially and incorporates forefoot and heel cushioning pods as well as a rock plate for further protection. It’s amazing all that fits in such a small space, but it really does allow the miles to roll by without worrying about rocks or general pounding taking its toll. It’s easily a 50-kilometer shoe when relatively fresh, and in later miles, the pronation support aids my running form without ever feeling like I’m being forced into excessive supination. Pronation is a good thing, a normal shock-absorption strategy for our body as long as it’s not excessive, and this shoe allows for this.
The removable EVA insole provides moderate arch support — I could always use a bit more for my high-arched foot — and a bit more cushioning but the overall feel is one of firm responsiveness. It dries quickly enough after submersion and doesn’t move around in the shoe post-stream dunk. What is lost in ground feel is more than made up for in protection, yet somehow the shoe doesn’t lose its ability to adapt and conform as necessary to the technical trail underfoot. I really appreciate this midsole through about 200 miles. Similar to the Merrell MT Long Sky, it seems like once it begins to degrade, it degrades quickly to a more packed-out feeling. I’m sure I can get another 100 miles out of the shoe, but I will be wearing it for shorter distances (under 15 miles) from here on out. Compression creases are evident both medially and laterally in the EVA, so I’m hoping this can be addressed in further evolutions of the shoe. If so, then 50-mile races in the shoe and 400 to 500 miles of total wear are not out of the question.
Merrell Antora 2 and Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex Outsole
Vibram TC5+ rubber is used for the 5mm lug pattern on both the Merrell Antora 2 and Merrell Antora 2 GTX. Though color changes are visible, no detectable change in density of material can be felt with pressure whether by hand or body weight. The varying shapes and directions of the lugs really adapt to trail features and enhance traction and grip on a wide variety of terrain. Anything from sand-like scree to ball-bearing-sized rocks and slab are handled well by these shoes. Some things they don’t handle quite as well are rolling pebbles on steeper inclines, slimy mud, and ice, but it takes a special shoe to do those conditions well. The low-profile lugs run smoothly over dirt roads or a short stint on pavement that connects you to your favorite local trail. They’re not designed for the road, but the shoes are forgiving if you have to spend a bit of time on one occasionally. The durability of the outsole is impressive. I have around 200 miles in them and there is no sign of wear; a friend who uses them for multi-day backpacking trips says the same even when such trips include a fair amount of rock hopping and talus.
Merrell Antora 2 and Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex Overall Impressions
The Merrell Antora 2 and Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex are women’s-specific trail shoes that you can confidently wear in most conditions. With a comfortable and secure fit, both versions feel agile yet protected, and function excellently in most terrain. Choose the Gore-Tex version when it’s wet and the standard version the rest of the time. These shoes work for distances up to 50 kilometers and even for non-running use: hiking, flat-pedal mountain biking, disc golfing, trail working, and the list goes on. If you haven’t had a chance to try Merrell, now is the time, and remember to check out the wide version as needed! Happy feet make happy runners!Shop the Women's Merrell Antora 2 Shop the Women's Merrell Antora 2 Gore-Tex
Other Versions of the ShoeShop the Men's Merrell Nova 2 Shop the Men's Merrell Nova 2 Gore-Tex
Call for Comments
- Have you run in either the first or second versions of the Merrell Antora shoes? What do you think of the shoe overall? And what do you think of its specific features?
- What are your impressions of the women’s-specific fit in the Antora 2?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]