Sunday, December 10, 2023

Merrell Agility Peak 5 Zero GORE-TEX Review: Depth of Winter Running and Adventures Excellence!

Article by Jeff Valliere and Mike Postaski

Merrell Agility Peak 5 Zero GORE-TEX ($200)


Jeff V:  The Merrell Agility Peak 5 Zero GORE-TEX is a sturdy, well cushioned, waterproof winter trail running shoe with a built in gaiter and a superb Vibram outsole.  This is one of the best winter shoes on the market and costs less than comparable shoes from other brands.  They are high quality, durable, warm, cushy and have an appropriate fit for thicker winter socks.


Comfortable, well cushioned, accommodating fit, traction, waterproof, built in gaiter, weight, price , Jeff V, Mike P

Keeps feet warm in very cold temps Mike P

Did not experience any moisture getting in Mike P


Lace bite, excessive graphics/branding, fit might be a bit roomy for some Jeff V

No lace bite for me, but slightly loose in the heel Mike P

On the heavy side for pure running Mike P

Please find the testers full run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.


Weight: men's: 12.5 oz/354g (US9) 

  Sample: men’s: 13.1 oz/372g (US10),13.0 oz/368g (US9.5)

Stack Height: men’s 31mm heel / 25mm forefoot (6mm drop) 

Platform Width: 90mm heel / 80mm midfoot / 115mm forefoot

$200. Available Now

Official Features and Materials

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Jeff V: As impressed as I was with the Skyfire 2 Matryx, I could not wait to give the Agility Peak 5 Zero GTX a proper test.  Out of the box, they feel reasonably light for a Gore Tex winter shoe with a built in gaiter.  

They are large in size and look bigger than an average size 10 shoe, which is further confirmed by the fact that I have trouble stretching my normal size mediumMicrospikes/ExoSpikes on them.  I prefer using size large spikes instead here because it is easier to put them on and they fit better (I keep both size spikes on hand for larger shoes like this).  Often times, the design of a winter shoe will integrate seamlessly with the gaiter in one continuous swoop, where the AP5Z looks as though there is a regular shoe sitting inside as you peel back the gaiter.  I have not found either design to be an advantage or disadvantage, just different.  

The inner shoe has a well padded gusseted tongue and well padded collar, with a reasonably well structured (but still semi flexible) heel collar. 

The heel collar also has a reinforced heel cap for added protection in rough snowy conditions, as well as an external reinforcement, I presume for supplemental traction devices.

The Gore Tex waterproof membrane and synthetic mesh collar is substantially thick in a way that inspires confidence in the durability and protection that it provides, yet is flexible, breathable and comfortable (and is also nice and warm in cold conditions).  

It is important to note here that the lower section of the shoe is Gore, where the uppermost collar/gaiter and the area on either side of the zipper is a synthetic rubber and mesh material for enhanced stretch properties and improved fit, yet is still very water resistant.

Fit is true to size, if a touch roomy, though this is excellent for a winter shoe, as I often will size up a half size to accommodate for a thicker sock and it is nice to have a touch of room for some air circulation.  I would suggest true to size here if you wear a medium to thick wool sock, or if you are on the lower edge on sizing, prefer a thin sock, and/or prioritize a more secure foothold, then consider sizing down a half size.  

I find the roomy fit to be great for the purpose of the shoe, as I mentioned for a thicker sock and air circulation, but I have noticed that on steep, technical downhills, I have to crank the laces such that I get a bit of lace bite and foothold is still not entirely confidence inspiring.  While the foothold is not confidence inspiring when pushing hard in technical terrain, that is not really what this shoe is for with the foothold adequate for everything outside of that.

The toe cap is beefy and protective, integrating with a 360 degree rand along the bottom of the upper to aid in protection, durability and waterproofing.  

Mike P: Jeff V certainly has more experience in testing this style of winter shoe. In fact, this is my first time trying a shoe of this style - with the extended Gore-tex / neoprene ankle collar. I’ve definitely been wanting to try one for a long time. It just seems like a great winter activity shoe, not just for running, but hiking, sledding, snow shoeing, and general cold weather casual use as well. 

When I received the shoe, I was a bit surprised that it’s actually a normal, low, top shoe inside of the outer gaiter. I was expecting that the inner ankle collar would be more of a boot - going above the ankle. The regular ankle collar felt a bit strange at first, with the outlet gaiter seeming a bit loose above the ankle area.

But that’s just my initial impression, not knowing what to expect. I actually liked the increased ankle mobility that the regular inner shoe provides instead of having an over-the-ankle boot. I had no issues either with the perceived “looseness” of the gaiter around my ankle. The zip up and velcro closure wraps snugly around my lower leg. It’s oddly noticeable to have something of a strap in that area - just something I’m not used to with regular shoes. 

I wondered if I would experience any rubbing or irritation but that was not the case. I was wearing my normal crew cut high socks and also a layer of long tights whenever I used the Agility Peak Zero. 

The use of a quicklace closure makes sense here, as it would be a bit cumbersome to tie up regular laces with the gaiter sort of in the way. The upper of the inner shoe feels a bit soft - I wonder if the regular Agility Peak has a different upper? It didn’t feel like I could get as secure a fit as I would like, especially in the heel. My heel felt just slightly loose, which would be an issue in technical terrain.

Midsole & Platform

Jeff V:  The FloatPro Foam midsole feels very soft, well cushioned and supportive and is not prone to hardening in cold temperatures.  I appreciate this softer foam, as many winter shoes I have tested have a firm midsole (that can feel even more firm in cold temps), which is fine in the snow, but when you are running on frozen ground, ice and rocks, can feel a bit harsh.  

None of that here though with the AP5Z, as they feel very plush and shock absorbing.  The foam feels light and responsive, which helps, but overall this is not a shoe built for speed.  There is also a rock plate in the mix for added protection that is very welcome.  The shoe also feels nice and flexible (but not overly so) due to the FLEXconnect dual directional flex grooves in the midsole.  

Mike P: Underfoot, the Agility Peak feels very contoured under the foot. It seems to fill in under the arch quite fully. As Jeff V notes, the cushion level is very soft, and with the rock plate in the mix, there is very little ground feel to speak of. This level of protection from the ground is great in frozen conditions, and also definitely helps to keep the feet warm. 

I typically would like a bit more ground feel if I was evaluating a trail shoe as a pure running shoe . But that’s not necessarily the case here. I really see these as an all around winter tool more so than focusing on the pure running ride of the shoe.


Jeff V:  The Vibram MegaGrip outsole features 5mm traction lugs that provide exceptional performance on all surfaces.  I have mostly run on snowy, icy conditions, slush (pretty much all consistencies of frozen or semi frozen conditions), dry trails, minor scrambles, steep, loose off trail and have never felt hesitant.  

The lugs are large and directional, and many of them are set up for adding screws or hobnails as shown below.

On a recent mountain outing with some friends on an unfamiliar peak, I was wearing the AP5Z because the weather was iffy and I was not sure what to expect.  While the trail was dry when we started, I was told that it is very steep, technical and loose.  Half way up, it began to snow hard and by the time we descended, there was several inches of snow covering the trail, hiding the loose ball bearing on hard pack scruff underneath.  While I was hesitant at first given the poor conditions, steepness and visibility, combined with lack of familiarity with the trail, I was pleasantly surprised that with some care, I had no slips on the entire 2,300 foot descent.

Mike P: The outsole performed great for me in both soft/wet conditions and snow. The X shaped lugs work well in the snow. I took them on a Christmas tree hunt in the Boise National Forest and also did a bit of hiking and jogging around in the off trail, snowy conditions. Normally I’d wear a big, heavy, insulated winter boot for that trip, but the AP Zero’s were fantastic, and much easier to move around during our search. 

I’ve been concurrently testing Merrell’s Long Sky 2 Matryx and Skyfire 2 Matryx - both also featuring 5mm Vibram MegaGrip lugs. Both of those shoes have proven to have exceptional traction and grip, and the AP Zero clearly follows suit, with a bit of extra rubber underfoot.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff V:  The Agility Peak 5 Zero GTX has the best ride of any winter shoe I have worn to date, with a very soft, well cushioned and compliant midsole, without ever feeling mushy or unstable.  While the shoe is no lightweight speedster, I find the midsole to be adequately light feeling and responsive, at least such that you never feel slowed down by it.  

Winter performance is excellent, as I have run these through a lot of cold, snowy, slushy conditions, in temps down in the single digits and my feet have never gotten cold or wet.  Traction, comfort, quality and overall performance are top notch, not to mention a comparative value at $200, I would highly recommend the AP5Z for your winter trail (and even snowy roads) needs.

Jeff V’s Score:  9.6/10

Ride: 10 - soft, cushy and compliant

Fit: 9 - may feel roomy for some, consider sizing down a half size if you have a slim foot and are borderline on size, or want more security, although fit is great for a thicker sock, larger foot and for air circulation.

Value: 9.8 - $200 is a very competitive prize for a winter shoe this good

Style: 8.5 - I am not keen on the excessive graphics, but aside from that, the shoe looks great.

Traction: 10 - one of the best out there

Rock Protection: 10 - I have not yet felt a poke


Mike P: I received the Agility Peak Zero GTX as I was preparing and testing shoes and gear for an upcoming winter backyard ultra race over in Eastern Idaho. The expected conditions were “frigid”, so I was thinking that the AP Zero could be an option, especially overnight at the coldest times, and especially in the event of snow or really, really frigid temps.

It took them out for the first run with this in mind, but I found them to be a bit sluggish on the run. The midsole is super cushioned, and has an effective rocker up front from the balls of the foot forward to the toes. But of course the GTX materials and the high neoprene gaiter add quite a bit of weight, and at 13.0oz in my US 9.5 would be too much weight to carry around for an extended period of time. 

I more or less scrapped that idea, but did bring them along anyway as a last resort in the event of apocalyptic cold/winter conditions. That being said, the shoe cruised nicely and I enjoyed my runs in them, the weight made them feel slow of course. 

Jeff V definitely put them through their paces in technical and steep terrain, but for me personally, the weight and lack of ground feel makes me wary of trying them in those conditions. I think they’re a great option if you get some fresh snow and want to go out on a fun adventure run/hike in snowy conditions. I hiked in them several times in snow nearly knee high and I never felt a drop of moisture inside.

They’re also clearly my warmest GTX option. My first test run was in the 40s (F) and my feet felt very warm. So if you’ve got cold feet and really need something warm, these are the ticket. I personally won’t take them out until the temps are at least in the low 20s. They even have me considering if I really need my blocky, heavy, winter boots anymore. It’s generally such a versatile winter shoe, and I highly recommend it. Now if we could just get some more real winter weather, so I could go out and enjoy them some more!

Mike P’s Score:  9.35 / 10

Ride: 9 - Hard to rate, as not a pure running shoe, but maybe could use slightly more flexibility or ground feel

Fit: 9 - The gaiter is excellent and does the job 100%. Slight bit of heel slip

Value: 10 - A shoe for a multitude of winter adventures

Style: 9 - Looks great, but maybe the giant white lettering could be a bit more subtle

Traction: 10 - No problems in the snow

Rock Protection: 10 - Nothing getting through these

Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊


Scarpa Ribelle Run Kalibra G - (RTR Review)

Jeff V: The Scarpa is a very similar shoe in many regards, though I find the BOA fit system to be superior in ease, lockdown and comfort (although that comes at an extra cost of $40).  The Merrell however is lighter, a bit quicker and has a slightly softer, more flexible feel, traction is slightly better and the Gore Tex layer is more waterproof than the non Gore Scarpa.

La Sportiva Cyklon Cross GTX (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Cyklon Cross GTX has a much more precision, performance oriented fit for pushing hard in the most technical terrain.  They feature a BOA fit system for superior ease and fit, a Gore Tex layer and very comparable traction and protection.  The Cyklon is significantly lighter and is a better shoe for running faster in more technical terrain, where the Merrell because of the added weight and less precise fit is better for slower paces, colder weather and less technical terrain than the Cyklon.  The Merrell has much softer cushioning.

La Sportiva Blizzard (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Blizzard is a lighter, more performance oriented shoe at the same price, but the defining factor here is the built in studs, which are great when the trails get icy.  The Merrell has a more accommodating fit, is warmer and has a softer cushion under foot.

Merrell Agility Peak (regular, non-GTX version)

Mike P: TBD… this shoe really has both Jeff V and I intrigued about how the regular Agility Peak feels and rides. Luckily we are getting a hold of some test pairs so keep an eye out for our review and comparison soon!

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

The Agility Peak 5 Zero is available at Merrell HERE

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Comments and Questions Welcome Below!Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Jeff Valliere said...


Nic66 said...

I would love to see a RTR review of the regular Agility Peak 5. It looks like a very worthy competitor to the Speedgoat, with a less stretchy upper, and perhaps better overall durability. Does anyone have any comments or experience on the long-term durability of FloatPro foam? Keep up the good work guys, you are my no.1 point of reference for all things shoe and trail related!

Jeff Valliere said...

Nic66, I had the same thoughts exactly and am trying to get a pair, stay tuned!

James said...

Ganz interessant Leeschtung. Ech hunn erausfonnt datt gutt Socken och eng ganz wichteg Roll wärend der kierperlecher Aktivitéit spillen.

Troy Eid - Law on the Run said...

Jeff, thanks - I have been alternating with the Salomon Snow Spike and the Salomon XA Alpine 2. Found the Merrells on sale for $140 and just ordered them for our trails here between Morrison and Evergreen. Merry Christmas! Always zero in on your excellent reviews.

Mike P said...


We've got pairs of the Agility Peak 5 GTX (non-gaiter) version in test right now. I'm really liking them so far - put 34 miles in them in less than a week already. Definitely a Speedgoat alternative I'd say. Much more runnable of course than this "Zero" variety.

We also should have the regular non-GTX version on the way for test shortly. Keep an eye out on RTR media.

Ery said...

Comparison to Speedgoat Gtx mid?

Mike P said...

I did have a Speedgoat GTX MID (V2) a couple years ago. The SG of course has an above the ankle collar which can be slightly restrictive. I actually didn't lace the upper eyelet row on those when I used them for running. Traction is roughly the same I'd say. The SG felt softer and squishier underfoot, which was fine in dry conditions, but in snow I found them more unstable. Agility Peak Zero has just as much cushion, but a bit firmer.

Hoka's "waterproof" liner didn't really live up to the task - I found that they did soak through. especially sometimes when I used them snowshoeing. The Merrell shoe stays totally dry and it's also much warmer.

I think the AP Zero a much better winter shoe.

Jeff Valliere said...

Agreed with Mike on all points. I will also note that the SG Mid is more secure, with a more precise fitting upper, but with that requires some extra time/effort lacing them. I also find that the padded high top of the SG Mid is nice for protecting your ankles in technical terrain or from Microspikes, they are somewhat useless in regards to deep snow and do not take the place of a gaiter and you need to still add a gaiter when using them in deep snow. Snow gets into the cuff and creates hard compacted snow balls that become quite painful and require lots of stops to clear out. I too would recommend the Merrell.

Ery said...

Many thanks!!

Ery said...