Merrell’s Antora 2 (women’s) and Nova 2 (men’s) are gender-specific trail running shoes with subtle construction modifications on the Antora to enhance fit and biomechanics for female runners. We tested the women’s Antora 2 through a wet Colorado spring in snow, ice, mud and rocky terrain, and the men’s Nova 2 for high-mileage training during a disappointingly dry California winter.
Merrell Nova 2 – Men’s Model
From an upper standpoint, there’s nothing remarkable about the Nova. It uses a fairly traditional lightweight mesh with thin TPU overlays in the midfoot and synthetic leather paneling anchoring the lace system through the rearfoot. The mesh breathes and dries well, and durability was satisfactory in rough terrain.
Relatively thick laces provide a snug closure, and a roomy toe box allows adequate space for full natural foot splay. External heel straps help to lock in the heel, but those with narrow feet might have some difficulty with a snug fit. Both the Nova 2 and Antora 2 come in a huge variety of color profiles so whether your preference is a traditional color scheme, eye-catching bright hues or rainbow and multi-color palettes to show off your flair, there’s an option just for you.
Ride quality through the midsole has a slightly firm feel, with dual density EVA to cushion impact through the heel and create more responsive forefoot propulsion. In addition to generous stack heights, an embedded rock plate helps disperse impact forces on technical terrain, and cushioned pods in the heel and forefoot provide increased comfort over long distances. The 8mm drop makes these models more suited to heel strikers rather than midfoot runners.
Outsole grip is impressive thanks to a hard Vibram TC5+ rubber compound with 5mm lugs and “adaptive” lugs of different shapes and angles depending on their location. A combination of triangular, squared and arrow-shaped pegs allow the shoe to have excellent grip with a less aggressive profile. Square lugs improve overall stability around the perimeter, while angled lugs on the interior assist with braking or propulsion as needed. The lugs performed well on snow, dirt and rocky trails, but also provided a smooth ride on paved sections. There was a small degree of slipping on wet surfaces, but grip was strong on steep, loose gravel descents.
Merrell Antora 2 – Women’s Model
With the Antora 2, Merrell includes women’s-specific Q FORM® 2 dual-density midsole to provide light pronation relief with minimal guidance in the midsole construction. To discourage excessive lateral motion, the shoe has a stabilizing post below the arch as well as softer foam under the medial heel and lateral forefoot. This setup allows for less sideways movement during each foot strike which occurs more commonly in female runners. Above the midsole, the last and upper of the Antora 2 is slightly thinner and more contoured than the Nova 2, particularly through the rear and midfoot.
The combination of generous cushioning, secure versatile traction and overall comfort of the upper make the Nova 2 and Antora 2 attractive options for a “one shoe does it all” trainer as well as for single-day high mileage outings on varied terrain. Both the Nova 2 and Antora 2 are offered in GTX versions for a slightly higher price point, but we tested the standard non-GTX versions.
The Merrell Antora 2 and Nova 2 shoes are both available at www.merrell.com.
Specs and features:
- Nova 2: 9.8oz
- Antora 2: 8.5oz
- Stack heights (heel/toe, in mm): 29/21 men’s, 28/20 women’s
- Drop: 8mm
- Textile mesh and TPU upper with breathable mesh lining
- External rear strap locks at heel
- Forefoot midsole rock plate
- Merrell Air Cushion forefoot and heel pods
- Dual density EVA midsole
- Vibram TC5+ outsole with 5mm adaptive lugs
- Vegan friendly construction
- MSRP $110