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I’ve owned a fair few pairs of hill walking and approach shoes including some of the early Merrell approach shoes. Up until Christmas I’ve been using North Face Hedgehogs but these mysteriously disappeared on the same day that my son returned to university so for the past few months I’ve been looking for a replacement.
When the good people at Merrell and Blackleaf offered to send us a pair it was a nice bit of luck.
In all honesty I would have probably chosen something like the Chameleon: more trainer-like and slightly lighter then the Moab which appears to come in at the serious end of the Merrell Shoes range.
Knowing that the Moabs were coming, and thinking that I should really give them a go on the hill reminded me of a quite heated discussion on a Mountain Leader Training course a few years ago.
The guys on the course had pretty entrenched views both for and against so as I’ve never bought a pair of shoes that I’d want to use instead of my boots so I thought that this would be my opportunity to test some of the arguments.
The Merrell Moab GTX XCR
Out of the box
The Moabs are very definitely a cut down walking boot rather than a beefed-up trainer. My first thought was that they weren’t very cool and I stuck them back in the box and went off the play with the Merrell Trail Glove Barefoot Running Shoes that they’d also sent us.
A couple of days later I took the Moabs out and had a good look at them, which is when I started to appreciate them for what they are…
The build quality is first class: stitching, seams and glued pates are neat, smooth and solid. The shoe lining is equally impressive with no obvious bumps, seams or edges that are likely to ruin a good day’s walking. I really like the colour, personally preferring the sand to the grey.
Fit & feel
We asked for a size UK9 but received UK9.5 which I assumed was a mistake but the shoes fitted really well with hiking socks so I suspect that Merrell walking shoes size slightly small, particularly if you intend to wear hiking socks.
Merrell Moab fit
The Moabs are out-of-the-box comfortable. They are snug around the back and sides of the foot with just enough enough space in the toe box. The Vibram sole feels perfect: it feels like your foot is protected on all sides with feeling clunky or clumsy. The sole flex is supportive but sufficient for everyday use.
Out on the trail
I wanted to put the Moab GTX through a decent test so decided to nip up Ben Vorlich on the side of Loch Earn. It’s a nice enough climb, mostly path, quite rocky at parts and wet enough to see if the Gore-Tex lining was up to the job and whether shoes are too low for this type of terrain.
There’s still plenty of snow and ice here and good as the Merrell shoes may be they’re not crampon compatible so it was unlikely they’d summit but at least they could see some snow.
Merrell Moab trail test
The Merrells felt and look good on the initial ascent, some pretty rough land rover track. There was nothing to report - no dramas and no niggles.
So it was for the rest of my walk… I walked where and how I wanted and the Moabs came along. They never did anything unexpected and they did everything they needed to do to make sure that I wasn’t thinking about them… even when I was making an effort to think about them.
What I did quite like was not having to changed my footwear for the drive home… it’s a small thing but a thing nonetheless…
The nature of a review is to tell readers what they should expect to experience when using the product but quite often the best products reduce the number of things you experience (cold feet, wet feet, sore feet, instability, slipping) and so increase your experience of the important things, the things that make you head for the trails in the first place.
For me the Merrell Moab GTX have become my first-choice footwear for any non-technical trips to the hills and for general day to day use. I’m a fan and a convert…
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