Most helpful critical review
72 of 82 people found the following review helpful
Doesn't live up to the hype
on September 3, 2013
First, a few things about me. I'm an avid day-hiker. This means I carry lightweight loads (three liters of water, lunch, a few extra layers, etc.). I live and hike in Colorado. I've been doing this for many years. I'm not an extreme hiker - I don't like bouldering, and I'm not crossing streams/rivers with my shoes on or anything like that. And as I age, I don't like rapid descents (bad knees). I like intermediate level hikes.
I read a great review of these shoes in Backpacker magazine. I read online reviews at REI and Amazon. I found a pair on sale at a local retailer in Estes Park, CO for about $85, so I took the plunge and picked them up.
Here's what is good about them:
1) They're light. Honestly, when I hold the shoe in my hand, I'm surprised at their weight (or lack of it).
2) They slip on and off quickly. I'm impressed with the unorthodox cord-lock instead of the traditional laces. Never once have I needed to tighten the cord lock while hiking.
3). The style is cool, if that's what matters to a buyer. I have the gray/blue ones and like the way they look.
1). The heat generated inside these shoes is head-spinning. The ventilation is terrible. I noticed the heat building up inside the shoe as I was crossing the parking lot during my first hike with them, and also in repeated uses since then. It is even worse when wearing cotton socks. I only hike with SmartWool PhD Lite socks (more on that below).
2). I don't have a long or exaggerated stride at all, nor do I drag my heels, and after three hikes averaging about 15 miles, the heel section of the outer sole is drastically worn. I don't see these lasting into next year's hiking season at this rate. However, I think the type of outer sole on this shoe is probably what is giving the shoe its incredible lightness (per my first comment above).
3). Related to the outer sole durability problem, the entire sole (not just the rear) is incredibly soft, and the shoe is very pliable. This is fine for people who walk on flat pavement, dirt, or well-worn paths, but if there are some occasional stones or roots with diameters greater than 1 - 2" on your path, you'll start to wish you wore something with a beefier sole real quick. I mention this because I'm not asking this shoe to do something it isn't advertised to do. I consider mild stones or obstructions of this size along any hiking trail to be a normal occurrence. Yet each time I have to cross some small stones or whatever, I cringe. Imagine it like the stiff suspension in a little sports car. You feel every bump in these, because the sole and the shoe are so overly soft and malleable.
4). Lastly, no matter how I tighten down the cord-lock, my heel rises off the inner sole ever so slightly with each step. It would be folly to presume I bought a size too big, because I buy all my hiking shoes to fit snugly, more than any other footwear I own, and I'm very picky about this. These fit me snugly, yet the way the cord-lock works with the heel support, there is constant movement. As I said above, if it weren't for SmartWool socks, which mitigate (to an alarming degree), the hot spots and rubbing, I probably would have some serious blisters by now. To give you an idea: even my SmartWool socks, after only 3 hikes in these shoes, are pilling around the heel! This is NOT normal for SmartWool, which I wear everyday for work and for recreation.
I noticed that a lot of other reviewers really love these shoes, and some careful reading shows that often people are not using them as exclusive hiking shoes. (There are some hikers who love them though, and that's great for them). Some of the reviews state that people are using them for travel (what, sitting there on a plane for a few hours? driving a car all day?), or for work (driving a forklift? walking about a warehouse? sitting at a desk?) without a lot of detail behind what their work or activity entails. I've tried to be explicit about how I use these shoes, and again, I don't think I'm asking of the shoes anything that could be construed as unreasonable or outside what Merrell might consider "proper usage." Granted, if I was just sitting at a desk all day with these, then yes, I would concur they are great shoes. But for the weekend day-hiker, I don't recommend them.