Customer Reviews: Merrell Men's Chameleon 4 Stretch Hiking Shoe
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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.

The not-so-great:

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.
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on November 28, 2011
I practically have nothing but Merrell shoes in my closet & this is one of the best pairs I've owned. I worked AAA roadside service I & wear these 5 days a week, 10-12 hours a day. Excellent wear, very good in weather, very light but still secure, comfortable as can be, & def. worth the money. Going to buy a few m ore pairs as soon as I've worn through these. Great shoe...period...
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on December 31, 2012
I have owned about 4 pairs of Chameleons over the past 8 years, and every pair has been amazing. These shoes have been the most comfortable, durable and versatile shoes I have ever owned. I was really looking forward to my next pair, the Chameleon 4 Stretch, but was extremely disappointed after taking them home and walking around in them for a few days.

Now don't get me wrong, these shoes are very comfortable. They don't need any breaking in and you feel like you are walking on a cloud, but Merrell has slipped in two crucial areas; the heel and the materials.

I wore these shoes while finishing up my Christmas shopping at the mall and was concerned that my heel kept slipping. This has never happened with my previous Chameleon Stretches. I got the same size as last time (11) and decided maybe a half size smaller might fix the problem. Well, that was not the issue. The smaller pair just didn't fit. My other pair of Chameleon Stretches have a deeper heel with a hard plastic material which helps hold your foot in. The new version got rid of that plastic heel, lowered the height and uses a more elastic material which leads to the slippage.

My other gripe with the material is the hoop on the back which you use to slip the shoes on. It just feels cheap and I'm sure it would rip off within a few months of regular usage. While this may seem like a small detail, it really helps having tough hoops to pull your shoes on, and it can be a pain when they come off like they did with my last pair (even with a more durable hoop).

All in all, I really can't recommend buying this shoe, and it actually hurts me to say it. I have given Merrell a lot of money over the years in exchange for a durable quality product, and I am sad to say that the new model just feels cheaper. I will be heading to a box store to hopefully find a different model of Merrells that actually fit, but I may just decide to give my business to a different shoe company.
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on April 12, 2013
I have owned Merrell Chameleon 2, 3 and a previous pair of the Chameleon 4. The most recent pair started to fall apart in less than 2 months of normal usage. The heel started to separate and the stitching has started to come undone. I am quite surprised at the poor quality of this Merrell shoe since I have worn them for many years and have loved them in the past.
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on January 27, 2013
These are the daily commuters. I wear them six days a week and they are great so far. Up and down ladders, on concrete and rooftops all day long. I wear 11s in nike, adidas, and most other shoes/boots. These fit true to size. The sole is softer and grippier than the two Merrell Continuums that I had before. Can't wait to take them off road.
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on May 8, 2013
I have been dealing with lower back problems for a while . after buying these shoes my problems go . plus they have great grip for walking quickly.

I will absolutely stick with this brand for a long time.
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on October 20, 2014
I bought these to wear while in Afghanistan and I was hesitant in buying do to not knowing if the fit was gonna run small or big and I normally wear an 11.5 mens and thats what I ordered and its a great fit. I usually wear KEEN but do to the two piece sole they wear falling apart, So I ordered the Merrells for the one piece Vibram sole and I will definitely recommend to co-workers. Thanks for a great product.
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on July 30, 2014
LOVE THIS SHOE! I had an issue with ongoing tendon pain from a sports injury that was really creating a problem with any athletic shoe I tried to wear. decided to give Merrell a try and SO GLAD I did! The Chameleon is a great sturdy shoe, and looks great, too! I bought my first pair and, within a few weeks I went back and purchased a few different colors, as well. Outside of the occasional dress shoe, I wear Chameleons all the time. No more pain from the old injury....except when I try to wear another shoe! The sock design is VERY comfortable and easy to get on and off. The foot bed is very stable and comfortable.
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on March 21, 2013
I bought these for my afghani tour. I wanted shoes that could slip on in an instant for emergencies and that would also be comfortable in the heat -this shoe does both very well.

The bottom half of the shoe (including the main part of the heel cup) is made of breathable nylon supported well by the strips of leather. The attached sole's tread pattern helps ensure good footing over the dirt and 1.5" gravel walkways that are everywhere.
The top of the shoe is comprised of a neoprene material which includes the "tongue". To better visualize the manufacture, imagine a water sock upper built onto a running shoe.

As for slipping on, the concept is genius. On normal shoes, the heel cup is generally stiff up to the ankle requiring a finger between the shoe and foot and/or some side-to-side foot maneuvering to get your heel down; I've always disliked loafers or slip on shoes for this reason. Not so with these shoes, since the top half of the heel cup and tongue is neoprene, it expands just enough to slip the foot in.

The laces are a thin bungee material to bind the front together and is adjustable with a spring-loaded clip allowing you the freedom to customize the tightness to your liking.

I wore these out-of-the-box when they arrived in the mail and was initially concerned about the overall compression I felt around my foot, but within 8-hours these broke in nicely such that I had to tighten the bungee laces a bit. I usually prefer a wide 8.5 EEE shoe if available (provided it doesn't shrink after washing) but normally I buy size 9 shoe with a good arch support.

I feel these shoes are true to size and not too narrow. The arch support is good and they don't feel like wearing flats. When I kick the ground with my heel (at an angle) to set the heel back into the cup, I feel approx 1/2" of space in front of my toes.

When walking the shoes hold well and my heels do not feel like they slip out more than a regular shoe. I wouldn't recommend thick socks with these however, you may feel like there is too much compression. The thinner underarmour type socks compliment these shoes really well. I did notice the shoes slipping about when pushing and heavy trailers around, but this isn't something I do regularly and it isn't a big concern -i suspect I could adjust the laces more if need be.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the shoe. The sole stiffness is a nice blend with enough flexibility to bend but holds well in large gravel. The slip on design is great for my needs and I imagine would be equally great for beaches and hiking without slipping too much. The lower part of the shoe is ventilated enough I can feel a breeze passing over the foot providing a nice cool sensation. I love this shoe and am considering buying another pair.
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on November 3, 2013
First of all I would like to mention I am a long time fan of Merrell and own many of their shoes, unfortunately this particular shoe is horrible.

I have currently purchased three pairs of these shoes, two for me (different colors) and a pair for my father.

These shoes were purchased in February of 2013 and as of this review all three have similar issues.

The two pair that I own are currently being worn by myself in Afghanistan. I use them mainly for walking around the base and biking/working out (I am a non military fobbit), and both pair had seperation of the rubber and toe box at the front of the shoe. I fixed this with super glue and it is still holding.

The tread of the shoe on both pair has also torn from the yellow Vibram logo up the center toward the toe, stoping inbetween the 4th tread knob in a zig zag pattern. exposing the bottom of the shoe (FYI there is no glue, the shoe is glued or sealed along the edges of the tread nothing in the center).

As for the interior of the shoe, the heel area has split along the stitching between the two different fabrics exposing the hard plastic support on all four shoes. The support cushion on the inside of the shoe is also showing noticable wear.

All in all they were a great shoe while they lasted, very comfortable, easy to put on, and lightweight, It is just a shame they dont last longer. I also wish they were made in the USA but I can't really fault them for trying to increase profits, they are a company after all. I just hope they take a hard look at the quality of the shoe and make improvements.

I have not completely given up on Merrell as I still enjoy the 4 pairs of boots I currently own (one pair since 2009), but I most likely will not be purchasing another "shoe" until they fix the issues they seem to be having.
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