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Merrell Moab Trail Running Shoes Review after 360 Miles

Sunday, December 8, 2013

When I was looking for new trail running shoes a lot of the reviews I read were from people that only owned the shoes a short time. I wanted to wait until I had a lot of experience before I posted my review. After putting over 360 miles hiking, trail running, road running and walking in my Merrell Moab Gore-Tex Hiking Shoes I wanted to share my opinion. These shoes rock!

When I first purchased them I could have sworn they were labelled as "trail running shoes" and not "hiking shoes". Either my memory is off or they've started calling them hiking shoes to help make it clearer that they're not the thinner, lighter minimalist or barefoot type trail runners. Who knows? For someone like me that likes the protection of a heavier shoe on rocky trails I run just fine in them.

About Merrell

Before we talk about the shoes, let's talk briefly about the brand. I never heard of them before and you might not have either. These shoes aren't cheap. The price is in-line with other similar shoes but before plunking down that much money I wanted to find out a little something about the company.

Merrell started making outdoor boots in 1981. Backpacker Magazine called them "the most comfortable and functional boots in North America."

In 1985 they also started making hiking boots that were more like athletic shoes. Over the years as trail running was becoming more popular they improved their designs. They have even expanded to include road running shoes.

Merrell shoes have a very good reputation and many glowing reviews from wearers. I was sold. Though I've never heard of them up until this point I was confident I was buying from a well-regarded manufacturer.

Appearance

Product Photo for better color description. Color: Beluga
Why do so many running shoes have gaudy day-glo colors? Why do so many athletic type hiking shoes just look like low-top hiking boots? That's what I kept asking myself when I was shopping for trail runners. That's not my style. I don't see the point in calling too much attention to my shoes.

There are more options now, but when I was looking for my first pair of trail runners I had a hard time finding anything I liked until I saw the Merrell Moab shoes.

The Merrell Moab looked like rugged sneakers. They were one of the few pairs of trail runners that had great reviews and looked good to me. The Gore-Tex version comes in a brown color called Chocolate and a grey color, which I purchased, called Beluga. Go silly with the names, I don't care as long as the shoe looks 'normal'.

These shoes look good.

Uppers

The upper is made from a combination of materials. All have held up well over the 360+ mils I put on the shoes. The dark grey is leather. They call it "Waterproof Dura leather". I couldn't find much information about it but I think it's a recycled leather product. Something along the lines of a stronger bonded leather but not sure.

The black toe cap and heel counter are made of a tough synthetic leather. The breathable mesh lining is treated with Aegis antimicrobial solution. After all this use the shoes don't stink and my feet don't overheat. There's padding where you would expect padding on a regular sneaker which makes these shoes comfortable.


A Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining provides long-lasting waterproofing that is still breathable. Together with the padded bellows tongue (a tongue that is attached to the sides of the upper under the eyelets) it provides very good protection from water. I've worn my Moabs in the rain, crossing small puddles/streams and on very muddy trails where the shoes were submerged a few inches thick dozens of times and have never come home with cold, wet feet.

The material and stitching of the uppers, and even the laces have held up well. There's some fraying near the top eyelet of the right shoe but I'm still able to securely lace the shoes.

Midsoles

The Moabs have compression molded EVA (Ethelyne Vynil Acetate) foam midsoles and air pockets under the heel to provide additional cushioning.

Running shoes can last 300-500 miles. I'm at 360 miles on these and there's still good cushioning left in the midsoles. The midsoles seem thick when compared to some other lighter weight shoes but they provide good protection when running on rough terrain.

The nylon arch support hasn't caused me any problems.

Outsoles


Merrell Moabs feature a Vibram Multi-Sport Sole. Vibram was the first to produce a rubber lug sole in 1935 and their soles are used by thousands of shoemakers. You've probably seen their signature tank tread sole (with what looks like plus signs in the middle) on work or hiking boots.

The sole provides some additional cushioning and good traction. I have felt a little slipping on slick, wet surfaces like manhole covers running in the rain but haven't had any major problems. I've been on dirt, gravel, asphalt, concrete and many times up and down stone steps.

The 5mm lugg depth has been wearing well and still provides good traction after close to 400 miles of use.

Even after coming back from a couple of hours in the mud the soles are relatively clean. A quick hosing off and they're as good as new. I don't remember ever having to take a toothpick or Q-Tip to them like I have with other shoes... although I did need to use a brush once.

As you can tell from the photos, I don't really clean them often. Not even for their photo shoot!

Insoles

The insoles aren't bad. When they were new they were very comfortable. They're an open cell polyurethane foam that have some odor controlling properties. Another reason why the shoes probably don't stink after hiking and running for hours in the summer months. (When I have more motivation to exercise.)


Last week (when I started my treadmill running program to get a little more serious about running) the soles of my feet started hurting as if I was slapping them thousands of times against a hard surface every other morning. Oh yeah... That's exactly what I was doing!

I took out the insoles to have a closer look at them. It's hard to tell in the photo but the marks left by my foot aren't just dirt. They're indentations where the foam insoles have lost their loft. It just doesn't have the same cushioning anymore.

The EVA midsole still seems to have good cushioning so I decided to try new insoles. I went to my local Walgreens and got some Dr. Scholl's Massaging Gel Sport Insoles. Merrell sells replacement insoles but I didn't want to wait to order them and the gel ones felt so good to the touch.


The next time on the treadmill my feet felt better. The Dr Scholl's insoles made the shoes feel almost like new again. My only regret is not getting them from Amazon where I could get them cheaper if I buy 2 pairs. I like them so much I want to get some for my other shoes. There's also the Dr. Scholl's Active Series Replacement Insole which seem better for running but were a little more money. Will have to try them at some point.

I read somewhere that replacing the insole to get more life out of a running shoe isn't a good idea. Maybe that's true but I see this more as replacing the insole to get the maximum life out of the shoe. At some point the midsole is going to compress too much and won't provide sufficient cushioning for extended hikes and running but I'll probably still try to squeeze out a few more miles out of them by just using them for errands in the rain or working in the yard.

Conclusion

Bottom line, I've been very happy with these shoes. They've performed better than I expected.

I'm not a very experienced runner and to be honest feel even silly calling myself a runner. I jog. Not always very fast and usually not very far. I'll go out on hikes anywhere from 3-8 miles long, sometimes longer, where I'll run part of the way when the terrain is flat.

They're thick and heavy. They're not barefoot or minimalist shoes although I run with more of a barefoot style, landing on the ball of my foot instead of my heel. Side note.. I saw someone else running that way in front of me and tried it. All I could think was "OMG this is so much easier!"

The air cushioned heel is great during the times when I'm just walking like when I'm on stairs/rocky terrain. There are a lot of rocks and roots along the trails as well as combinations of dirt and gravel. These shoes give me good stability no matter what I'm running on. They do well even for road running.

I've been in mud so deep and thick I thought I'd lift up my foot and the shoe wouldn't come with it, but it always did and my feet were always warm and dry.

The laces are even great. So many times I've had to replace laces on perfectly good shoes because they fell apart. I can't tell you how much I hate that. You can never find the right laces and it looks odd having new laces on older shoes. If the laces every do break Merrell does sell replacements.

Sizing seems a little small. Go with the larger size you normally get. If for example you sometimes get 10.5 or 11 size shoes depending on the brand/style... go with the 11.

The Merrell Moab Gore-Tex were a little more than I was planning on spending but I can't say I regret the purchase after everything I've been able to do in them. A little cheaper option is the Merrell Moab Waterproof which is essentially the same shoe but with a different type of waterproofing. Even cheaper still is the Merrell Moab Ventilator if you don't care about waterproofing at all.

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