User Review: Merrell Men's Switchback Gore-Tex
Materials: leather, vibram
Use: multiday trips in forest and alpine; snowshoeing
Break-in Period: none, really
Price Paid: $200
I'll say flat out that I am disappointed with this boot, particularly with its construction. It may look superficially pretty, but the construction is so poor that the boots fell apart fairly quickly. I have had the boots since late 2007, and have used them perhaps 15-20 times, for a total of no more than 30 days.
1. When the boots were new, I used them in the city during a snow storm. After 2-3 days of this, several of the metal lace eyelets over the arch became badly corroded by salt and were almost entirely eaten away. The jagged edges left over tore at the boot laces. Perhaps this wasn't in keeping with the boots' intended use, but I think that the eyelets should have been made out of stainless steel or at the very least given a protective coating.
2. After an overnight trip that involved scrambling over some rocky terrain, I noticed that several of the Vibram lugs on the forefoot of the boot had been ripped off. This boot uses two different densities of vibram, one of which is supposed to be stickier and provide more traction. It was this sticky vibram that ripped off under the forefoot. The interface between the sticky and non-sticky vibram appears to be a weak point on the sole.
3. A few days ago, I got back from an overnight snowshoeing trip and realized that on BOTH boots the stitching holding the leather upper to the plastic/rubber heel counter had torn away, leaving the back of the boots open to the elements and completely destroying its waterproofness, which wasn't fantastic to begin with (non-goretex version). Upon closer inspection of this ruined section, the stitching appears to be very poor quality: there was only one row of stitches holding together this critical seam, and the individual stitches were quite far apart. I can't be sure, but the stitching failure here may be related to the fact that I have gotten the boots pretty wet several times. Maybe the stitching rotted?
After roughly 1.5 years of use the boots are now essentially useless. Poor construction wasn't the only issue though: when wet, the boots would become progressively looser and sloppier, making going downhill on uneven sections very difficult. I'm not sure if this is the fault of the boots themselves or the laces which came with them.