Lightweight hiking shoes. Good for hot weather, but…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: €70
Lightweight hiking shoes. Good for hot weather, but not as comfortable as expected.
- Well ventilated with mesh panels
- Tough outsole with prominent lugs
- Limited cushioning
- Uncomfortable insole
- Outsole prone to wear
In mid-March this year I started doing training walks for an upcoming walking holiday abroad. After every training walk in my usual hiking boots I ended up with bad heat rash about my ankles. Each walk has lasted six hours or so under the Maltese sun, but it is still only spring. I have done training walks in past years and I have had problems with heat rash, but never so badly and so early in the year.
I decided to switch to hiking shoes for my training walks, so I bought myself a pair of Merrell’s oddly-named Outmost Ventilators. I wanted shoes with a tough outsole for rough terrain but mesh panels in the uppers for air circulation, and these shoes fitted the bill. They are not waterproof, but I didn’t want them to be. A waterproof membrane, however breathable, would reduce air circulation and my priority with these shoes is keeping my feet cool.
The look of these shoes also appealed to me. They avoid loud colours and prominent branding, both of which I find offputting: I would not, for example, have bought any Merrell shoes with the big M logo on the sides. In black with dark grey accents, these shoes do not have a pronounced hiking-shoe look and would not appear far out of place in a casual urban setting.
So far I have worn the shoes at home and on one 14-mile training walk. It’s early days, but a preliminary review is better than no review at all and I can always update it if necessary. So here are my impressions so far.
Where sizing is concerned, these shoes run small. My normal size is 44 in shoes and 45 in boots (US 11 and 11.5), but I had to go up to 46 with these. I have a pair of Ecco shoes in size 44 which are the same length as my size 46 Merrells, though the Merrells are more generous in width. Interestingly, the sizing as given by Merrell on the shoe box equates 46 with US size 11.5 whereas normally 12 is considered the proper equivalent.
The outsole is fairly stiff but the forefoot flexes easily. You might want a stiffer outsole if you are walking on rough terrain under a heavy load, but this one meets my particular needs well. The outsole has an aggressive tread pattern which should give excellent grip on soft ground, though I have not yet been able to test this.
I have found my Outmost Vents a little problematic where comfort is concerned. The insoles are curved to provide arch support, but the curvature is overdone and feels like a lump underfoot. Perhaps I might have grown used it over time, but I did not have time. I bought these shoes on a Thursday and I needed them for my training walk the following Sunday. I wasn’t going to risk a 14-mile walk on uncomfortable insoles, so I replaced them. The shoes immediately felt better and my Sunday walk went fine.
Merrell claims these shoes have a shock-absorbing air cushion in the heel, but I cannot feel any such air cushion. These shoes are no better cushioned than the average hiking boot. I thought this would trouble me because while firm footwear is good for rough terrain, it can be uncomfortable on paved ground and much of my training walk in these shoes was on paved ground. But the shoes never felt too hard during the walk.
It was windy during the walk and there were moments when I could feel the wind getting through the mesh in the shoes—which is exactly what I wanted. After the walk I checked my feet and, sure enough, there was no heat rash.
I cannot say much about durability at this point, beyond noting that the laces are held in place by fabric loops. There is only one pair of conventional eyelets at the top of the shoe. I would have preferred eyelets all the way. Time will tell how the loops hold up. Otherwise, the shoes look well built. They seem well protected against abrasion damage with strips of synthetic material laid over the toe and heel areas.
Update, July 2018
I did a total of four weekly training walks in these shoes in April 2018, covering perhaps 62 miles in all—mostly on paved ground. Since then I have not used them, and I don't expect to put them to any serious use till summer is over.
The shoes served me well and, with the replacement insoles, remained comfortable. As the April weather grew hotter I was able to cool my feet down on walks by pouring a little water over the laces—just enough to seep through the mesh and reach the top of my forefeet. Needless to say, this would not have been possible with Gore-tex shoes.
Wear on the outsoles is the only negative point I experienced. Granted, hiking outsoles are not meant for paved ground, but the ones on these shoes suffered more wear than I expected. The lugs look worn down and distinctly less deep than they appeared when new. Here are some before-and-after photos of the right shoe:
Still, I expect these shoes to last a few years. They are my footwear of preference for local walks in hot and dry conditions.