Merrell Proterra Sport
An excellent lightweight, minimalist styled hiking shoe from Merrell. The combination of great design, high quality materials, and sound construction have resulted in a very comfortable and surprisingly durable outdoor shoe. A great option for anyone wanting to go faster and lighter over demanding terrain, but equally feasible for someone simply looking for an attractive, but understated outdoors shoe for city use with the occasional forays into the trail.
- Very comfortable
- Simple well thought-out design
- Excellent construction/materials
- Attractive understated design
- Poor traction on wet rock
- Very little protection against sharp rocks
Details from the manufacturer (I have highlighted one important detail I will discuss):
Blaze new trails with minimalist hiking shoes from Merrell. Designed with a revolutionary new technology, Stratafuse, the glove-like fit of the Proterra Sport makes it feel like it was made for your feet. Trek through streams, around boulders and over mountains with breathable men’s athletic shoes that are lightweight, durable and flexible for optimal responsiveness.
The low profile on these hiking shoes gives you a close connection to the ground, and coupled with the responsive traction design, they’re perfect for trail running or day hiking. Feel the ground beneath your feet when you put our new minimalist-inspired men’s hiking shoes to the test. We can’t wait to hear what you think!
• Strobel construction
• Merrell Stratafuse™ Fabric upper provides a glove like fit for lightweight durability and natural movement
• Low cut upper
• Bellows tongue keeps debris out
• Protective TPU rand and toe cap
• Breathable mesh upper treated with Aegis®
• EVA removable footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution
• 4mm Drop / 10mm Cush / 21mm Stack Height
• Molded TPU arch shank
• Minimal design PU midsole increases ground contact and enhances stability
• 2.5mm sole lug depth
• Merrell Proterra Sole / Sticky Rubber
Men’s Weight: 1lb 7oz
I purchased these shoes four months ago out of the combination of need and curiosity. I needed a new pair of lightweight outdoor shoes, and I had never owned or liked any minimalist shoes before, and these happened to be on sale so I thought it was a good time to try something new. I should say these aren't strictly minimalist, but for hiking, I would think this is as minimalist as you probably should go in order to avoid injury (just my opinion of course).
At first I was a little skeptical, but I have really grown to like them quite a bit, and I have used them more extensively, and in situations which I would have never imagined. By this point I have put well over 60 rough trail miles, and another 60 city/park trails miles on them. They are holding up quite well so far.
Although unrelated to performance, I also like the more understated look as compared to most trail shoes which can look garishly out of place if you happen to wear them around town.
I purchased the non-Gore-Tex version (will explain why later) in size 10.5.
My feet tend to be slightly wide, and as can be seen from the photos above, the Proterra Sport have a reasonably wide profile with an adequate toe-box. I found the fit very comfortable, but not surprising as Merrell tend to fit me reasonably well, and these are my fourth pair in three years and I have always been satisfied with the fit.
Because the construction of this shoe is so lightweight, the lacing system works very well to pull everything together and get a great fit. I do find I have to adjust it a few times during a hike, but nothing worth complaining about.
There are two aspects when it comes to comfort with this shoe. The first is off-trail: in this case, the shoe is very comfortable, there are no points of chaffing and friction at any point. There is very little padding, but where it is placed (around ankle cuff and tongue), it provides adequate protection and will garner no complaints from me.
The second part is on-trail: while Merrell have smartly included a reasonably good toe rand, the very nature of this minimalist shoe leaves you open to a lot of contact with rough terrain. Since there is virtually no padding on the sides other than the thin fabric and some of the rubber reinforcements, you feel every rock you rub up against. This has lead me to rethink some of my foot placements which I previously never thought about with robust boots or mids.
It should be noted that the cuff and tongue however do a great job of keeping debris out. Most important of all, I have managed 6-8 hour hikes over rough terrain with these with no blisters and minimal fatigue. I cant say that about most shoes I've owned.
These are low cut shoes, so there isn't much in terms of ankle support. The sole surprisingly, because of its minimalist nature, provides excellent support for my feet. I was particularly worried about going even semi-minimalist because I have dealt with heel spurs in the past, but I can say that I have had no discomfort with these.
You do however feel just about everything underneath your feet, so perhaps that has had a "strengthening" effect over time, but all I can say for certain is that I have found the support more than adequate, and even surprising for someone such as myself who has dealt with foot related issues from shoes offering poor support.
The Proterra Sport come in two variants, with Gore-Tex liner, and without. I went without because I think it is pointless to have it! Here are my reasons why: These are very low cut shoes, which means that the liner starts even below that. Because of that, any water you step into, or rain you get caught in will eventually wet out your ankle cuff and leak into your shoes, at which point you have a lot of moisture stuck between your feet and the Gore-tex liner, thus leaving your feet wet for a long time as the liner slowly transfers that moisture out.
Without Gore-tex, these shoes dry reasonably fast (especially because the fabric is so thin). So it's best to just take a soaking and let it dry quick rather than trying to avoid the inevitable and have your feet stay wet for a long time thanks to the liner.
You also save $10-15 by going without Gore-tex.
This is where these shoes stand out in terms of design. Rather than having aggressive tread, Merrell has opted for a very shallow pattern with high surface area (see below). The sole does a great job for gripping most rock, dirt, or scree. It is reasonably stable on mud, and very good on grass.
While some shallow treads tend to fill up with mud quite easily and become very slippery, I have found that because the particular tread pattern of the Proterras is so smooth, the mud doesn't really grip to it, so it comes off just as quick as it went on.
The major downfall of these shoes, and the reason I am not giving them 5 stars, even though I am extremely satisfied with every other aspect of their performance, is their dangerously poor performance on smooth wet rock. Smooth wet rock is going to be slippery no matter what, but with these shoes, it almost feels like I am fumbling about on smooth ice.
I have had to be much more careful and meticulous crossing streams with these (although that is oddly one of the advertised features in the Merrell write up as shown above). I have also been reduced to hands-on scrambling, or sliding down on my bum when going up to higher altitude and encountering wet rock from snow melt. Perhaps a different rubber formulation might help, but it is disappointing just how dangerously slippery these can be in those situations.
These are very thin lightweight shoes so I would relegate them to summer or warm/spring summer days.
Construction and Durability:
Because these are such lightweight shoes, I honestly did not expect too much in terms of durability. I have been very pleasantly surprised by how durable they have proven to be. This is a testament to the quality of materials and well thought out construction. After many rough miles, and many scrapes against jagged rocks, I have not managed to do any real damage to these.
The only thing I could find upon close examination is two tiny bits of rubber that have been chipped off the toe-rand, and even those are barely noticeable. The soles have also taken very little wear over about 120 miles of use.
Merrell note the use of Aegis antimicrobial treatment for the upper, and while I can't say what these shoes would have been like without it, I can comment that given their amount of use, they certainly aren't too offensive smelling as of yet!
I have used these shoes in a range of conditions over the last four months, from city running to local wooded park trails, all the way to mountain paths over rough scree and big rocks in Wales, the Rockies (North of Vancouver), and the Swiss Alps.
In spite of the poor traction on wet rocks, these are excellent shoes and at least for me, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Although they are minimalist shoes, they offer adequate enough protection to hike in, even for those who have not used minimalist shoes before (such as myself).
As shoe fit is entirely personal, I would recommend trying before buying, but if Merrell fit you well, then I would highly recommend them.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $95
The Proterra is a nice minimalist hiker that is lightweight, but also has the sole and strength to tackle rocks, hills, and whatever the trail entails.
The only shoes I wear are Merrells because the are durable, light, and comfortable. The Proterra is a nice minimalist hiker that is lightweight, but also has the sole and strength to tackle rocks, hills, and whatever the trail entails. They are also great casual shoes!
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $50
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