Shoe Review: Merrell Moab GTX Wide Trail Shoe by Clay
Having been told by my doctor that I have plantar fasciitis and about to embark on a year-long trek of the world I decided to invest in a good pair of shoes instead of the usual stuff I usually find at Sears or Walmart. I did a preliminary search on the internet about what to look for in a hiking shoe and decided on the Merrell Moab GTX Wide Trail Shoe.
That was back in the summer of 2015. These are my thoughts on the shoe having worn them for the last eight months.
The “GTX” designation means these shoes are lined with Gortex, a waterproof membrane that keeps water out while allowing heat and vapour to escape. At least in theory. “Wide”, obviously, is for people like me who have more of an E or EE width foot.
The first thing I noticed immediately was how relatively comfortable the shoes were straight out of the box. I say “relatively” because even though these Moabs were classified as wide my pinky and adjacent toe felt a little squished on both feet – but no where near as cramped as when I tried the regular width model. The collar was well padded and hugged my heels so that there was minimal to no lifting as I walked. They also had a convenient vertical loop on the heel to help pull on the shoe – hey, I appreciate those little details that translate into ease of use. And the fact that they had a Vibram tread should ensure that I would have a long-wearing shoe. Tromping about the store felt pretty good so I left my local SportChek satisfied.
Things only got better when I picked up my custom orthotics from my doctor. I pulled out the Merrell insoles and slipped in the orthotics and the comfort level went up a notch. Small toes were still a bit cramped but I figured it wouldn’t get any better than this. Then we hit the road.
We went through China, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Nepal, India, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Italy, France, Belgium, Nederlands, Germany, and Luxembourg on a variety of terrains from city streets to sand dunes, jungles to cobblestone roads, and deserts to mountain ranges.
These shoes performed admirably well across the diverse conditions and terrains. I was glad for the waterproof properties and although we never got into situations where we were wading through rivers these shoes kept my feet dry in heavy rains, through puddles, and in very wet morning dews.
The downside was that the shoes could become very HOT and my feet would sweat horribly. I was under the impression that GoreTex was supposed to breathe until I read a hiker’s blog that said shoes without GoreTex breathe better than those with. As a side note, I also tried different types of socks from “breathable” full synthetic to thick woollen hiking socks. In the end I settled on a lightweight wool and nylon blend by Keen that seemed to offer the best combination of breathability and durability.
I’m not sure how long a pair of hiking shoes are supposed to last (I’ve had my dress shoes that I wear to work for over three years) but after eight months these Merrell Moabs are ready to retire. Granted, I’m a fairly heavy guy at 105 kg (230 lbs) but the outsoles seem absolutely crushed! You can see how the softer, cushioning part of the sole (the greenish bit between the leather of the shoe and the black Vibram outsole) has been completely mashed down.
It got to the point where the Vibram outsole “sidewall” (for lack of a better term) separated from the cushioning sole and started to wear on leather of the side of the shoe.
The collar that had gripped my heel so well when the shoes were new started to feel looser as I put a lot of kilometres on them.
A quick Google search showed that this was a common wear point with Merrell owners across different models.
One of the best features of this shoe was the tread. I felt like I had great traction on the varied surfaces we walked on. As you can see in the picture below the Vibram was very hard-wearing and the tread is still easily seen. You can also notice where the greenish-brown coloured tread is wearing through to the black underneath but overall this tread has kept me sure-footed throughout the eight months of use.
The Merrell Moab GTX Wide Trail Shoe turned out to be a decent shoe to start out with as a first-time buyer of this genre of footwear.
- comfortable straight out the box, virtually no “break-in” required
- hard-wearing and long-lasting Vibram outsole that provides good traction
- available in wide width
- GoreTex lining provides waterproof layer
- midsole compresses too easily (this might just be a problem for me and my heavy self though)
- wide width not wide enough for me in the toe box area
- inner heel area wore out quickly
- GoreTex liner did not breathe as well as I was expecting and my feet sweat a lot
Was I happy with the Merrells? YES. They served me fairly well and lasted eight of the 12 months on our world tour, though the last month has been difficult due to the lack of cushioning in the midsole. I would have liked them to last for the whole year but a runner friend of mine told me she has to replace her shoes every three or four months so maybe I did alright with these.
Would I buy these Merrells again? NO. Despite the many good things about this shoe there were also enough CONS to make me look at other brands. As I am still on the road at the time of this writing I had to find a suitable replacement locally. In the end I went with the KEEN Koven Wide Hiking Shoe. What attracted me was the more square-shaped toe box and that has proven to be a better fit for me. KEEN has a WP model using KEEN-DRY, which I assume is their version of GoreTex, but this time I opted for a non-waterproof version to see if my feet would breathe better. I’ve only had these shoes for less than a month so I can’t vouch for durability but they are very comfortable so far and I may post a review once I’ve used them for longer.