Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very light, cool, and breathable, great dry trail traction, inexpensive
Cons: Wears quickly, poor foot support, not waterproof
Best Uses: Hot weather hiking, canyoneering, casual wear
The Merrell Moab Ventilator is a non-waterproof, minimalist shoe that we found to be comfortable and cool on the foot, but brought little to the table that made our testers say "Wow." This model delivers good traction in dry terrain, but poor foot support and durability. That said, its weight is outstanding. At 2.11 lbs, it's the lightest shoe we tested, and popular for long-distance backpacking. The combination of traction, comfort, and class leading weight appeals to many hikers.
The fit is average, and the shoe is cushy and soft, but lacks arch support. However, it is one of two shoes we tested with wide sizes up to 15. This product would be a good fit for someone looking for a shoe for occasional light dayhikes and a good casual shoe to wear around town. It also fits a nice niche for ultra-hot hiking, long-distance adventures, or warm-weather trips where you will be in the water frequently.
The Keen Marshall WP is a similarly fitting shoe that is also very breathable, and offers more foot support and durability. Our Best Buy winner Keen Targhee 2 is a more supportive, waterproof lightweight shoe that is popular for long distance hiking as well.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The super light and comfortable Merrell Moab Ventilator excels for hiking in hot weather, but provides little support for the foot. However, the sole provides good traction on dry, dusty, rocky trails. Along with the Vasque Juxt, this is one of two models we evaluated that does not have a waterproof liner. Unlike the Juxt (which only comes in the non-waterproof version), the Ventilator comes in several other versions (see the end of this review).
This model is a plush, comfortable shoe right out of the box, but lacks the arch support and fit to make it comfortable for long days or rough terrain. The lightweight mesh and leather upper wraps the foot in ample padding. It sports a version of our favorite lacing system: four lower webbing eyelets on the midfoot and two closely spaced traditional eyelets above. This system provides good lacing options, and is used by The North Face Ultra 109 GTX.
With no waterproof membrane liner, this hiking shoe is in a class of it's own for breathability. Warm, dry seasons and hot weather are what this shoe is built for. It also dries quickly when soaked, and is great for warm canyoneering and canoeing.
This is the lightest shoe we tested, coming in at just 2.11 lbs per pair. Light is right on the feet, and this shoe excels at pounding out light and fast miles on decently flat terrain, but when the going gets tough, this model just starts to cower. Merrell's choices made to minimize the weight deliver very little foot support, and therefore they provide very little comfort in rough terrain. For a lightweight option that also has great support, check out the Keen Targhee 2, our Best Buy winner.
The foot support of this product is minimal at best. Between a nearly flat footbed, mushy uppers and a sole lacking any resemblance of stiffness, the Moab falls short of a shoe you can depend on when the trail turns rocky and rough. For short hikes, and smooth trails this is a good shoe. But you need strong feet to make up the lack of support for more demanding hiking. The mid-cut boot version, Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid, is only a few ounces heavier and provides more ankle support and protection. The Ventilator brothers are very popular, and if weight, affordability and breathability are your primary desires, they are a great choice.
On dry rock and in loose gravel, the Merrell Moab Ventilator has great traction. Its Vibram sole sticks well, and showed very little wear from our testing. However, wet granite and mud challenged its ability to keep up with most others. It does stick quite well to wet sandstone though.
This model is comfortable for smooth trails and shorter hikes, but it doesn't have the support for rough terrain or carrying a pack, except for those with the strongest feet. You don't want to run in these either. The soft construction and breathability of this shoe make it a good choice for an everyday casual shoe.
The water resistance category is simply unfair to this shoe – without a waterproof membrane, it is simply not designed to be water resistant. However, some may prefer an unlined shoe, as they drain faster and are extremely breathable. When inevitably this shoe gets wet, it dries very quickly - much more quickly than the Vasque Juxt.
The suede and mesh uppers of the Merrell Moab Ventilator held up to a bit of abrasion in our testing, but leave us a bit concerned about the longevity of the shoe. The stitching that holds the rubber toe cap to the upper is prone to abrasion and breaking. This is one of the least durable shoes we evaluated. However, the sole was surprisingly resilient. The Vasque Juxt is a more durable option for rough, hot weather use, but the Ventilator does breathe better.
Canyoneering, desert hiking, day hiking this shoe has many great uses. For short hikes it's super comfortable, and folks with strong feet finds the light weight compelling for long days. This is a popular shoe among experienced hikers on multi-week long thru-hikes.
At a low list price of only $90, this piece is barely more than half the cost of many of the shoes we tested. This is a great value, but only if the shoe meets your needs.
This comfortable, affordable shoe may be the ticket for some folks, but for the hiking demands of our testers, its foot support is lacking. We did enjoy its feather light comfort for short hikes and smooth trails, but always chose other shoes for rough terrain and longer days. Superb breathability makes the Merrell Moab Ventilator perfect for hot weather, desert hikes and exploring canyons.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Merrell Moab Ventilator - Women's, Low Cut, $90, are the women's version. This shoe is also available in the mid version, the Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid, $100, as well as the mid waterproof version, the Merrell Moab Mid GTX, $150.
— Brandon Lampley
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Most recent review: May 18, 2015
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