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Hands-on Gear Review
Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Review
Cons: Leaks, heavy, not built for backpacking
Bottom line: This shoe offers what most hikers need at a competitive price, and is a good choice for cold weather hikes.
In February of 2017, Merrell released their latest iteration in their popular Moab line. The Moab 2 is not a major deviation from the original, but an attempt to increase performance on a proven design. Straight out of the box, we liked this shoe. It's a great choice for hikers who prefer easy to moderate day hikes, where this shoe provides ample comfort and support. The Vibram soles gained purchase on most surfaces tested, and the shoe offers sufficient durability. Rocky terrain and carrying sizeable loads, is not this model's strong suit, though, and it didn't perform well in our water resistance metric. It's also the second-heaviest shoe reviewed.
The Columbia Redmond features a similar upper design with a lower weight and price, but our feet preferred the Moab 2 on moderate trails after the first mile. If you want to backpack with your hiking shoes, the Keen Targhee II provides more support when wearing a pack, yet falls behind the traction and durability of this shoe.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Merrell Moab 2 is a comfortable shoe for hikers who like to day hike moderate and easy trails, and its list price is $120. The upper consists of suede leather and synthetic mesh lined with a proprietary M-Select DRY waterproof membrane. The sole features a blended EVA midsole, a molded nylon arch shank, and a Vibram TC5+ outsole.
On easy to moderate trails, the Moab 2 is a comfortable hiking shoe. Even carrying some weight, we enjoyed walking in these shoes. This model requires no break-in period and is soft, less stiff and aggressive than the Vasque Juxt. The roomy toe box is great for descents, too. This shoe could use more foot protection on rougher terrain; we could feel uneven and pointed rocks underfoot.
The lacing system consists of thick laces that feed through four eyelets of webbing with a fifth set of plastic eyelets at the top of the shoe. We loved the soft padding of the tongue, which allowed us to secure the laces tight without cutting into the bridge of our feet. Our heels felt nice and snug in the heel box as well.
These shoes didn't do much to absorb impact when dropping down onto rocks from above, and they also didn't breathe well. They are also warmer than most hiking shoes. The Targhee II also failed to breathe well, but provided better foot protection and overall comfort. The membrane-less Juxt was the best breather of the bunch.
The Moab 2 is the second-heaviest model in this review, weighing 2 lb. 5.4 oz. This model has a similar build to popular hiking boots, and weighs as much as some of them. Great performance for a lower weight than these shoes is possible, such as in the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP. If weight isn't an issue, the Keen Targhee II offers more stability and support for just an ounce more.
The Moab 2 didn't win us over with great support. Hikers who haven't built up a lot of foot and ankle strength probably prefer a shoe with better torsional rigidity when tackling rough terrain or leaping from boulder to boulder. Despite featuring a molded nylon arch shank, this shoe twisted easier than most others tested. The height of the ankle collar is one of the lowest at 3.375 inches.
This shoe does have some positive attributes in the support and stability department. The forefoot is 4.75 inches at its widest point, providing a stable base for pushing off with power. We also liked the insole, which has an added layer of denser foam on its back half. For experienced hikers, this shoe has enough support for day hiking and overnight backpacking adventures. For extended backpacking trips, though, you'll be better off with the Keen Targhee II or the versatile The North Face Ultra 109 GTX.
The Moab 2 scored at the top of the competition in terms of traction. The Vibram TC5+ outsole features a unique combination of ovals, curved v-shapes, and swooping grooves, as well as varying degrees of rubber density. This high-friction sole stuck to dry rock better than all the rest, allowing us to have fun in confidence on steep rock scrambles. It gripped above average traction on wet rock, mud, and snow as well. Its drawback in this metric was going uphill in loose, dry sediment, where its lugs didn't dig into the earth well. Only two other models, The North Face Ultra 109 GTX and Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX, scored on the same level or better in traction.
The Moab 2 offered moderate versatility throughout our testing period. It can do most things you want from a hiking shoe, but in every use or category, there was a shoe that did it better. It handles rough terrain for short periods, but the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP Low is more comfortable and supportive. It endures moderate backpacking trips, but at the same price point and performing better is the Targhee II. These shoes look like hiking shoes, and for around town, we preferred the more subtle Vasque Juxt. You could pick up the pace and jog in these shoes, but several other models are much more supportive and comfortable for running. Still, we liked that this shoe was capable in the backyard and on our favorite hiking trails, despite rarely being our first choice.
The M-Select Dry membrane of the Moab 2 kept out water for two minutes in our waterproof challenge. After that time, water began leaking into the left and right shoes.There were three separate points of water entry; the outside of the left toe box, the inside of the left heel, and the inside of the right toe box. The water appeared to seep in where the midsole attached to the upper, as the bottoms of our tester's feet were getting wet. The mesh in the upper also absorbs water, while at least the leather repels liquid to some extent. Water resistance is not where this model proved its worth. The X Ultra 2 GTX proved the most water resistant in this review.
At the end of the testing period, the signs of wear and tear on the Moab 2 were a few tiny nicks in the midsole and trace scuffing on the outsole. Although the general design of this model resembles the Columbia Redmond, the craftsmanship in the Merrell shoe is superior, with higher quality mesh which is less exposed. The toe protection is also more robust, yet we prefer toe caps that extend over the top of the toe box to prevent delamination. We also give more confidence to double-stitched seams in high flex areas, which this model lacks. We expect the Vibram outsole to have a lot of life in it. The Asolo Agent GV provided the most durability of all contenders.
The Moab 2 is an excellent choice for moderate hikers who don't need the most aggressive traction or burly support. If you prefer day hikes, but need traction for all kinds of trail conditions, this is your shoe. It's also one of the warmest models, suited for cool to cold weather hikes.
At $120, Merrell offers a formidable hiking shoe at a competitive price. It ties with the Ultra 109 GTX for the third-lowest price in this review.
The Moab 2 didn't score well overall compared to the other high-performance shoes in this review, yet it remains a shoe well liked by our reviewers.The popularity of this product line from Merrell indicates that many hikers aren't looking for the most aggressive, do-it-all shoe. It's a great shoe for many seasons of day hikes on trails that don't demand the highest level of support, foot protection, or water resistance (read: most trails).
— Ross Robinson
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