The Merrell Around Town, with its outdoorsy design and rugged materials, somehow inspires getting a bit dirty and messy. And when you realize what great traction the bottom sole provides, then you can't help but want to play on rocks and run up hiking trails! Read on to see just how this sandal measured up against the rest of the competition.
This sandal was fun, adventurous, and well-suited for a variety of outdoor adventures.
The Around Town Thong was decently comfortable, though it's not a plush shoe by any means. The straps have hard stiff edges that don't soften quickly or easily. A lot of customers in online reviews complain about the sharp edges of the leather toe post. The footbed is smooth and cork-lined which is pleasant enough, but again, not what you would call luxurious like the fancy ICEVA footbed of the OluKai Ohana, our most comfortable shoe.
However, a plush cushioned shoe isn't always the most appropriate choice when you want to get out hiking or exploring. We think the Around Town strikes a pretty good balance of comfort and practicality. The graceful contours of the footbed and the spring of the rubber sole provided us with enough comfort to be happy without sacrificing stability or support. The wide leather straps, while quite a bit stiffer than those on the Birkenstock Gizeh or OluKai Lala, are still well placed and become more pliable as you break them in. Overall this adept shoe is an excellent partnership of ruggedness and smart design that gave us enough comfort to feel carefree while not sacrificing its integrity to do so.
The Around Town struck that crucial balance between enough stiffness and support to allow us to hike with ease and a smart enough design to keep us comfortable while doing it.
Support & Stability
This sandal was one of the best in our test group for support and stability. A lot of that has to do with the fantastic traction it provides, but it's also the result of a well-designed footbed shape and wide adjustable straps. Only our Editors' Choice and most supportive sandal, the Birkenstock Gizeh, the hybrid Astral Rosa, and this one had a buckle on the strap allowing for very personalized adjustments. This can make all the difference when you're trying to maneuver on slippery or steep topography.
The one thing that temporarily affected our ability to feel comfortable and stable when scrambling around was, as mentioned above (and confirmed in many online reviews), the sharp edges of the toe post. Though they started to soften the longer we wore the Around Town, it's still something to be aware of when factoring in additional time you may need for breaking this model in. And, honestly, the toe post was mostly a non-issue until we got completely covered in slick mud, rendering the footbed much less secure and causing our feet to slide into the toe post more aggressively when on hills. But in normal circumstances, the Around Town made us feel as though we were wearing full-on hiking shoes instead of flip-flops.
The sharp edges of the leather toe post on the Around Town were the hardest element to break in.
The only model that we found to be more supportive than the Around Town was our Editors' Choice, the Gizeh. It has excellent footbed traction and strap support and cups the foot brilliantly. We also really enjoyed the the Vionic Tide II which has orthotics built into the footbed, and the strappy hikeable Astral Rosa.
Need to scout out the beginning of your next route? We had no problem doing just that with the Around Town on our feet.
The Around Town lost a few points in this category primarily because the cork lining on the footbed started to peel away after very little use. This seems to be something Merrell did simply for looks, as it serves no practical purpose that we are aware of. Instead, it made the footbed slippery, which would have been preventable had Merrell used a different material. This sign of wear didn't lessen the performance of the shoe in any way, but it did sadly make it look a bit prematurely ragged.
Outside of the footbed lining issue, this sandal held up to our abuse quite well. Somehow the Around Town ended up covered in the most mud of all the pairs during a very muddy spring hike and, while it took some time and effort to get all the mud off, the shoe came out looking fine, though noticeably more broken in.
While most of the Around Town seemed highly durable, the thin cork lining on the footbed started to peel away within a matter of weeks.
The straps on the Around Town are leather, but they're lined with pigskin and coated — making them more durable than they would be otherwise. If you are looking to stay away from leather, or want something a bit easier to care for in the long term, we recommend reading about the Chaco Flip EcoTread with its simple rubber sole and polyester webbing straps. Cleaning up the Flip EcoTread after a muddy hike required no more thought than spraying them with a hose, and they didn't look like they'd been through anything. The same was true for the Astral Rosa.
The Around Town out for a very muddy hike.
The Around Town, despite its leather components, did well with all of our water tests. With a small amount of water, the footbed felt slimy for maybe 10-20 seconds, but the water wicked away quickly, and we went back to feeling dry and secure. After a full dousing in the river, the footbed was dry in about 4 minutes and the straps in 24 minutes except for a bit of dampness on their undersides.
The best performances in this category were from the minimal and beach-ready Reef Leather Uptown, and the fun and friendly Rainbow Single Layer. Both of these simple summer-esque flips were completely dry, straps and all, in 20 minutes flat.
Some of our flips out drying after getting a bath in the river. From L to R we have the Gizeh, Azure 2-Strap, Around Town, and Flip EcoTread. Despite having leather components the Around Town was completely dry in slightly less time than the rubber Flip EcoTread.
The Around Town was our top performer for this metric. While it had a smoother and slicker footbed than some of the other models, the combination of supportive straps and outstanding bottom sole traction meant that we could walk up and down steep hills without worrying one bit about our feet.
The only reason the Around Town didn't receive a perfect 10 here is because the footbed was prone to being a bit slippery when overly wet or muddy. Other models, like our Editors' Choice, the Gizeh, had better footbed traction, but no other shoe provided the sheer bottom sole stickiness of the Around Town. The Vionic Tide II came close, but its narrower straps meant that we didn't feel quite as secure when on steep hills.
Hiking up a dry dusty hill in these sandals was almost as easy as if we'd had fully enclosed hiking shoes on.
The women we had rate our tested flip-flops in regards to style took to this sandal. While opinions varied pretty wildly from person to person, the Around Town still ended up near the top of the pack overall.
The main complaint we heard in regards to this model was a dislike of the bright white sole. There are other color combinations available that have a darker, more camouflaged bottom if you feel the same way. A darker color would also hide dirt far more efficiently. All of that aside, in our time with this particular white-soled Around Town we found that most people were attracted to it and we received numerous compliments while wearing it.
For a less rugged, more overtly feminine look, be sure to check out the winner for this category and our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, the OluKai Lala. Other models that people loved were the Gizeh, OluKai Paniolo, and our Best Stylish Buy on a Tight Budget, the Teva Olowahu.
While this isn't a particularly dressy or fancy sandal, it still was very appealing to a lot of people.
We found this shoe to be a great fit for traipsing around in nature. It had the most impressive traction of all our tested models, so it's a solid choice for anyone who needs their summer footwear to be able to keep up with an active and perhaps unpredictable lifestyle. It's stylish enough to pair with a sporty dress, but not so delicate as to cause concern about getting it dirty.
This shoe retails for $80, which means they are not cheap. While we think it's mostly worth the price tag if you know that you will be hiking a lot, we might steer you towards a sandal with a heel strap like the Astral Rosa instead of a flip-flop with an open back. Both Bedrock and Chaco also make some impressive sandals specifically meant for heavy hiking. However, if you want something rugged for the crag that's also easy to take on and off, this might be a great choice and worth the price.
The Merrell Around Town is a fun and outdoorsy sandal that wowed us with its traction and stability. We were happily able to scramble up rocks and down steep hills without second-guessing our feet. The shoe is on the stiff side, especially when new, but still adequately comfortable despite this. It strikes a great balance of ruggedness, support, and style that we appreciated and think you will too.
Stylish yet robust, the Around Town ended up impressing us on a lot of fronts.