The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator has a classic, though slightly bulky, hiking shoe look. The upper is made of suede leather and mesh, with a mesh liner and EVA midsole. The sole is a Vibram TC5+ rubber with 5mm lugs.
Our Best Buy winner is lightweight and comfortable, and provides all the support and traction you need to get yourself into some precarious situations.
Comfort is one of the main considerations when it comes to hiking shoes, as an ill-fitting shoe or a lack of cushioning can ruin your trip. While not quite as comfortable as our Top Pick for Comfort, the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP, they still scored high in this category, and we appreciate the cushioning found in this pair. They are comfortable straight out of the box (what we hope for in a hiking shoe) and require no break-in period.
This pair uses a blended EVA midsole, so they are not too soft, like the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP, which leaves you feeling every pebble in the trail, or too hard, like the Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo. While some people might prefer more or less padding than others, these seem to strike a happy compromise. Note that Merrell is the only brand that felt slightly small in the women's size 10 that we tested. Our toes almost reach the end of the Moab and the Siren Edge, and we did have a bit of knocking when going downhill. You might want to consider sizing up with this company if you tend to straddle a size range. Online user reviews of this shoe seem to confirm this issue in a large portion of the purchasers. Note that it also comes in a Wide version, which is rare in the women's hiking shoe market. The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX and the Vasque Talus Trek Low UltraDry were the only other pairs in this review to offer that. If you have wide feet, you could also look at the Keen Targhee III Low, which is similar to the Moab but cut on the wider side.
These shoes are comfortable and require no break-in period - but they do tend to run small so you might want to consider sizing up.
There are several things that we consider when it comes to the support of the shoes that we tested, including the arch support, lacing system and its ability to create some ankle support, and lateral movement. This pair received an excellent score for support as well.
There is a molded nylon arch shank that provides great (but not too much) arch support that doesn't compact with every step. The ankle opening comes up a little higher than some of the lower cut shoes in this review, like the Ahnu Montara III, and the laces allow us to cinch down that area and create some good ankle stability for a shoe as opposed to a boot. They aren't quite as stable as our Editors' Choice winner, the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry. That pair comes up even higher and has a stiffer sole which allows for better overall ankle and lateral stability, but these are still great!
The molded arch support gave this shoe good stability, and even though it is a low-cut shoe we were still able to achieve good ankle stability.
We were able to race up slabs with ease in this pair.
There are also a few different components that we consider for a shoe's traction score, including the performance going up and down steep and loose trails, and how they stick on rock slabs. This is another area where the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator excelled.
The Vibram sole on this shoe has a unique design. Instead of traditional lugs, there are circles, swoops, and larger v-patterns. The rubber itself is on the softer side and is very sticky. We scrambled all over Red Rock Canyon in this pair, and they had no problem sticking to very steep slabs.
The unique tread on this shoe offered great traction on both trails and rock slabs.
These hiking shoes weigh in at 1 pound 13 ounces in a women's size 10. That makes them only six ounces heavier than the lightest shoe in this review, the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP. While three ounces per foot is pretty negligible, the Moab provides a lot more support and comfort for that extra weight, so we do think it's worth it.
This pair received a very low score for water resistance. Here's the deal with the Ventilators. They are made with breathability and ventilation in mind, and not waterproofness. It has a mesh liner instead of a Gore-Tex or other waterproof barrier, so after we dunked our feet in a bucket of water, we had about 60 seconds before our feet soaked through. This was slightly better than the Keen Voyageur, which soaked through in only 30 seconds.
When compared to most of the other models in this review that kept our feet dry for over ten minutes in our bucket test, we truly learned the value of a waterproof liner if you live in a wet climate or hike in variable weather. This shoe will still repel light rain or some dew and are ideal if you live in the desert and only hike in the sunshine.
There are a few durability concerns for us with this shoe, including the softer rubber on the soles (softer rubber will wear down faster), exposed EVA midsole, which can snag and tear on brush, and the liner which catches pieces of vegetation and pills.
While the cutout leather on the uppers is nice for ventilation, it does create more places for failure, and the seams are only single stitched. There is a small rubber toe cap though, which, while not as large or protective as the Keen Voyageur's toe cap, will offer more wear protection than a shoe without one.
Scrambling around during shoe testing. The soft rubber that gives the Moab 2 great traction also wears out faster than a stiffer sole.
Since the pair that we tested was not the waterproof version, we'd have to recommend them for hot and dry conditions as opposed to wet ones. These were our favorite pair to wear around our testing area of Southern Nevada. The traction on these shoes is also fantastic, so if you like to scramble around or bag trail-less peaks these are a great choice. While we generally recommend using a higher boot for backpacking with a heavy pack, one of our testers did use these on the Appalachian Trail for hundreds of miles, so they are certainly versatile.
Veronica Long wearing the Ventilators on the Appalachian Trail with scree gaiters. These shoes lasted her over 1,000 miles of hiking with a pack.
The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator retails for only $100, which is a nice break compared to the $150 and up models out there. We even tested a $210 pair, the Lowa Renegade GTX Lo, which had about the same overall score as this pair. Might the Renegades last longer than the Ventilators? Perhaps. But considering that these are considerably more comfortable for half the price, we think they are worthy of our Best Buy Award.
Even though Merrell has slightly upped the price of the Moab 2 Ventilator, they remain one of the least expensive hiking shoes available, while performing well in all of our tests, except for water resistance.