Merrell MQM Flex 2 Low - Women's Review
Cons: Not waterproof, lacks support
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Comfort in a hiking shoe is paramount, and the MQM Flex provides a good amount of cushion underfoot, particularly in the heel. The fabric is soft and flexible and the shoes do not require any breaking in to be comfortable. They are also quite breathable which would make them a great choice for summer hiking.We did find that the mesh allows fine particles into the shoes and on dusty trails. We removed quite a bit of dirt from these shoes after hikes. The midsole is quite flexible and soft, which makes the shoe feel nimble underfoot, but does not provide much protection from rocks. We enjoyed this model on mellow hikes with a predictable tread underfoot. It does run a bit narrow, especially in the toe box, which is something to keep in mind if you like to have room to wiggle your toes or wear thicker socks. The bottom line is that these shoes are perfectly comfortable on groomed trails and in hot weather, but their comfort quickly suffers as soon as you increase the ruggedness of the terrain.
Lightweight hiking shoes typically don't offer as much stability or support. If you aren't carrying a lot of weight or heading out on multi-day treks, then this might not be an issue. We found that the MQM Flex, though cushioned, does not have much rigidity anywhere in the upper or sole to provide the protection or support that is needed for technical terrain where the surface may be uneven or rocky. Long hikes left us with very tired feet. Shoes that are just a little bit heavier are significantly more stable and allow for longer adventures in more varied terrain.
With decently deep lugs and sticky Quantum Grip rubber, we were pleased with the traction on the MQM Flex. The lugs held onto looser surfaces well and the rubber was grippy on rock slabs.
At 1.22 pounds for a pair, the MQM Flex is a very lightweight hiking shoe. The tradeoff here is a lack of support and waterproofness that would make it appropriate for longer hikes in unpredictable weather, or when more weight is being carried. For light and fast hikes in dry weather, however, these shoes would fit the bill.
The MQM Flex is not waterproof and failed our bucket test, as we would expect a shoe without a liner to do. However, there is a Gore-Tex version of the shoe if waterproofness is a primary concern (though it was not a part of our test), and the price jumps a lot to add this feature. The version we tested was adequate for keeping feet dry on dewy mornings or in a very light drizzle, but we would not recommend them for hikes where the weather might be unpredictable. The tradeoff for waterproofness is a high level of breathability, which can be appropriate for hikers in the desert.
While synthetic materials are inherently less durable than leather, the MQM Flex has multiple TPU overlays to protect the mesh. Within the period of our test, we could see wrinkles in the sole that indicate that the EVA midsole is being compressed. This is common in lightweight shoes which typically have a shorter life than more durable hikers. We can't confidently expect this shoe to outlast its competition.
This shoe is one of the least expensive in our test. However, it lacks many features that most hikers value in a shoe. If you live in a warm, dry environment or are able to have multiple pairs of hiking shoes, you will find these to be a great value.
For lightweight excursions in dry climates, the MQM Flex is not only affordable, but it is bright and colorful. It lacks versatility, though, and is mostly suitable for shorter, easy hikes.
— Laurel Hunter