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Hands-on Gear Review
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Review
Cons: Not waterproof, heavy, average support
Bottom line: Day hikes and quick and light overnighters in dry weather are where this shoe performs best.
The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator is a popular shoe from a well-established footwear manufacturer. You've probably seen this shoe, or one of its versions, out on the trail or at the mountain town watering hole. Pulled from the box, it's comfortable enough to head straight out the door. Without a waterproof membrane, it breathes well but wets out quickly in soggy conditions. It's also on the heavier side of hiking shoes and doesn't encourage you to pick up the pace. The traction is solid though, and overall, this shoe is an affordable option for light to moderate hiking needs.
For wet environments, the Moab 2 Waterproof is the same shoe but with a waterproof membrane. In direct competition is the Best Buy winning Vasque Juxt, which we preferred over the Ventilator. It's more lightweight, supportive, and versatile.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Hiking Shoes of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Costing $100, the Moab 2 Ventilator shoe is a fine hiking shoe for short, moderate ventures. It doesn't have a waterproof membrane, and therefore is not for encounters with water. The thick upper is made up of suede leather and mesh, with an EVA midsole, a nylon shank, and a Vibram TC5+ outsole.
There isn't much of a break-in period with these shoes. Our testers took them straight from the box to the trail. The spacious footbox didn't produce any pressure points or hot spots on the feet of our reviewers, but our feet did slip around a bit inside. The fit is looser than typical hiking shoes.
The laces are thick and rounded like a cord. Our testers found that the laces came untied faster than other models. Of course, you can always swap out the laces for better ones. For the lacing system, we prefer the design of the Juxt, because it allows for more precise adjustments (tight or loose) throughout the upper. This shoe is quite breathable through its mesh, waterproof membrane-free upper, making it more pleasant in warm weather than the Moab 2 Waterproof. The **Juxt, however, breathes even better.
The Ventilator weighs in just a few ounces less than the Moab 2 Waterproof, making it one of the heaviest hiking shoes reviewed. Some of the hiking boots we reviewed weighed less than this pair of shoes. On the trail, though, you likely won't notice the extra weight until you pound out a lot of mileage. If low weight is your top priority, check out the lightweight Adidas Terrex Swift R GTX.
The support offered by the Ventilator is sufficient for light hiking needs. It has a wide forefoot to increase balance when powering off your forefoot, coupled with a flexible forefoot. Like its waterproof sibling, the insole is one of the beefier ones among the competition. Despite its nylon shank between the mid and outsole, this shoe provides only moderate torsional rigidity, though. It has a rather low ankle collar, too, which doesn't help protect ankles.
Day hikes with a minimal pack of water, snacks, and camera are where this shoe shines. Hikers with seasoned, strong ankles can use this model for overnight adventures and medium packs with these shoes, but even seasoned veterans will want more support for hikes lasting several days or more. The Keen Targhee II is a better choice for backpacking longer distances, offering more support under heavy loads.
This shoe grips most surfaces well, providing some of the best results at the end of our traction tests. It features the same outsole as the Moab 2 Waterproof, the TC5+ from Vibram. It hugs dry and wet rock as if it were dear friend and performs about as well as any other shoe in mud and snow. It doesn't eat loose sediment underfoot for breakfast but didn't leave us out to dry in scree fields either. Its overall traction is on par with our Editors' Choice winner from The North Face and is only bested in our testing by the aggressive purchase of the Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX.
The Ventilator is a capable light to moderate hiker. It doesn't excel in any single application, but it holds its own on pretty much any day hike. It's weight and bulk don't encourage picking up the pace to a jog, but that's not an important factor to all hikers. It's also not our first choice for backpacking trips lasting more than a couple days. The most versatile shoe in this review is The North Face Ultra 109 GTX, which can do pretty much anything a hiker asks of it.
The Ventilator does not have a waterproof membrane, which means that when submerged, water flows in quickly. It also wets out quickly when walking through wet fauna. Like the Best Buy-winning Juxt, this relegates this shoe to hikes when dry weather is assured. The Moab 2 Waterproof version of this shoe didn't prove much better in wet conditions, as it leaked in our water resistance tests, despite its built-in waterproof liner. If you frequently hike in wet weather or on soggy trails, you are better off with the La Sportiva Synthesis GTX or Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX.
Several of our testers have had Merrell shoes and boots that last a long time. The quality is there. The Ventilators can withstand a lot of trail abuse, and with a bit of care, should last you hundreds of miles. The leather overlays protect the breathable mesh in the upper from wearing through, and the outsole showed no signs of wear following our testing period. It is more robust than the slightly less durable Vasque Juxt, its most obvious competitor among the shoes reviewed. One complaint, though, is that the seams in the forefoot are not double-stiched, which is what we prefer in high flex areas. The Asolo Agent GV proved to be the most durable model of hiking shoes tested.
The Ventilator is great for warm-weather day hikes. Unless the hiking gets super rugged, extends to multiple days, or encounters wet conditions, this shoe performs well.
Hiking shoes can cost a pretty penny, with the most expensive shoes in this review costing $185. Therefore, we're stoked this dutiful performer costs $100. For $10 more, though, you can hit the trails with the Vasque Juxt, a superior hiking shoe in many ways. This shoe brings solid value to the table but is edged out by some of its competition.
This is a good hiking shoe. We appreciate its bomber traction on and off trail, and its level of comfort from Day One is awesome. If you need a pair of hikers that you can unbox and immediately hit the trail with, these are a great option. Nailing two of the most important criteria for this category, great traction and comfort, this shoe is impressive. It is a testament to the quality of hiking shoes included in this review that such a solid hiker like the Ventilator falls to the middle of the pack.
— Ross Robinson
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