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Merrell Antora 2 Review

This rainbow contender has the ability to tackle all kinds of trail with excellent protection and sticky traction
Merrell Antora 2
Photo: Merrell
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $110 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Sticky traction, protective, rainbow design is fun, great value, all surface capabilities
Cons:  Less stable than most, harder midsole is less comfortable, narrower fit
Manufacturer:   Merrell
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 28, 2021
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 16
  • Foot Protection - 25% 7
  • Traction - 20% 7
  • Sensitivity - 15% 7
  • Stability - 15% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 6
  • Weight - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Merrell Antora 2 isn't just a super cute rainbow shoe, it's also an all-terrain warrior with excellent value. It boasts a sticky outsole with 5mm lugs that grip rocky terrain with the ability to navigate moderately treacherous conditions. While we prefer it for shorter runs on trails, it has versatility for longer distances and as an everyday workhorse, assuming the fit is right. Narrower in design, it doesn't have the widest toe box. The midsole is made from a thick and protective EVA foam. At a great value, this is a good option for those looking for a more rigid trail runner with an 8.5mm heel-to-toe drop and moderate cushioning. It comes in wide and regular options; we tested the wide version.

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Merrell Antora 2
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Merrell Antora 2
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$130 ListCheck Price at REI
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$145.98 at AmazonCheck Price at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Sticky traction, protective, rainbow design is fun, great value, all surface capabilitiesLight, very protective, excellent mud shed, superior traction, surprisingly stableExcellent traction, great balance of foot protection and sensitivity, specific fit, durable outsoleLightweight and streamlined, durable elements, very sensitive, precise fit, protective upper, stable on technical terrain, fun color optionsSensitive, stable, precise fit, great for technical surfaces
Cons Less stable than most, harder midsole is less comfortable, narrower fitNarrow fit, runs small, rigid construction takes time to break-inHigher heel is less stable, lugs wear down on pavementExpensive, no extra room in the toe box, tongue requires readjustment, zero drop design is best for only someHeavier, lacks cushioning, best for narrow feet
Bottom Line This rainbow contender has the ability to tackle all kinds of trail with excellent protection and sticky tractionStable and deliciously sticky, this contender is just a crusher all the way around, built for training runs and long distances alikeAn aggressive trail shoe that is built for the steepest and most technical trails out thereOur favorite for its low profile and zero-drop design that feels like an extension of the body, ready to tackle technical terrainA sensitive yet protective trail runner best for technical terrain, with a little less cushioning in the forefoot
Rating Categories Merrell Antora 2 Dynafit Feline SL - Women's Speedcross 5 Inov-8 Terraultra G270 Bushido 2
Foot Protection (25%)
7
8
9
6
6
Traction (20%)
7
9
9
8
8
Sensitivity (15%)
7
9
7
9
9
Stability (15%)
7
8
7
9
8
Comfort And Fit (15%)
6
6
7
6
8
Weight (10%)
6
6
5
9
5
Specs Merrell Antora 2 Dynafit Feline SL... Speedcross 5 Inov-8 Terraultra... Bushido 2
Measured Weight (per shoe, size 9) 9.6 oz 9.8 oz 10.7 oz 8.3 oz 10.3 oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop 8.5 mm 8 mm 10 mm 0 mm 6 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 28.5 mm, 20 mm Not disclosed 35 mm, 25 mm 12 mm, 12 mm 19 mm, 13 mm
Upper Mesh and TPU Mesh, continuous nylon Nylon mesh, sythetic overlays Mesh and TPU AirMesh, Thermal adhesive microfiber, High frequency welded ripstop
Midsole EVA Feline SL midsole Injected EVA Powerflow Max 1.5 mm dual-density compressed EVA
Outsole Vibram TC5+ rubber sole Sticky Pomoco Outer Contragrip Graphene Grip Dual-Density FriXion XT V-Groove with Impact Brake System
Rock Plate? Yes Not disclosed Yes Not disclosed Yes
Wide Version Available? Yes No No No No
Sizes Available 5 - 11 5 - 11 5 - 12 5.5 - 11 36 - 43 EU

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Antora 2 is a well-rounded and versatile trail runner at a lower price than most. It offers a smooth and comfortable ride with a moderate level of cushioning. We couldn't help but fall in love with its rainbow design and its excellent overall value. It comes in both wide and regular sizing options.

Performance Comparison


The Merrel Antora 2 offers excellent performance on moderately...
The Merrel Antora 2 offers excellent performance on moderately technical terrain with the ability to take on traditional trail conditions. It comes at a great price and a celebratory color scheme.
Photo: Amber King

Foot Protection


This shoe offers a moderate amount of protection on the trail. It uses a rock plate and a hefty level of cushioning to keep feet protected from underfoot hazards. You can still feel the trail while feeling protected. Given its moderate level of cushioning it's one we'd recommend for casual to technical trails.


Most of its protection comes in the form of underfoot cushioning. The forefoot has 20mm while the heel has 28.5mm. Most protective trail runners have about this amount of cushioning which does a good job shielding your foot on the trail, especially on longer runs. The cushioning isn't soft or plush, but rigid and responsive. The integrated rock plate helps to disperse the force of impact.

The uppers are protective from larger debris. While it doesn't have...
The uppers are protective from larger debris. While it doesn't have a dedicated drainage system, the upper does dry out quickly.
Photo: Amber King

The upper is also nice and protective, but it does let sand and super small particulates in so it's not recommended for desert running. It also doesn't have a dedicated drainage system, so it holds water when crossing rivers or getting a bit wet. The toe cap isn't very hard either. As a result of these caveats, it has a moderate amount of protection, earning a slightly above average score in this metric.

The toe cap is reinforced and will protect from an unexpected stub.
The toe cap is reinforced and will protect from an unexpected stub.
Photo: Amber King

Traction


The outsole of the Antora 2 uses Vibram TC5+ rubber which is incredibly sticky. The lugs are measured at 5mm, performing well on most trails. Around the edges are the longer lugs while the interior of the midsole has closely spaced lugs, about 4mm in length. We tested it across muddy, snowy, and dry conditions, with it doing well in most.


The Vibram rubber compound sticks well to rocks and does good work while scrambling and tackling traditional trails. Pine-laden single track, rocky alpine meadows, and dirt surfaces are where it thrives. Over kitty litter, the lugs can parse through the nasty stuff to grab the hard surfaces below. It even did well running in the winter over muddy snow and frosty surfaces.

Amber and Riley take on the snowy conditions of early Spring running...
Amber and Riley take on the snowy conditions of early Spring running in the mountains. The Antora 2 does great on this hardpacked snow, biting into the surfaces with confidence inspiring traction.
Photo: Amber King

The only issue we had with outsole performance was during our mud shed tests. The lugs are plentiful but spaced closely together. As a result, clay-based muds weren't able to release easily from the surface. Additionally, smaller rocks tend to get caught in the cracks of the tread when traveling over gravel. Aside from these caveats, the outsole does well in a plethora of conditions and over many surfaces. Cross-over terrain, steeper trails, and technical surfaces — no problem.

A look at the sticky Vibram outsole.
A look at the sticky Vibram outsole.
Photo: Amber King

Sensitivity


With this shoe, you can feel parts of the trail, but not all of it. You know when to adjust your body for a rocky undulation to ensure appropriate positioning, without sacrificing protection.


While it is stacked with EVA foam cushioning throughout the midsole, the Antora 2 is rigid, which protects but also gives you a good idea of what's underfoot. If you're a forefoot striker, expect 20mm of cushioning separating you and the ground. If you strike with your heel, expect to feel a little bit less underfoot. Overall, sensitivity is about average in comparison to other trail runners in this review.

We appreciate the thicker EVA midsole that provides nice protection...
We appreciate the thicker EVA midsole that provides nice protection and a responsive ride. Our testers agreed this responsive midsole felt comfortable, but it may be too rigid for those used to soft and plush footbeds.
Photo: Amber King

Stability


This shoe boasts a moderate level of stability, but because of its harder EVA foam and design, it's a little less stable than most high-performing trail runners. It comes in both a regular and wide size. We tested the wide version, which felt more like a regular width toe box. The shoe doesn't stand too high and has a nice profile which helps to protect from rolled ankles.


The reason it loses a few points in this category is because of its rigid nature. Other trail runners that score higher are a little more flexible and don't stand as tall. That said, for its height, the wider version provided a sufficient width to splay toes which aided in balance. The TPU skeleton wraps around the upper of the shoe which adds structure to the fit, and thus better stability.

When running over mud, off-camber trails, and rocky surfaces, this...
When running over mud, off-camber trails, and rocky surfaces, this shoe did fairly well. While it did inspire confidence on most trails, it's not the most stable option out there.
Photo: Amber King

The outsole isn't much wider than the upper of the shoe, meaning there is a steeper wall and thus a more significant "tipping point". When running, we felt like we had to take a little extra care in foot placement to avoid turned ankles. While we didn't experience any rolled ankles during our testing period (thankfully), this shoe doesn't feel as stable as other top contenders. It's still one we'd take on technical or rocky terrain as the foam does mold around these obstacles, but it's one you need to get used to.

Comfort and Fit


The Antora 2 boasts a wide and regular fit that feels comfortable to wear right out of the box. It's not the most comfortable contender tested, but one we'd wear to work, while doing chores, and during training runs. The compact EVA foam isn't very soft and squishy, but responsive and firm. Some of our testers liked this, while others did not.


We tested the Antora on several runs ranging in distance from a half-mile to 15 miles. During shorter distances (3-4 miles) we thought it was perfect. The wider version allows just enough room for toes to wiggle. The wide fit actually felt like a regular width, so we imagine the regular width will have a pretty narrow profile. The top of the shoe tapers to a point, so it squishes the tips of the toes together. This was felt after a few miles on the trail, especially when our feet started to swell.

This is the wide version, with a relatively wide profile throughout...
This is the wide version, with a relatively wide profile throughout. The toe box feels more like a regular width, so expect the regular version to feel a little narrow. Overall, it is comfortable with a fit that many would love.
Photo: Amber King

The heel cup fits well, and you can cinch down the fit so the foot doesn't slide back and forth on the steeps. One interesting thing that happened to our main tester is her pinky toe and forefoot kept going asleep after mile six — on any type of terrain. At first, we thought this was because the laces were too tight, but even when we loosened them, it kept happening. We attribute this to the footbed being pretty rigid, with a pressure point right on the middle of the forefoot. We gave these to a friend with a more narrow foot who is a heel striker, and they had no issues. As a result, we think that the fit can be finicky. While it might work well for one person, it may not work for another. We recommend trying these before committing to them.

Weight


This shoe has a middle-of-the-road weight, with a size 9 (wider width) coming in at 9.6 oz.


While this is far from the most lightweight shoe on the market, it still feels pretty light on the foot and isn't noticeable after many miles.

A trail shoe with a middle-of-the-road weight that doesn't feel...
A trail shoe with a middle-of-the-road weight that doesn't feel bulky on the trail.
Photo: Amber King

Value


This trail runner earns moderate marks in all categories with a wide range of uses. It also comes at a lower price. While it is at the lower end of the trail running spectrum for scoring (in our very competitive lineup), it has good performance, doing well in both urban and backcountry settings. It's not the shoe we would wear for an ultramarathon, but for the fledgling trail runner or those that like to log under 10 miles at a time, it's one we love. If the fit works, this is an excellent deal that touts versatility and comfort on the trail.

Conclusion


The Merrell Antora 2 features a fun rainbow design with sticky traction and the ability to take you anywhere. Designed for on-trail use, it also does great on paths and roads. While it struggles in heavy mud and has a midsole that's stiffer than most, it's still a versatile trail runner at a great price. It has two widths, with a narrower fit than most, so be sure you get the right size.

Run out the trails, roads, and paths in this versatile all-terrain...
Run out the trails, roads, and paths in this versatile all-terrain warrior. While it's not the most technical shoe on the market, it presents an excellent value for its level of performance. Plus, the rainbow design brings a smile everytime we strap it on.
Photo: Amber King

Amber King