The Merrell Choprock Shandal water shoe features an aggressive tread and stiff-as-a-board midsole, but sandal-like uppers. Their deep, sharp lugs dig into dirt like claws, but provide very little surface area to stick to the rocks or logs that commonly line streams. They have some poorly placed and very abrasive seams that compromise comfort on bare feet. Their stiff soles provide almost no ground feel, and lack adjustability that would enable them to be worn with thick socks comfortably on colder days. While we get their appeal as hiking-oriented sandals, their combination of features feels awkward as water shoes.
Merrell Choprock Shandal Review
Cons: Uncomfortable seams, slippery on wet rock, super stiff
Our Analysis and Test Results
Like other closed-toed sandals, Choprock Shandals rely on large openings in the upper for drainage. They have thick, aggressive lugs that seem designed for digging in on muddy trails like aggressive trail running shoes. And, like burly hiking boots, they have a super-stiff sole for support. These three things combine awkwardly to form a shoe that doesn't really perform well in most situations compared to the water shoe competition.
As a sandal, you'd expect these to be comfortable with bare feet. Unfortunately, a thick, exposed seam running vertically down the heel rubs on bare feet. With socks, they are more comfortable, but unless you really dig the socks-with-sandals vibe of the Pacific Northwest, this is probably less than ideal.
With extremely stiff soles, we did find these shoes to protect our feet well. Walking along cobbles, we never felt like our feet were squished or poked. In fact, we barely felt the ground at all. This diminished proprioception negatively impacted our balance and stability on rough surfaces. What we could feel were the sand and pebbles that worked their way under the insole through the holes in the upper, which were then difficult to remove without taking off the shoe and pulling out the insole.
These shoes lack a tongue, and the lacing does little to adjust the midfoot volume. As a result, it's very difficult to get a snug fit in these shoes without creating a crease where a tongue would otherwise be able to slide under the fabric of the uppers as the laces tighten up.
The Choprock Shandals performed exceptionally well on soft surfaces. The triangular lugs are around 1/4" deep and are very widely spaced, easily digging into even deep, slick mud.
While Vibram Megagrip is plenty sticky on wet rocks in our experience, the tread design of these shoes seemed to cripple them in terms of sticking to slick, hard surfaces. There just isn't enough rubber exposed to the rock to stick well. These worked acceptably well for creek walking but were more slippery than most shoes we tested on smooth, wet rocks.
Shoes with large holes in their uppers will not be warm on their own. That said, if they are adjustable, you might expect to be able to wear them with thick socks for warmth in cold water. However, the lack of a tongue or any significant degree of adjustability more or less rules that out with the Choprocks.
While you can remove the insole for more space, the rough material and numerous holes make it awkward to stuff a drysuit sock in these shoes while whitewater boating. If you regularly spend time in cold water, these probably won't be warm enough.
While they seem like they could work for a few water sports, we don't see these sandals working well for much other than creek walking. For boating, they just aren't adjustable to handle variability in water temperature. For canyoneering, these don't provide nearly enough protection for the midfoot. While they might be ok for SUPing, they just aren't comfortable enough with bare feet.
That said, these would work acceptably well for rafting, where closed-toed sandals are often a nice upgrade over open-toed sandals. You may like them for hiking if you prefer thick, supportive soles but are looking for something with a bit better drainage.
These shoes reminded us of stiff, burly hiking shoes in terms of sensitivity. While that's fine for long hikes, it inhibits proprioception, which can be key for maintaining balance when walking over uneven terrain.
The thick soles, aggressive lugs, and stiff midfoot all combine to make these shoes feel like bricks while swimming. This would be expected for a burly canyoneering boot, but these also lack the protection of a fully closed upper that might justify this kind of stiffness.
While these shoes didn't blow us away in other metrics, they are impressively tough. The construction is top-notch, like many other Merrell products. Although the upper has many holes and mesh all over it, the reinforcement materials are thick and seem to take abuse well.
The aggressive lugs will likely wear down quickly, but it will be a while before the outsoles wear down with how thick they are. The stiff sole and protective rubber rand also add to their durability.
Should You Buy the Merrell Choprock Shandals?
The Merrell Choprock Shandals is an odd mix of features that our testers found don't work particularly well together. They are somewhat uncomfortable, lack the outsole surface area to stick to common surfaces found in wet environments, and don't have enough adjustability to work in cold environments. While they are somewhat unique in combining a sandal design with a burly, aggressive outsole, they just don't measure up to other water shoes we tested in most regards. These shoes cost more than many higher-performing water shoes. While they might seem versatile, they sacrifice in too many metrics for us to consider them a good bargain. For only a little more, you can get much more versatile shoes, perform better in the water, and are much more comfortable. On top of that, you can get booties or kayaking shoes for much less that perform far better for boating.
What Other Water Shoes Should You Consider?
If you want a good Merrell hiking boot or winter boot, we think they offer some excellent options. However, the lack of standout functionality for these water shoes makes them less than ideal for any purpose outside of perhaps a hiking sandal, in our opinion. If you need a good budget water shoe, the NRS Kicker Remix is a higher ranking option with a reasonable price. It offers good traction and comfort with impressive sensitivity. If your budget has some leeway or isn't a concern, the Astral TR1 Junction is a great all-around water shoe that drains quickly and provides impressive comfort, warmth, and versatility.
— Dan Scott
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