Featuring a GORE-TEX waterproof membrane, a rugged build and an external instep with a unique heal stability arm, the Crestbound from Merrell is designed specifically to supply backpackers with a light weight, durable boot with extra stability for dealing with heavy packs over rough terrain. I submitted a pair through every condition imaginable, and walked away happy.
The Crestbound GORE-TEX are built from a rugged full grain leather upper body, paired with a Vibram TC5+ out-sole for traction and impact absorption. The inner body of the boot utilizes a GORE-TEX membrane, extending extending throughout the boot all the way into the ankles, which provides full waterproofing and also allows for the release of hot air air water vapor. Also inside is the Merrell M Select foot bed, which provides padding and shock absorption via layers of varying density foams and synthetic materials, stacked up strategically to provide support and cushion where needed. The main attraction is the external instep and stability arm, which is the stabilizing structure found on the outside heel of the boot. These provide extra stability and resists pronation, while keeping the boot at a light weight. The boots are trimmed up with a light weight toe bumper and metal hooks and eyelets for lacing the boots up. The pair weighs in at 3 lb 3 oz, and retails for $230.
What I liked
I was immediately impressed with the boot’s wonderful fit and comfort. Even on my first trip with these boots, after only a couple days of break in around town, the boots provided friction free (and thus blister free) comfort even before being properly broken in. This only improved with time as the high quality full grain leather softened with use. Internally, the boots are practically seam free, devoid of harsh stitch lines and seams that otherwise create pressure points and friction zones, a common cause of blisters. The eyelets are generously padded, and the tongue of the boots slides behind them, doubling up protection on a notorious sore spot with light weight boots. The soles are stiff where it’s needed, in the arches and at the heal, but also soft at the bend of the toe and in the upper body. This makes for a flexible boot that also provides arch and heal protection. This all comes together to create one of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever tested.
Stability is exceptional for a boot of such light weight. This is thanks largely to the external stabilizers that create a solid, locking in pocket for the heal and ankles of the wearer. The stabilizers are built similar to a high end bike seat, using a thick leather an top of a synthetic backing, riveted to the boots upper. Instead of simply relying on a heavy, rigid body for stability, the Crestbound’s use these stabilizers and clever implementation of clever geometry to create a unique structure that surrounds and cradles the ankles and heel. This wraps around the foot itself providing far more support than the light weight build would suggest. This somewhat reminds me of how traditional snowboard boots lock the user to the board, but here the board is replaced with the sole of the shoe. Hoping across rocks, crossing slippery streams, and climbing steep inclines, were all handled admirably, always providing me the stability I needed, even with a heavy load on my back.
Durability so far has been good, sucking up the constant impacts of hiking and backpacking while shrugging off a couple slides, the side of the boot down, across abrasive limestone and sandstone without showing much wear. The eyelets are rugged and show no signs of pulling out, and the stabilizer, although taking a lot of abuse as it’s external as I wedge my boot between rocks and stumps, has held up surprisingly well. I have about 6 months on these, and they’re still fully waterproof, and more comfortable by the day.
Traction is solid, yielding solid grip on wet rocks, slippery mud inclines, and even flowing water across wet tree stumps and slate. I was always able to find a sure footing, except in the most extreme situations that one should probably avoid anyway.
They’re fully waterproof all the way up to the ankle, including the laces. Dashing through puddles, crossing streams, and wading through flowing rivers that were once dry trails the previous day, all resulted in dry happy feet. Even the laces are backed with GORE-TEX, the typical point of entry on wet days. The waterproofing held up despite pouring rain, soppy mud, and generally dinginess of multiple days on the trail. Reliable waterproofing is priceless when dealing with wet environments and constant stream crossings.
They’re fairly light weight for a truly capable and supportive backpacking grade boot at just 3 lb 3 oz.
Breathability is as good as any GORE-TEX lined boot, somewhat enhanced by the thin upper body.
What I didn’t like
The leather stabilizers show wear and tear a little more easily than I would prefer. Mild scuffs and abrasions show vividly. It’s superficial at worse, but I’d like to see them cosmetically more durable, even if they’re not going anywhere.
The Crestbound boots from Merrell provide some of the best stability and foot protection that I’ve ever tried at such a low weight. Typically, you have to sacrifice something, be that durability, stability, or protection. Here, that’s not the case. The external stabilizer provides real support, while the backpacking grade sole keeps the arches from pounding after a hard day of descending a mountain with a fully loaded pack. Durability has thus far been impressive, and the price isn’t too bad either. The fact that it’s waterproof up the ankles only sweetens the deal, allowing the boot to be usable year round in the worst of conditions. Protection, style, and comfort all wrapped up in a lightweight boot. They’re certainly one of the best boots I’ve ever tested.
The highest of recommendations.
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