Weighing just 1 lb. 3 oz. per pair, the MQM Flex Hiking shoes from Merrell are designed for speed and agility, on and off trail. This is my review:
It’s instantly obvious that the MQM’s are designed to be as lightweight as possible. The bulk of the shoe is simply a durable mesh with printed TPU bands for added durability and support. They sport a removable EVA footbed, Air Cushion in the heel for impact reduction and stability, and Merrell’s own M Select GRIP outsole for traction and protection. They retail for $110.00, come in both men and women’s variants and have a wide range of colors available. They’re also available in a waterproof Gore-Tex version, but those were not tested here.
What I liked
What impressed me the most about these shoes was just how instantly comfortable they were. Right out of the box they felt at home on my feet. The weren’t stiff and stubborn like most shoes, instead instantly providing flex throughout the extent of my stride, while staying in place without shifting or feeling clunky. I gave them only a day to break in around town and took them on the trail for a short hike. Thankfully, I wasn’t punished for my impatience. Even without the break in, they did a serviceable job and continued to improve as they wore in. They still took a couple weeks for a full break in, but not being miserable out of the gate was a real plus.
The shoes are, as the above paragraph likely explained, quite comfortable. They have a way of folding around the foot thanks to the soft construction, and the printed bands really help to pull it all together and hold everything in place. They have a fairly traditional feel thanks to the robust heal and soft inners. The sole is comfortable and conforming yet firm, which is vital for long distance hiking, and the body as a whole felt soft and non abrasive. I haven’t been able to detect a single seam, nor really even feel the laces across the top of my foot. They simply feel like soft cloth gently wrapped around the feet, and for this they’re some of the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever tried.
Paired with the right socks, they also provide excellent protection on the trail, assuming you’re not carrying a lot of weight. Mile after mile of hiking and even biking, I’m yet to get a single blister or hot spot. This is largely thanks to the exceptionally breathable design, which does a great job of venting hot, humid air and allowing the feet to dry out. They also do a great job of protecting the toes and heel, despite their relatively lightweight construction. Tripping over rocks and roots has been mostly pain free as the rubber bumped and reinforced heal hold up quite well under impact.
The shoes look great with their modern yet potentially (based on your color choices) muted and conservative look. The combination of smooth bands, textured mesh, and printed and textured TPU really comes together to make an appealing look. I also like that they come in such a huge range of colors. Depending on the selection they can be bright and in your face, or blend in with their environment. It’s great when shoes are designed in a way that both are styles options.
After about 6 months of daily use in a variety of conditions and activities, I can say they’re holding up fantastic. There really are no signs of wear, pulling or separation, and they’re as fresh and clean as when I bought them, despite having not actually cleaned them. The outsole has held up great too, even on pavement and gravel.
What I didn’t like
Being a lightweight shoe they aren’t much for backpacking. Unless the pack weight is under 15 or 20 pounds, these really don’t provide enough under foot support or shock protection for heavy loads over a distance. Admittedly, they aren’t really designed to, but I always bring it up just in case it’s a decision maker.
Traction in wet/slippery conditions is just O.K. They can do the job, but they can also slide around quite a bit in some situations. Wet roots and rocks are particularly problematic as they like to scoot about on anything smooth and moist, including tiles indoors. Dry traction is rather good, however.
I really like the Merrell MQM Flex. They’re lightweight, exceptionally comfortable, and they work great as lightweight hikers, daily footwear, and have even held up to mountain and gravel biking. I wouldn’t recommend them for backpacking as they’re really not built to handle the weight though. They can get a little slippery when it’s wet out, but not exceptionally so and the dry traction is fantastic, making them viable trail runners too. In the end, this is a pair of shoes I can wear all day at work, then simple stroll out of the office and onto a trail for some fun, without having to worry about changing out my footwear. For this reason, they’ve become my new daily driver, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much more I can put them through.
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II purchased these shoes myself with no obligation agreement to review them.
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