This article first appeared on TheTrek.Merrell is no stranger to the outdoors, having produced highly-acclaimed hiking shoes and boots for many decades. In recent years, hiking footwear has trended toward trail runners, and Merrell has answered the call with options like the Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX.
Now in its second iteration, the hybrid hiking/trail running shoe has been updated with features to make it a fast, protective shoe. This model is offered in both a waterproof and non-waterproof version and includes many attractive features that make it a solid choice for outdoor adventures.
The Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX At-a-Glance
Weight: 1lb 9oz (pair)
Sole: Quantum grip rubber
Material: GORE-TEX waterproof/breathable membrane. 100% vegan.
Circumstances of Use
GORE-TEX waterproof membrane: There are both waterproof and non-waterproof versions of this shoe, but I tested the former which integrates a waterproof GORE-TEX membrane to the inside of the shoe, which they call “InvisibleFit” because you’d never know it was there based on feel alone.
Quantum Grip Outsole: A proprietary rubber compound developed by Merrell, Quantum Grip is designed to grab well while keeping weight to a minimum.
Tongue-integrated lacing, bellows tongue, Kinetic Fit™ BASE removable contoured insole: That’s a mouthful, but suffice to say that a lot of thought and design went into the fit of these shoes. They are designed to be comfortable, customizable (in terms of fit and insole), and to shed water and debris efficiently.
The waterproof GORE-TEX membrane on these shoes worked well, and I was able to submerge my feet almost all the way up to my ankles on numerous occasions without any water seeping in. In most cases, I prefer non-waterproof shoes because they breathe better and dry faster. But I’ll admit that having the ability to walk straight through puddles rather than hop-scotching around them was a nice benefit on shorter hikes.
What’s more, having waterproof shoes can be a benefit when hiking or running on compacted snow or on wet (but not overflowing) trails in the shoulder seasons. Not only will they help prevent direct contact with the elements, but they will also help retain heat to keep your feet warmer.
Grip on Granite
As previously mentioned, I used these in Acadia National Park where there is a lot of slick granite. I was very impressed with their traction. With deep 5 mm lugs and an effective outsole pattern, a slip is exceedingly rare. Of course, there’s always a trade-off between grip and durability, as “stickier” outsoles tend to wear faster. However, they’re holding up better than my last pair of Altra Lone Peaks, which also have great grip but wear out extremely fast on this rugged terrain.
In addition to the abovementioned features like tongue-integrated lacing and removable contoured insoles that assist with obtaining a great fit in these shoes, they also have a wider toe box than most trail runners and hiking shoes. They aren’t on the level of Altra or Topo in this regard, but there is more space than you would normally find in a Brooks or Nike shoe. This isn’t all that surprising, as Merrell has released several versions of the Trail Glove with its “full forefoot” feature, although it’s nice to see some of that translate to other models.
Being waterproof is both a positive and negative aspect of these shoes. As previously mentioned, waterproof shoes can be a benefit when walking on compact snow or through wet areas without major fording or stream crossings. The downside of having waterproof shoes is that not only do they do a great job of keeping moisture out, they also excel at keeping it in. Because of the GORE-TEX membrane, the shoes are not nearly as breathable as their non-waterproof brethren. Thus they take longer to dry out and keep your feet wetter and hotter than you may appreciate.
Jack of all Trades, Master of None
This shoe packs in a lot of features, no doubt about it. However, because it does everything it falls short of being either an excellent hiking shoe or a fantastic trail runner. The outsole is great for a trail running shoe, but the midsole and upper lack the comfort and features necessary for big miles. Likewise, the GORE-TEX lining makes for a good wet-weather hiking shoe. However, the flexibility and softness of the outsole will lead to durability issues for long-term use on rugged trails.
The Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX is a well-designed and executed shoe. It’s a far cry from the clunkier and heavier models offered by many outdoor brands. Although it doesn’t quite hit the mark for being a reliable and extra-comfortable trail runner, nor does it likely meet the durability standards of a rough-trail hiking shoe, it still does a lot of things right and effectively bridges the gap between shoe types.
In fact, the pleasing fit, grippy outsole, and waterproof GORE-TEX liner blend together seamlessly into what I would consider one of the best shoes for wet-weather day hikes in the Northeast and beyond. I will be keeping these close at hand for just that purpose!
Check them out here!
Weight: 13.4 ounces
Drop: 11 mm
Weight: 10.6 ounces
Weight: 14.6 ounces
Drop: 5 mm
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Brandon Chase is a writer, endurance athlete, and guide based in Maine. He is a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and spent nearly a decade overseas serving at embassies in Egypt, Cyprus, and Pakistan.
Along with a 98-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, he has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the West Highland Way, fastpacked in the Himalayas, and trekked around New Zealand and South Africa. He also regularly competes in ultramarathons at the 50k, 50-mile, and 100-mile distances.