During the warmer months I have to say that I am now a convert to unlined trail shoes. There is nothing better than the freedom of splashing through bogs without worrying about keeping your feet dry. They are lightweight and give freedom of movement, your feet soon dry once out of the wet stuff. In the snow and ice of winter however I prefer the complete opposite. Nothing beats clomping around in a pair of sturdy traditional leather boots. This means that there is still a chunk of the year when neither really fit the bill. This is where I feel a good pair of mids fit in.
With the sole of my trail shoes threatening to desert the uppers, I quickly took up the offer from Merrell to test out their new Chameleon 5 Mid Ventilator GTX. I have to admit that Merrell have always been in the back of my mind when choosing new footwear. This is probably down to gear snobbery as I have always thought of them as the sort of brand Blacks and Millets stock. I have my reasons to be snobbish about Blacks but this is not the time………..
Anyway, out of the box and onto my feet it was like pulling on a favourite pair of slippers. Having a narrow ankle I often find footwear is a little loose in this department. However the Chameleon 5’s were reasonably snug, although not the sort of snugness you get with trail shoes. The toe area has loads of room for me to wiggle my toes. There is a good amount of padding around the ankle and on the tongue without being over the top.
My first impression when I took them out of the box is that they are rather cheap looking. To me they look like something you could pick up from TK Max for £20 rather than a pair of premium priced hiking boots (the RRP is £140). Looks aren’t everything though. The pig suede leather has several mesh cut out panels for ventilation and is backed up by a Goretex lining. A plastic arm wraps around the ankle to provide some support and to maintain the heel shape. This is connected to the laces so you can get a nice snug fit. Anyway no point in describing what they look like as you can just look at a picture.
On first examination I thought that the lugs on the Vibram sole look a little bit shallow and the heel does not have a deep ‘bite’, something I like to have when descending. The best test of a sole unit however is on the hill.
Their first outing was on a three-day backpack across the Moelwyns. The feeling of wearing a favourite pair of slippers continued and I walked for three days without any rubbing or discomfort. The cushioning under foot is great, nice and soft but without being spongy. They would be ideal for yomping for miles along hard packed paths and tracks. The Moelwyns were absolutely saturated after a few days of heavy rain. With the aid of gaiters they kept my feet dry, the Goretex not letting in any water. Although waterproof they did prove to be rather warm and sweaty on a humid August weekend. I can’t imagine those mesh panels did much to aid ventilation, especially when backed by Goretex. To be honest I feel that they would be much better without a waterproof lining. I find lined boots far too warm and in my experience the lining fails all to quickly. I have never had any last more than six months. Only time will tell with these. On the plus side the sole unit gripped the sopping wet grass like a limpet.
The second outing was a few days walking the grassy hills of the Southern Uplands. Once again they proved to be ridiculously comfy. There was a problem though with the inner sole. It is so thin and unsupportive that I don’t know why Merrell bothered putting it in. On the second day in the Tweedsmuir hills it was wet, both from the sky and the ground. My left boot filled with water, whether from a leak, a foot in a bog or water running off my waterproof trousers I don’t know. The inner sole started to shift about within my boot, gradually trying to work its way out. I had to stop a couple of times in the rain and re-adjust it, no fun when it is wet and windy on a hill. It was about as effective as a soggy bit of cardboard. Merrell you really do need to address this.
The third outing was a four-day backpack across the Cairngorms. They handled the varied terrain well. This alternated between good paths, soggy moorland and boulder fields. They gave me real confidence crossing boulder fields with a heavy pack. Admittedly the rock was dry but they gripped really well. To be honest I did not even think about them during the four days. Always a good sign.
I’ll pop back in six months and let you know if they are still in one piece.
So, overall what do I think?
As comfy as they come. I can wear them for days without thinking about them.
For me a good fit (although we are all different).
Great cushioning underfoot. I did a 23 kilometre day in the Cairngorms taking in two Munros and lots of trackless ground. The soles of my feet did not get the usual pounding.
A good grippy sole on wet grass.
The crappiest inner sole you could possibly imagine.
The Goretex lining makes them sweaty and means water that gets in can’t get out.
They stink already!
Price. A RRP of £140 is far too steep. Knock off £40 and they would be great value (you can find them for around £100 on the internet).
Note: These were given to me to test by Merrell. However I was free to write anything that I wanted.