If you spend as much time as I do outside, and in particular in the backcountry, then you are already aware of the importance of a good pair of footwear. There are many different choices of footwear for outdoor endeavors, some of which are very technical and specific to the task or activity you are participating in, but there are a few qualities that are important for most activities. The number one thing that a pair of footwear should do is protect your feet. Over thousands of years of human evolution and walking upright our feet are already very adept at traversing different types of terrain, but since the majority of us did not grow up walking around barefoot over rough terrain in inclement conditions our feet are not conditioned enough to rely solely on them. A good pair of footwear should protect your feet from sharp objects and provide grip on loose or slippery terrain. They should also, in most cases, keep your feet dry and provide adequate cushioning to counter the abuse you put them through after logging miles and miles over tough ground. More technical footwear like climbing shoes or mountain climbing boots have more specific criteria and are made accordingly. This review will cover a more general use hiking boot, a boot that you could wear everyday on the street but then take onto the trail without any real problems.
Enter the Merrell MOAB Mid Gore-Tex boot. (Referred to as the MOAB from here on out)
The MOAB is a lightweight hiking boot made by Merrell and the style has been around for a number of years now. As a former footwear salesman at Gander Mountain I have sold literally hundreds of pairs of MOABs to customers for a wide variety of activities and functions. I have personally owned a pair of MOABs for over 3 years now. I originally bought the MOABs to be used for hiking and light backpacking, and really all other outdoor activities that I needed more support and protection than my sneakers would provide. Let me lay out the specifics of the boot. From Merrell’s website:
Waterproof Dura leather and mesh upper
• Bellows tongue keeps debris out
• Synthetic leather toe cap and heel counter
GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort Footwear lining protects feet and keeps them dry
Breathable mesh lining treated with Aegis® Antimicrobial solution maintains foot comfort
Ortholite® anatomical footbed
Molded nylon arch shank
Compression molded EVA foot frame provides cushioning
Merrell® Air Cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
5mm Sole lug depth
Vibram® Multi-Sport Sole/TC5+ Rubber
Weight: 1 lb. 15 ozs.
My first reaction upon lacing up the MOABs for the first time was “wow are these comfortable”. The boots fit true to size and I wear the same size in these boots as I do with most of my sneakers and other shoes. I do have a relatively narrow foot and in selling these boots have found that if you have a wider foot that you will definitely need to order a wide width in order for the boot to properly fit your foot. But other than that I have not come across any fitting concerns with the boots. There was very little, if any, break in period with the boots and right out of the box you should feel comfortable going out and hiking with them, even a long day hike shouldn’t be a problem. The Ortholite anatomical footbed insoles that come with the boots are a big factor in this comfort. I replaced the insoles at one point with an aftermarket athlete insole by Sofsole and to my surprise put the Merrell insoles back into the boots. With the Ortholites my feet never hurt. When I say they never hurt, I mean never. I wore these boots hiking, backpacking and at work, sometimes 12 hour shifts on concrete floors and my feet never got sore. Once I had replaced the soles with the aftermarket ones I started noticing foot soreness after only 4 hours or so. Not good, I’ll keep the Merrell’s thank you very much Sofsol.
My second reaction was how lightweight these boots are. At 1lb. 15oz. these are not much heavier than most standard sneakers that you will find on the market. Can you find footwear that is lighter than these? Sure you can. But, I think what Merrell got right with these boots is the balance between making a lightweight boot and still providing adequate support. They are the perfect boot for a day hike or even for an everyday casual wear boot. I will say that in terms of support they are not proper backpacking boots. They are definitely capable of being backpacked in with a decent amount of weight, 45 lbs or so, but the support in the ankles is lacking compared to other heavier duty boots. Then again, they were not made to be a hard use long distance backpacking boot so its not much of a knock against these boots.
The MOABs are available in two different types of waterproofing. Regular, and Gore-Tex. I highly suggest that if you are thinking of purchasing these boots that you spend the extra $20 or so to get the Gore-Tex model rather than the regular waterproof ones. The Gore-Tex is more breathable and I think is more durable as well. My boots were walk-in a stream and stay dry waterproof for about 2 full years. After that time I found out the hard way on a weekend backpacking trip, in which it down-poured for two days straight, that they were no longer waterproof and my feet got soaked. I was not too disappointed with this performance because I was using these boots for everything. I wore them at work and outside and they got quite a bit of heavy use over the course of those first 2 years, so it isn’t too surprising that they eventually leaked on me. Sometimes with lighter weight you are going to sacrifice durability.
That being said, apart from the waterproofing, the boots have held up fantastically. The Vibram outsoles are worn but still have adequate tread for me to take them out and day hike in the boots. I still have not had to replace the laces on the boots and none of the eyelets have ripped off, although some are starting to fray a bit. One of my Gore-Tex badges has ripped off but again after 3 years of heavy heavy use they have held up very well. The only weak spot that I have been able to identify with the construction of these boots is that the outsole does seem to be susceptible to separating from the upper of the boot. My outsole is still hanging on quite well but there is some separation. I have had customers come in on multiple occasions where the outsole had separated without anywhere near as much use as I had put them through. Now with some issues you can point to the owners maintenance of the boots but you should not have to actively maintain the outsole staying attached to the upper of your boot. This was the only issue that I really came across in owning and selling these boots but it has happened so rarely that I think that it is much more of the exception than the rule.
Overall, the Merrell MOABs are a very good option for those looking for an affordable, lightweight day hiker/everyday casual boot. They are comfortable, well designed and hold up over time providing, in my experience, years of support and protection for those two feet that take you everywhere. I would highly recommend these boots for anyone looking for a lightweight hiking boot.