Let me begin by saying that once upon a time, I viewed every hiking shoe on the market through a single lens: I buy a pair; head to harsh environments that call for footwear that stands up to crazy weather conditions, and then set about doing whatever dragged my bum out in the first place. That's what I did. And that's also when I learned that not all hiking shoes are created equal.
On an expedition to a particularly unpleasant location, I found my feet encased in what I thought were all-weather hiking shoes, but they were anything but. I was miserable and those horrific memories will likely stick with me for all the days of my life.
Having made a lousy first buying choice, I had little confidence in my ability to choose wisely, but fortunately, I lucked out the second time around. Want to avoid following in my formerly soggy, freezing, toe-numbing footsteps? Use this review to start your shopping journey.
This Company is Solid
I snagged a pair of Merrell Moab FST GTX hiking shoes with trepidation, even after doing a lot of research. I began to relax while doing my homework and learning that the Merrell footwear brand is no amateur when it comes to crafting a solid, reliable product engineered to deal with temperature extremes.
The Colorado-based company produced leather boots exclusively back in 1981, then ventured into footwear for outdoorsmen, testing everything out amid that state's mountainous terrain.
Signature features built into every pair of Merrell functional, durable hiking shoes include fabrication to exacting standards and a relationship with Gore-Tex, the name always associated with weatherproofing outdoor gear.
After investing in my first pair of Merrell's — in my case, in Moab FST GTX hiking shoes — I tried to put aside my sceptical feelings based on the lousy first hiking shoes I formerly owned and was prepared to find fault with these kicks, too.
What I Learned
Immediately after purchasing my Moab FST GTXs, I began breaking them in on ordinary turf. These shoes didn't disappoint. They proved comfortable despite trekking over uneven surfaces, and I'm pretty sure credit for this goes to the shoe's moulded nylon arch shank.
Moving at a faster pace resulted in an equally smooth and even experience, a benefit courtesy of the company's proprietary air cushioning that stabilised my stride and absorbed any heel shocks that came my way. Maiden voyage undertaken, I headed for more daunting terrain.
Did these walking shoes prove themselves when I subjected them to the ultimate weather challenges? You bet. I took them out into drenching rain, deep snow and everything in-between, and my feet remained dry and comfortable.
The Gore-Tex waterproof membrane did its job, yet my feet didn't stink after a full day on the move thanks to blended EVA materials that, in concert, supply organic odour control properties that my former shoes promised but never delivered. Shame on them.
- At the top of my favourable list is all-day comfort and awesome traction. No spills on my first excursion out.
- While the shoelace-style closure looks ordinary, it hides a sturdy bellows tongue. If that tongue was alive, I'm sure it would have laughed at the mud, rocks and dirt that tried to assault my feet.
- These shoes are eminently breathable thanks to mesh embellishments and linings.
- Moab FST GTX shoes feature Merrell's Vibram MegaGrip outsoles, known for delivering a surprising range of "stickiness," so the soles literally react to terrain instinctively, whether ground conditions are wet or dry.
- I like the 5mm lug depth because I neither feel as though I wearing platform shoes nor do I feel unprotected because my feet are too close to the ground.
- At first, I wasn't convinced that these shoes would do the job because they look like regular athletic shoes. Anyone comparing these to traditionally-styled hiking shoes may also be sceptical.
- If you have wide feet like me, the padding used to make these shoes could make for a tight fit. I didn’t notice this at first, but after doubling up on socks, things felt a bit restrictive. Had to take out the second pair of socks.
- It can take some time to get used to this shoe's extreme flexibility — especially for wearers used to the stiffer feel that's commonplace in footwear designed for all-weather performance.
- Bring a full wallet when you shop for Moab FST GTXs. The average price runs around $117 from popular online shops and you could spend more at retail outlets.
- Don't buy these if you intend to undertake activities that require Sherpas. These are nice hiking shoes — but not for the sort of terrain challenges often described in "National Geographic" magazine spreads!
Since keeping my feet dry was the single objective of my shoe shopping expedition, I'm happy to report that the Merrell MOAB FST GTX didn't disappoint when I tested them out on myriad, reasonable terrains. These shoes got tight when I donned two pair of socks, so if I had it to do over, I would have purchased a half-size larger. No worries. I still like them. A lot.
Style-setting guys may not find the sombre colour choices to their taste, but the black Moabs I bought are as much high fashion as I need. If the price won’t assault your budget big time, I believe the comfy fit, surprisingly lightweight and stellar inclement weather performance courtesy of Gore-Tex is going to make your feet do a happy dance. If that’s your inclination, of course.
What's the worst mistake you ever made when purchasing a pair of athletic shoes or boots? Are you brave enough to tell us about it?
The Merrell MOAB FST collection is available at Stadium Takashimaya S.C. and all Royal Sporting House stores. (Excluding outlet stores – Bedok Mall, Cathay Cinesleisure, Changi City Point, IMM and The Star Vista) for S$179 - S$239.