The Merrell Moab 3 has an almost religious following. It’s got to be one of the most popular and well-regarded hiking shoes out there.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- Reputation for extreme comfort
- Reasonably priced
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- Not the lightest
- Design and color ways may feel a bit dated to some
The Merrell Moab has got to be one of the most popular hiking shoes out there – Merrell claim over 25 million sales for this range of shoes – and this is for good reason too, we think. The Moab name covers a whole family of different shoes within Merrell’s range all derived from the same core design including mid-high boots, sandals and more sports-oriented runners. The Moab 3 is pretty much the standard hiking shoe version and what we’ll be assessing here. The same shoe is also offered with a Gore-Tex lining for a slight price premium.
Compare to Similar Products
- Black Diamond Men’s Mission Leather Low Waterproof Approach Shoes
- Danner Panorama Mid
- Salomon Cross Hike 2 Mid Gore-Tex
- Full guide: 20 Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes
Analysis and Test Results
Merrell are one of the big names in outdoor footwear and the Moab is one of their key product lines. Now in its third major version, the Moab 3 remains an immensely popular choice on the trail and attracts many devotees who will often return to this shoe over the years. This is high praise indeed and this shoe’s reputation for comfort and durability at a budget-friendly price precedes it. Whilst the Moab 3’s popularity is easy enough to understand, for some the shoe’s relatively high weight and slightly dated styling may be issues. None the less, the Moab 3 is a solid hiking shoe s with a proven track record for comfort and durability all at good value price.
The Merrell Moab 3 Features a Vibram sole with a deep thread pattern. This promises good grip and the sole’s slightly soft rubber will help out here too – especially if crossing wet rocks. No sole will offer perfect traction in all conditions, but the Moabs are just about as good as you can expect.
These shoes offer great breathability and are thus well suited to hiking in hot and humid conditions as much as they are wetter climates. The shoe’s upper is made largely from breathable mesh – reinforced with intersecting leather panels. There’s plenty of ventilation in these shoes and the mesh is backed up with Merrell’s in-house breathable waterproof membrane (a slightly more expensive variant of the shoe is offered that replaces this in-house membrane with Gore-Tex). One thing to bear in mind – and this would be especially relevant if you were hiking in the dessert or beach for that matter – is that sand can get into the breathable mesh sections of any shoe and once it’s in there, it can be tough to get out. Whilst this won’t cause any harm to the shoes as such, it can seriously weight them down!
As hiking shoes, the Merrell Moab 3’s don’t directly support your ankles. If this is important for you, you’d be better served looking for hiking boots rather than shoes and indeed the Moab 3 is offered in a mid-high version for those who want to go down this route. However, the requirement for ankle support is really a subjective thing and what these shoes don’t offer in ankle support, they offer flexibility and quick movement on the trail. The weight savings and increased mobility you get from these shoes is worth the compromise.
The Merrell Moab 3 features what Merrell describe as a ‘molded nylon arch shank’ to provide support for the wearers foot arch. This is more than most manufacturers offer but can still be considered a fairly neutral option. If you prefer more pronounced arch support, then a better solution may be to switch the supplied in soles out for some with a more heavily shaped design. For some, this could make a big difference to the shoe’s comfort.
The Merrell Moab 3 is available in normal and wide versions and in a very wide range of sizes from US 7/UK 6.5/ EU 40 all the way up to US 16/ UK 15/EU 51. It’s great to see Merrell offer the shoe in much larger sizes – something many manufacturers neglect. Moab’s have always had a reputation for comfort – even straight out of the box and this is a big part of their wide and lasting appeal. The Moab’s certainly don’t disappoint in terms of comfort and wear incredibly well on the trail as a pair of reliable shoes you’ll come back to time and time again.
The Merrell Moab 3 shoes use a combination of synthetic materials and sue. Note that the suede is sourced from pigs, and this may have implications for people of certain faiths. Aside from the suede reinforcing sections on the upper, the shoes are largely synthetic and make heavy use of vented mesh material. The shoe’s tongue is also gusseted to help prevent debris from getting into the shoe – that’s particularly useful in dry conditions – and the shoes also feature a waterproof and breathable membrane: the version we’ve assessed uses Merrell’s own membrane, but a Gore-Tex version is available at extra cost. To give the shoes some good environmental credentials, Merrell also state that the webbing, laces and breathable mesh lining are all also made from 100% recycled materials, which is great to see.
The Merrell Moab 3 would once have been described as having a modern look. They are certainly not traditional-looking hiking shoes, but the fact is the industry moves on at a tremendous pace and the Merrell Moab – even in its third major revision – does not look so cutting edge anymore. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The design is quite understated and a lot of the fans of these shoes like them for precisely this reason! The shoe is offered in three colorways at present – all fairly neutral – and the different model variants within the Moab family of shoes add further color options too.
Durability is one area where the Merrell Moab has built its reputation. Many hikers will happily tell you their Moab’s have given them many long years of service and, when they do eventually wear out, they’ve been so impressed that the just replace them. Our experience is that the Moab 3 certainly feels well-made and will stand the test of time based on pounding many miles on the trail. The durable synthetic mesh, crisscrossed with suede panels that makes up the shoe’s upper section feels very well put together and the rubber bumpers at the toes and heel alongside the chunk sole and webbing lace eyelets all add to this sense of quality.
Weight is one area where the Merrell Moab 3 does not excel. With a weight of 990g/2lb per pair, the Moab 3 is not just heavy for a hiking shoe, but also in the same general weight range as some of the mid-high boots we’ve assessed. Light weight is important with footwear as weight carried on your feet is disproportionately fatiguing. However, it’s worth taking a reality check here: the Merrell Moab 3 may be heavy in comparison to some of the other lightweight shoes and boots we’ve assessed here, but it’s not a heavy hiking shoe generally. There are plenty of shoes out there that are far heavier than the Moab’s and the fact that they are not the absolute lightest certainly does not seem to deter the shoe’s many fans.
The Merrell Moab 3 comes with fairly standard padded insoles. These will, we think, be just fine for most potential purchasers. However, for those who want to fine-tune the comfort and fit of their shoes, swapping out the provided insoles – they are removable, after all – is a great and inexpensive way to do this. Aftermarket insoles can add greater cushioning or arch support and are readily available.
One of the Merrell Moab’s key claims – and one thing you’ll often heard said about it – is that they are comfortable straight out of the box. The Moab 3 is no exception here and, whilst we would say any shoe is without a breaking-in period, these are about as close as you’ll get. None the less, we’d still recommend a few shorter walks in any new pair of shoes before taking them out on a long-distance hike. That said, they wear in very quickly generally and are good to go for longer trails within a very short period. Our reviewer has had no complaints with regards to the comfort received from the Moab’s.
The Merrell Moab 3 uses regular laces. Laces may not seem so exciting, but they are actually a very versatile fastening system, allowing you to fine-tune the fit of your shoe by tightening or slackening off the laces at different eyelets. If you want even more control you can also completely change the lacing pattern you use which gives even more options for customizing the fit of your shoes. We’ve written a guide to this which is well worth checking out.
The Merrell Moab 3 features a hardened rubber band around the toes and the sole extends up at the shoe’s very tip to provide further protection. This toe reinforcement is definitely welcome and will certainly absorb some of the impact from the kind knocks you get if you trip or kick into a rock on the trail. Now, this is nowhere near the same level of toe protection you’d get on a more rigid mountain boots, but then, these Moab 3 shoes are not trying to directly compete with this kind of footwear and, when compared against the other hiking shoes in this round up, the Moab 3’s toe protection stacks up pretty well.
Hiking Shoes v Hiking Boots
You could legitimately argue that the Merrell Moab was one of the products that kickstarted the popularity of modern hiking shoes. It embodies everything that traditional hiking boots were not: relatively light (though as we’ve seen this arguably is no longer such a strong selling point for these shoes), breathable, instantly comfortable and all in a good value package. Some hikers will always prefer boots and for some types of hiking they still make more sense, but for most general hiking or nature walking, shoes are perfectly viable choice and the Moab 3 remains a great option here.
The Merrell Moab 3 is the latest version of a true icon. The changes from previous versions are, we think, evolutionary rather than revolutionary and we can totally see the logic here: the Moab is a justifiably immensely popular product and why should Merrell mess around too much with something that clearly isn’t broken! These are a great choice for general hiking shoes, and their great value proposition makes their feature set even more attractive. However, the design is not as modern as it once was and the shoes are certainly far from the lightest option. If you are interested in prioritizing light weight, state of the art technology or striking, envelope-pushing design, then there are perhaps better options out there. However, if you’re looking for a well-proven shoe that’s known to be comfortable, durable and great value, then the Merrell Moab 3 could be a great choice for you.
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