The lightweight, comfortable Merrell Moab Ventilator is very popular with reviewers who like to take day hikes and short backpacking trips. This shoe's comfort, support and extreme breathability are its biggest selling points. It's also available as a mid-cut boot (*MSRP $100) and a waterproof shoe that's not so breathable (*MSRP $110).
Runs a half-size small. Comfort and a surprising amount of support are two of the Merrell Moab Ventilator's high points; reviewers say if you want a lightweight shoe that's comfortable right out of the box, this is it. It runs about a half-size small and has a roomy toebox, which leaves a few narrow-footed users cold. However, those with wide feet, bunions or Morton's neuroma are pleased.
That said, even a few owners with narrow feet say they can achieve a decent fit. "When I cinch the laces as tight as possible, they work great," writes one. The laces are a sore point for others because they become untied frequently. Some users solve the problem by replacing the laces as well as the "flimsy" insole. A few scattered complaints about toes jamming against the front of the shoe when hiking downhill appear to be largely due to sizing issues.
The only other downside as far as comfort and fit are concerned is what one Backcountry.com customer describes as "a slight tendency for the tongue gussets to roll and create a pressure point." He says you can avoid this by spreading the tongue gussets as you tie the shoe. Complaints like this are just a drop in the bucket compared to the near-constant praise for the Moab Ventilator's comfort, even on rocky terrain and other hard surfaces.
Built to breathe. The Merrell Moab Ventilator's breathability -- thanks to mesh vents spaced around the shoe -- is another major selling point. Countless users say this shoe keeps their normally sweaty feet nice and dry. The vents mean you'll get wet if you step in water, but Chris McNamara of OutdoorGearLab.com reports that the Moab Ventilator dries the fastest of the dozen boots they test. And users say that even when the Ventilator's wet, it doesn't feel squishy underfoot.
In a video review, McNamara points out another drawback to the Merrell's breathability and light construction: Sticks can poke through the upper when hiking in heavy brush. On the upside, Dan A. Nelson writes in The Seattle Times that his testers say the Ventilator's "soft rubber Vibram outsole sticks to nearly any trail surface." Only snow presents problems.
Owners experience great traction on most surfaces, but like many hiking boots/shoes, the Ventilators slip on wet rock. A number of users say on Amazon.com that the only thing keeping these shoes from perfection is their tendency to slip on wet surfaces. Others disagree: "I got caught in a downpour with large hail over a very rocky terrain and the traction over wet rock was amazing," notes one woman at REI.com.
Prone to wearing out quickly. Light hiking shoes aren't known for their durability, and the Merrell Moab Ventilator is no different. "The outsole is definitely not durable. Mine was worn almost flat within 4 months of mild to moderate use," says a Backcountry.com poster who reviews the mid-cut boot version. Others make do: "I still wear them, but the tread is worn down pretty thin," says an owner at Moosejaw.com who got five years of use from his Moab Ventilators.
Aside from an outsole that wears quickly, which is the typical trade-off for a soft, grippy tread, the biggest problem seems to be padding just inside the shoe's heel. The good news is that several users say Merrell's customer service is great, and prematurely worn-out shoes are quickly and cheerfully replaced at no cost. A number of wearers point out that if you use your own beefier insoles, the shoes will last much longer.
Of course, some owners enjoy better-than-expected performance. "These shoes have at LEAST 350+ miles of brutal Utah and Washington terrain on them, hiking through rivers, over mountains, (and) across slick rock without fail," says one on REI.com.
1. The Seattle Times
Review Credibility: Excellent Editors put a dozen hiking boots and shoes through rigorous hands-on testing, then rate them in several categories including comfort, traction and stability. Each shoe receives an overall rating plus more detailed video and text commentary. The Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid is ranked fifth overall and designated a Best Buy.
Review: Merrell Moab Ventilator Review, Atherton Phleger, June 1, 2012
2. The Seattle Times
Review Credibility: Very Good The Merrell Moab Ventilator earns praise from Nelson, a regular contributor to Backpacker Magazine. He describes the low-top version of this shoe as "designed for low- to mid-volume feet." Selected models are tested on a variety of surfaces, using packs that weigh anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds.
Review: Kick the Heavyweight Habit with These Hiking Shoes, Dan A. Nelson, Sept. 10, 2009
Review Credibility: Good Together, about 35 men and women give their versions of the Merrell Moab Ventilator an average rating of 4.5 out of 5. Users applaud the Ventilator's light weight, breathability and support. Interestingly, one review shown here also appears verbatim at Backcountry.com. We disregard any duplicate comments, but most of what's posted here -- and at Backcountry.com -- seems to be legitimate.
Review: Merrell Moab Ventilator Shoe, Contributors to Moosejaw.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good Two versions of the Merrell Moab Ventilator hiking shoe draw a significant number of comments here. The women's shoe earns a near-perfect rating from more than 20 users and the men's version gets 4 stars out of 5 after about 60 reviews. Posters say the shoes offer supreme comfort but aren't terribly durable, and a few add that the shoes run small.
Review: Merrell Moab Ventilator, Contributors to Backcountry.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good About 275 men give the mid-cut version of the Moab Ventilator an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5, and 90 women give the low-cut version 4.7 stars out of 5. Complaints include an issue with sizing -- one user had to purchase two sizes larger than usual -- and occasional gripes about durability.
Review: Merrell Men's Moab Ventilator, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good The men's version of this shoe garners 4.1 stars out of 5 after more than 135 reviews while the women's version gets 40 posts and an average rating of 4.2 stars out of 5. Although a few owners complain about durability or lack of support -- which isn't surprising in an ultralight shoe -- most say these shoes are comfortable, light and well-cushioned. REI.com users also like the Ventilator's extreme breathability.
Review: Merrell Moab Ventilator Cross Training Shoe, Contributors to REI.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Good This sporting goods retailer has the annoying habit of listing the same item multiple times, which results in several distinct bodies of reviews -- and different ratings -- for the same product. In this case the men's Merrell Moab Ventilator gets 4.4 stars out of 5 from more than 80 combined reviewers; the wide version of the same shoe gets 4.6 stars out of 5 from almost as many. A waterproof version gets 4.4 stars out of 5 after about 80 posts.
Review: Merrell Men's Moab Ventilator Wide Hiking Shoe, Contributors to DicksSportingGoods.com, As of March 2013