Stockist: Go Outdoors
There’s nothing that gives a person away as an outdoors lover quite like their face when they’re confronted with a good hiking shoe. If a person clocks an updated version of their favourite boot and runs over to inspect it with the glee of a kid on Christmas morning, then one thing is for sure, they’re a real outdoor adventurer.
We were doing this in the office last week, when we received the newest model of Merrell's most popular shoe. Back and now in its seventh incarnation, the Chameleon has grown to become the unquestioned champion shoe of the brand, so you can see why we were excited to hear that this year’s version is lighter, tougher and apparently, better than ever before.
The Chameleon is offered in both Merrell's male and female range, with the option of a waterproof membrane in boot and shoe form. We took a shine to the waterproof shoe option and decided to give it a test in the great outdoors this weekend.
The first thing you notice about the Chameleon, is that it does not look like your traditional hiking footwear. The black shoe is so light and minimalist in its design that it can almost pass for a general running trainer and is clearly inspired in both look and functionality by heavy duty trail running shoes. With an up-to-date colour scheme and design, you feel like you could happily walk straight off the hill and into town in these shoes, without ever feeling out of place.
The upper body of this shoe is designed with a combination of suede leather straps and breathable mesh fabric, which makes the lightweight shoe feel incredibly protective while still staying comfortable, with hook laces that allow you to change the fit to your preferred tightness and allow for much more movement than many hiking boots.
The most interesting element of this shoes design however, is its outsole. In an effort to reduce weight while maintaining traction, Merrell have worked with Vibram to develop a minimalist-type tread with two circular chains of lugs, one on the heel and one on the ball of the foot. These lugs are layered over a FlexPlate midsole that is also specially designed to keep weight low while retaining the high performance quality. What this complex design choice basically means is that the designers have scaled down the amount of rubber on the shoe, making it much more lightweight than other shoes of this level.
"The Chameleon has grown to become the unquestioned champion shoe of the brand"
Many lightweight shoes on the market have to sacrifice both water resistance and strength to achieve their weight, so when we tested the shoes on a long hill walk through the Peak District on a very rainy day, we were very interested to see how they would hold up.
The first thing that we noticed was the difference that the incredibly low weight made to our hike. The weight of this shoe, along with its fantastic grip, make it perfect for those of us that prefer fast paced walks and we found ourselves scrambling over the harder routes with an ease that more traditional boots do not offer. While we did not try it on colder trails, the grip felt as though it would be up to the task of scrambling over more frozen routes also.
While the low ankle support did mean that we had to avoid some of the deeper bogs, after a few hours on the very wet trail our socks were dry and the shoe’s waterproof membrane had held up to a level that the shoe’s minimalist look would not suggest on first sight to be capable of.
Over our hike, we found this boot to be incredibly comfortable, the Chameleon has a Merrell Air Cushion that kept our feet feeling good and its cushioned heel counter kept our ankles well supported on the more uneven terrain and throughout the entire hike.
If you want a hiking shoe with a modern and minimalist look, without having to sacrifice on performance, the Chameleon is a great choice. It can be worn in both the town and the hills, yet has the technology and design to compete with the most serious footwear in the world of hiking.