More than 10 years after the original Moab was released, Merrell has given us the Moab 2 for 2017. The first edition reached legendary status, so we were excited to see what Merrell had done for the reboot. To cut right to the chase, after taking the Moab 2 Vent to Utah’s Canyon Country and subsequent early season testing in the Cascade Mountains, we see no signs that anything was lost from the original. They feel planted but light, are still very comfortable, and retain their value price. Below we break down the Moab 2’s comfort, traction, breathability, waterproofing, fit, and more. To see how the Moab 2 stacks up, see our articles on the best lightweight hiking shoes and best hiking boots.
Sliding your feet into the Merrell Moab 2 is a reminder of what has made these shoes so popular for so long. It’s truly comfortable right out of the box with a cushioned collar and tongue, supportive footbed, and enough flexibility to take straight to the trail. One noticeable area of improvement in the new Moab shoe is the refined insole. You now get decent arch support, and the molded heel cup holds you nicely in place. More, there is extra padding in the heel that offers a surprising amount of trail isolation and underfoot protection. This additional cushioning felt a little tall and funny at first but gives the shoe a customized feel as the miles add up and likely contributes to the impressive comfort over long trail days.
Merrell’s Moab shoes always have been considered a lightweight hiker, and the new model carries the torch. On our scale the non-waterproof Vent weighs in at 2 pounds exactly for a pair of men’s size 9 (slightly more than the listed weight of 1 pound 15 ounces). The waterproof low-top model adds 2 ounces for the pair, which is very competitive in the hiking shoe market. For comparison, Keen’s waterproof Targhee III shoes are slightly lighter at 1 pound 14.8 ounces, although the difference on the trail is negligible. You can save weight with a trail-running inspired model like the Salomon X Ultra 3 (1 pound 10 ounces), but you do give up a little in underfoot protection. For most hikers and backpackers, the Moab 2 provides a great combination of weight and performance.
Stability and Support
The Moab 2’s core customers are day hikers, and as a result, the shoe offers modest stability and support. Stacked up against a trail-running shoe, the Moab 2 is less prone to ankle rolls on rocky terrain, but in both the mid-height boot and low-top shoe version, there is a fair amount of flex both underfoot and around the collar. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—a more flexible shoe often is quite a bit more comfortable—but the Moab is not ideal for carrying heavy loads, long and steep climbs, or traversing technical terrain.
One of the more noticeable changes with the Moab 2 is the addition of 2 silicon bands built into the upper material that run lengthwise around the inside and outside of the foot. The intention of these bands is to provide more structure and reduce the risk of rolling an ankle. In use, it’s been difficult to quantify the differences in this design change. The shoe definitely felt planted while scrambling over slick rock in Utah and hiking rocky and muddy trails back home in the Pacific Northwest, but the shoe still has the mild flexibility side to side of the original Moab. Whether or not the band is helping is hard to tell, but the shoe felt secure and stable in a range of conditions.
Merrell opted not to mess with the tread pattern or Vibram rubber compound from the original Moab with the “2.” We think this is a fine decision as the trusty outsole has proven to have a long lifespan and offers up decent all-around traction over rock and dirt. The tread design looks pretty busy with a funny mix of circles, open channels, and narrow and thick lugs, but it gets the job done.
Overall, I give the Moab a passing grade on traction and am confident they'll be a good match for most day hikers and moderate-difficulty peak baggers. We’ve certainly worn grippier shoes on rock—we found the Merrell’s a little slippery while scrambling around the canyons outside of Moab—but the tread dug in nicely into soft mud and dirt back in the Pacific Northwest. Those tightly spaced lugs did have a tendency to cake up in the early season muck, however. More, while the shoe does a fair job on descents, it's a step down from a serious hiker like our Salomon X Ultra 3’s angled tread that bites into the ground at the heel.
I had the non-waterproof Vent model for testing, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that breathability was very good. The Moab 2s have quite a bit of mesh along the sides and top, which along with lightweight socks kept me comfortable while hiking in the mid 80s in Utah. The available waterproof models will have a pretty significant impact on breathability, so if you’re hiking in warm temperatures or don’t mind getting your feet wet on the occasional stream crossing, the Vent model is a great way to stay cool.
Wearing the non-waterproof shoe turned our typical creek dunking and wet weather testing into more of a sock soaking exercise. The liberal use of mesh in the shoe’s upper means moisture that clears the sides of the outsole will start seeping in. The positive is that the mesh dried very quickly and our merino socks did the same in the Utah heat.
As with the prior model, Merrell offers 2 waterproof options: an in-house M Select design and Gore-Tex. While we haven’t had a chance to test these variants, prior experience tells us the M Select (called the Moab 2 WP) is a fine choice for most day hikers that want a waterproof shoe. The Gore-Tex shoe likely will offer slightly better breathability at a slightly lower weight, but both are pretty darn waterproof and the Gore-Tex version is $20 more expensive ($140 for the shoe and $150 for the mid-height boot).
In terms of durability, we don’t have enough miles on these shoes to make a final judgment, but with a couple months of use the Moab is holding up really well. Our trip to Utah left a few permanent scrapes along the toe cap, but otherwise the shoes look as good as new. The previous model was a pretty reliable hiking shoe—particularly for a lightweight design—and the build quality appears just as good with the new Moab 2.
I went with my typical men’s size 9 and this turned out to be a great match. As with my previous Moabs, the fit was excellent: the length is just right and there is plenty of space in the toe box for long days on the trail without feeling sloppy. And the new sculpted insole that has more arch support does an even better job holding the foot in place. I particularly like the snug heel cup that was a nice fit for my somewhat narrow foot (I have the occasional issue with heel slippage with some wider set models, which can lead to blisters). A big part of the Moab’s appeal is its friendly fit, and Merrell stuck with what worked here.
What’s New with the Merrell Moab 2?
Merrell’s Moab shoes and boots have had a long and successful run since their launch in 2006, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Moab 2 doesn’t deviate in a major way. At first glance—particularly while looking at a photo online—the shoes look almost identical. In person, the new silicon “speed band” that sticks out along the sides of the shoe is more noticeable and what clearly differentiates the models. The reason for this band is additional stability, which we cover above.
The shoes share the same last as the original Moab, so the fit is largely the same. There is one fewer set of eyelets at the top, but they still secure and hold very well. One noticeable upgrade is the footbed, which adds more cushioning to the heel and a more tailored fit with a higher arch. Other updates include a new type of suede on the upper material, which is supposed to be more durable and waterproof. Overall, we like the changes. They didn’t try and turn the Moab into a sports car, but the small tweaks have made the shoe just as capable and even more comfortable than the prior model.
What We Like
- Sticks to what made the original Moab so great: reasonably light, excellent comfort, and value price.
- The Vent model is a great warm weather shoe.
- Lots of options: low-top shoe or mid-height boot, and 2 types of waterproofing or non-waterproof models.
- Well made and should have a good lifespan.
What We Don’t
- Only average traction in rock and mud.
- A little too flexible for heavy loads or technical trails.
|Merrell Moab 2 Vent||$100||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 15 oz.||No (WP available)||Leather / mesh|
|Keen Targhee Vent||$125||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 14 oz.||No (WP available)||Leather|
|Salomon X Ultra 3||$120||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 10 oz.||No (WP available)||Synthetic|
|Merrell Moab FST||$110||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 11 oz.||No (WP available)||Mesh / TPU|
|Altra Lone Peak 3.0||$120||Trail-running shoe||1 lb. 3.4 oz.||No (WP available)||Mesh|
The lightweight and budget-friendly end of the hiking shoe and boot market is teeming with options, but the Merrell Moab 2 retains its place as one of our favorites. The shoes favor comfort over all-out performance, which is what a significant segment of the hiking market wants. We found the Moabs more versatile and stable than a trail runner like Altra’s popular Lone Peak 3.0, but they also never felt overly heavy even when putting on significant mileage.
The Moab’s long-time competitor is the Keen Targhee, which is one of the few shoes on the market that can compete in terms of popularity. The Targhee III accomplishes a lot of what we love about the Moab 2: a solid feel with a roomy toe box and good all-around trail performance. Both are great options, but the Moab undercuts the Targhee in price by a significant $25 for the non-waterproof version. No shoe is perfect, but the Moab's value is what pushes it ahead in our round-up of lightweight hiking shoes.
Opting for a performance-oriented lightweight shoe like the Salomon X Ultra 3 gets you a nimbler feel, similar ventilating abilities, and a step up in traction. If we’re moving fast over long distances or tackling technical terrain, we prefer the 6-ounce lighter Salomon’s. But if you prefer stability and comfort, the Moab’s may be the better option. The Moab’s solid base and better isolation from the trail are a great combination for day hikes and weekend backpacking trips.
Another alternative to the Moab 2 comes in-house with the Merrell Moab FST. This new shoe and boot line looks a lot like a pared down and modernized version of the Moab. The use of lightweight mesh on the upper and a thinner midsole save you 4 ounces compared to the Moab 2, and the difference is very noticeable on your feet. What we don’t like is the change in fit—the Moab FST feels tight in the toe box and isn’t as well cushioned. Those looking to cut weight and who like a snug fit likely will prefer the FST, but we think most hikers will be better off with the more comfortable and stable Moab 2.