Merrell’s original Moab reached legendary status, and the current “2” carries on the tradition. To cut right to the chase, after taking the Moab 2 Ventilator to Utah’s Canyon Country and subsequent testing in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, the shoe impressed almost across the board. It’s not the most athletic design, but the Moab has a nice, wide base, is very comfortable, breathes well, and is one of the better values on the market at $110. Below we break down our experiences with the Moab 2. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our article on the best hiking shoes.
The moment you slip your feet into Merrell Moab 2. is a great reminder of the reason why these shoes have been so well-liked for quite a long time. It’s extremely comfortable right from the box, with a the cushioned tongue and collar, a comfortable feet, and enough flexibility to go directly to trails. One notable improvement in the most recent Moab footwear is the improved insole. It now has adequate arch support, and the molded heel cup keeps your foot securely. Additionally, there’s extra cushioning in the heel area that provides an impressive amount of isolation from the trail and protection for your feet underfoot. The cushioning was somewhat slack and odd initially but provides the shoe a more personalized feeling as miles pile up, and is likely to contribute to the incredible comfort during long days on the trail.
Merrell’s Moab shoes have always been thought of as moderately light hiker. The current model is the one that has been able to carry the torch. Based on our measurements the Ventilator, which is not waterproof, weighs 2 pounds, which is the exact weight for the size men’s 9 (slightly higher than the stated weight of 1 15 ounces / pound). The low-top model that is waterproof will add 2 ounces to the pair, making it very competitive in the market for traditional hiking shoes. To give you an example, Oboz’s Sawtooth II Low weighs 1 pound 15.2 pounds, while Keen’s Targhee Vent is even lighter at 1 one pound 13.6 OZ. (the water-resistant Targhee III is 1 lb. 14.8 oz.). You can even save weight by choosing a trail-running inspired model such as the Salomon X Ultra 3 (1 lb. 9.8 oz.) or X Raise (1 lb. 5.5 oz. ) However, you have to sacrifice some cushioning and protection for your feet. For the majority of backpackers and hikers The Moab 2 provides a great combination of comfort and weight.
Stability and Support
The X Ultra 3 won’t supplant a technical off-trail hiking or mountaineering boot in your gear closet, but it offers enough support for just about any day hiking or lightweight backpacking adventure. The shoe is pretty flexible underfoot, but the low-profile midsole and stable platform (Salomon refers to this as their “Advanced Chassis”) offer enough peace of mind for rocky trails. We’ve had our various X Ultras loaded down with 35 pounds of backpacking gear and have never had issues with rolled ankles. If, however, you prefer a stiffer boot for extended climbs or for carrying a heavy pack, we recommend upgrading to Salomon’s Quest 4.
One of the more noticeable changes with the Merrell Moab 2 is the addition of two 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 decided not to play around with tread patterns, or Vibram rubber compound, which was the first Moab using”2. “2.” The experts believe it’s a wise choice because the dependable outsole has been proven to last for a long time and provides decent all-around traction when it comes to rock and dirt. The tread pattern is full of a variety of open channels, circles and thin and narrow lugs. However, it does get the job accomplished.
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 Merrells 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. Further, 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 Ventilator 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 Ventilator 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 hiking socks did the same in the Utah heat.
As with the prior model, Merrell offers two 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 Merrell Moab 2 WP) is a fine choice for most day hikers that want a waterproof shoe. The Gore-Tex shoe likely will offer a little better breathability at a slightly lower weight, but both are pretty darn waterproof, and the Gore-Tex version is $20 more expensive ($155 for the shoe and $165 for the mid-height boot).
In terms of durability, with a few 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. A potential area of weakness is the mesh along the upper material, but we haven’t had any signs of tearing yet. The previous model was a pretty reliable hiking shoe—particularly for a lightweight design—and the build quality appears just as good with the newer Moab 2.
Fit and Sizing
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 with the Merrell Moab 2: 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 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.
Other versions of Merrell Moab
In the purpose of this test, we tried the version for men of the Moab 2 Ventilator Low, however, Merrell also makes the shoes with the waterproof version that adds around 2 ounces to each pair, and is priced at $25 more. For those who require more protection and support the range includes the Moab 2 Mid boot in both water-proof Ventilator ($120) and waterproof ($145) models for $145 (see our detailed Moab 2 Mid review). In addition, as we mentioned earlier, you could upgrade to a more expensive Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, which costs the price of $155 (low-top) and $165 (mid). All of the above models are available in women’s-specific models in a variety of colors. In addition, Merrell offers the Moab 2 Prime featuring a leather upper, in addition to tactical and work versions for more niche activities. What they have in common is the highest quality of comfort as well as reasonable cost for the features you receive.
What We Like
- Sticks to what made the original Moab so great: reasonably light, excellent comfort, and value price.
- The Ventilator model is a great warm-weather shoe.
- Lots of options: low-top shoe or mid-height boot, and two types of waterproofing or non-waterproof models.
- Well made and should have a good lifespan.
What We Don’t
- Not a particularly fast-and-light shoe. The Moab prioritizes comfort over a nimble feel.
- Only average traction in rock and mud.
- A little too flexible for heavy loads or technical trails.
|Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator||$110||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 15 oz.||No (WP available)||Leather / mesh|
|Keen Targhee Vent||$155||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 13.6 oz.||No (WP available)||Leather|
|Oboz Sawtooth II Low||$115||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 15.2 oz.||No (WP available)||Leather / mesh|
|Salomon X Ultra 3||$120||Hiking shoe||1 lb. 9.8 oz.||No (WP available)||Synthetic|
|Salomon X Raise Low||$110||Hiking/trail running||1 lb. 5.5 oz.||No (WP available)||Synthetic|
|Merrell MQM Flex 2||$110||Hiking/trail running||1 lb. 9 oz.||No (WP available)||Mesh / TPU|
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 Moab’s long-time competitor is the Keen Targhee, which is one of only a few shoes that can compete in terms of popularity. The Keen Targhee Vent 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 $45 for the non-waterproof version. No shoe is perfect, but the Moab’s value is what pushes it ahead in our round-up of hiking shoes.
A second shoe that goes head-to-head with the Moab 2 is Oboz’s Sawtooth II Low, which is in many ways a beefed-up Moab. Its stiff heel counter and thick outsole provide a surprisingly rigid structure and good trail isolation for a low-top design. Further, its snug fit around the heel and spacious toe box make it a favorite among both day hikers and backpackers. One downside of the substantial build is that the Oboz has a clunkier and heavier feel compared with the Moab despite having a similar all-in weight of 1 pound 15.2 ounces. In the end, we give the edge to the softer and more comfortable Moab for lighter trail uses.
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. But if you prefer a more traditional shoe that puts a premium on stability and comfort, the Moabs may be the better option. The Merrell’s solid base and better isolation from the trail are a great combination for day hikes and weekend backpacking trips.
Another Salomon alternative to think about is their latest the X Raise. The price is the same like Moab 2 Moab 2 (for the non-waterproof low-top model) The X Raise is impressively comfortable with plenty of cushioning underneath as well as a comfortable padding on the collar, and an interior that is soft. It is also athletic with a trail-running feel, and a the light mass (1 b. 5.5 oz.) they are the perfect match for light and fast adventure. The only thing we can think of that is related to performance can be that this shoe was strangely sloppy and difficult to trust when hiking on water-logged rocks. So, we’re still recommending Moab 2 to be the Moab 2 the best budget hiking shoe, however it’s the X Raise isn’t far behind and is a clear winner in a handful of crucial areas.
In the end, Merrell’s own MQM Flex 2 is a great, light alternative. The shoe is designed with an appearance that resembles a trail runner and feel, and it cuts off a substantial 6 ounces for each pair, as compared to the Moab. This model MQM can also be more flexible which makes it an ideal choice for speedy days. We found that it to be lacking in two crucial areas. The first is that the thin material underfoot could cause feet soreness while carrying a large load or traveling on rough terrain. Also, we have concerns regarding durability from a long-term viewpoint. Particularly, the lugs are extremely flexible. We’ve cut off a few pieces after just two months of usage in moderate terrain. In the overall Merrell lineup and products, we believe that Moab 2 is the most unique. Moab 2 stands apart as the most robust as well-crafted product.