I'm new to TBF and this is my first post. My wife and I are soon to be "empty nesters" and we're going to transition from day hikers to "weekend backpackers" - 2 or 3 days on the trail, max. We will be traveling light, so a "do it all" shoe is a must. I am a bigger guy (6'5"/230) and want to move on from running shoes to a low top hiking shoe. I just came across the Merrell Ontario and am wondering if anyone can give me feedback as an owner of this shoe. I'll admit that the looks drew me to the shoe initially. But the Vibram sole seems to be a plus, and I've been happy with Merrell in the past. I don't need anything bombproof and will be in the woods on trail and in decent weather (no Gore-Tex, etc. needed). I'm hoping these will work as both hiking shoes and "around town"/work shoes as well. Any feedback is helpful. I realize this model is very new, so maybe no one has tried them out yet. I'm really excited to have found this community, and I'm also looking forward to springtime and getting outside!
Most people here recommend lightweight hiking shoes... but usually not particular makes or models because how the shoe fits your foot is much more important than how it fits my foot. I will say Merrells are good shoes. I used to wear them quite a bit but either they changed their fit or my foot changed shape 10-15 years ago, because since then I haven't been able to find a pair of Merrells I like.
Those particular Merrells look like good shoes. I usually look for more mesh in a hiking shoe to make them more breathable, but they don't have GTX so they should still be pretty breathable. One thing I will say, as a bigger guy myself, is that I have found some lightweight hikers can get too lightweight in the sole for me. They feel great around town, but out on the trail you can feel every rock and pebble pushing into your foot. I've never had that problem with Merrells but now days I look for shoes with a "rockplate". I put that in quotes, because I've yet to find a manufacturer who uses that term. Each manufacturer uses a unique term to prevent comparing to someone else's shoe. These shoes have a "Kinetic Fit base footbeds", but I'm not sure what that means. You can read descriptions of other Merrell shoes to see if you can figure out which offers the best protection to your soles. (or... this might not be particularly important for you.)
Thank you, BZH, for your input. I’m still considering the Merrells, but have also found Zamberlans that I like. My biggest obstacle is not having an outdoor shop nearby that will allow for trying on, so my quest continues. I’m excited to learn from the folks here at TBF. Take care.
I've got plenty of shops around me, but with a wide foot none of them seem to carry the shoes I want in my size. I end up buying shoes online. I look for great deals (so I won't be out too much money if they don't fit) or I look for places with great return policies (like Zappos). What I don't do is accept a shoe that doesn't fit my foot well. Any problem with fit will be exacerbated hiking 10 miles up a mountain and the almost good enough shoes will feel like a terrible decision.
Hey all. Also new here, but not to backpacking. I'll second the comment that I've never found a Merrell shoe that seemed to fit me. However, I absolutely insist on a Vibram sole, so you might want to take a look at the Vasque trail runners (several options) also/instead. The North Face Hedgehog has also been a great shoe for me for many years; however, I can't seem to find it in a non-goretex version currently.