Outdoor kit specialist Merrell has launched several new styles to its Mix Master footwear collection for autumn/winter 2012. The Mix Master collection is designed to be lightweight yet protective on varying terrains. Each product is built on a 4mm drop midsole which is 10% thinner and 25% lighter* to provide more feel and ground control.
Our trail shoe testers are experienced hill runners and orienteers, used to the specialist shoes associated with these sports i.e. lightweight, close to the ground, with good grip but not a lot of cushioning and able to withstand brashings, bogs and British weather.
The menâ€™s Mix Master Aeroblock offers an alternative to the synthetic leather and air mesh upper of the 2011 Mix Master. It has all the characteristics of the hill running shoes looked for but with a little (not a lot) more cushioning which offers more comfort on track sections. (The only way to improve cushioning significantly is to increase the height of the shoe and then you lose the ‘feel for the ground’ and stability that you need to race.) The Aeroblock’s protection comes from an air cushion in the heel and a flexible forefoot shock absorption pad which distributes pressure. The welded on TPU support provides a snug fit and the rubber toe adds further protection from stones, rocks and scree.
You might want a more cushioned shoe than this if your joints are really complaining but it will slow you down, so the Aeroblock seems to offer a good compromise.
The fabric upper has a closed cell mesh lining which seems quite capable of taking the wear and tear of off-road running through heather, bog myrtle etc. The Mix Master Mid Waterproof brings a higher collar to the collection, incorporating a waterproof membrane â€“ although nothing’s going to keep your feet dry through bogs. The trick is, do they rub when wet, do they smell and how do they stand up to the repeated mud soakings, washings in rivers and dryings out that outdoor shoes are subjected to?
The Mix Master Glide is the womenâ€™s multi-sport offering, weighing in at just 7oz (198g) and is available in five different colours, should this matter to you. Like the men’s aeroblock, its breathable mesh upper comes with an EZ cleanâ„¢ finish that sheds dirt and precipitation, resisting stains. The bogs of Ganavan proved a real test but I was surprised how well protected I felt, despite the light weight. While I doubt they will be as hard wearing as purpose built orienteering shoes like Olway etc., going through brashings, for example, they are certainly not as flimsy as they feel and I expect to get a lot of wear out of them on tracks and gentler terrain.
These are very technical shoes and as such you can expect to pay around Â£90 for the men’s and Â£85 for the women’s shoes. We haven’t had them long enough to comment about longevity but so far they are looking like serious contenders in the market.