Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Two thumbs-up for the Merrell Radius low-cut.

I mentioned in recent posts that spring is the perfect time to reorganize your gear for summer. It’s also a great time to break in new footwear. I’ve used many different styles throughout the years from trail runners to heavy hiking boots, and right now I’m using a mid-weight hiking shoe by Merrell called the Radius. Merrell makes two versions of the Radius, a mid height shoe and a low cut version. I have the low cut version and I love it. You might love it too. The Radius is a simple shoe but it has some nice features.

Comfort: Supple but supportive and water resistant nubuck leather uppers conform to the foot. Leather bellows tongues provide a superior fit and allow ventilation. Narrow webbing lacing eyelets offer firm instep security

Durability:
Leather construction with a protective rubber toe bumper on the front of the shoe. Aggressive Vibram® Multi-Grip™ outsoles with sticky rubber and deep 5mm lugs for stability, traction and long wear.

Full waterproof construction: Waterproof laminates and polyester linings offer waterproof protection and disperse moisture quickly; taped seams and stitching add protection

Support:
Molded nylon arch shanks supply torsional stability on uneven terrain.

A fair price:
Suggested Retail: $90.00

My impressions.

I’ve been very pleased with the Merrell Radius so far. I’ve used this shoe to hike from Courmayeur to Saas Fee and from Bolzano to Cortina. I’ve hiked the desert and I’ve hiked the San Juans. I’ve negotiated trails in snow, sleet, rain and sun. The Radius carried me across abrasive sandstone and through lofty alpine meadows and they still look relatively new. I’ve even worn them to the neighborhood pub. After a year of heavy use, my reaction is two thumbs-up, which says a lot considering that I continually ask this shoe to do everything.

If I were to list the pros and cons then they would look like this.

Pros:
1. Great all around shoe.
2. Excellent comfort.
3. Waterproof. (I tested this one during many days of rain and my feet stayed toasty and dry).
4. Lighter than a hiking boot.
5. Narrow heel. (This is great for me).
6. Durable. My shoe still looks and feels great after many miles on the trail.

Cons:
1. People with weak ankles or heavier loads should consider the mid-height model.
2. Heavier than a trail runner. The average weight is 2 pounds per pair, (based on a Men's 9).
3. A bit hot in warm environments.
4. Wimpy insole. While the stock insole is much better than most, I always recommend using something more supportive like a custom insole. Superfeet offers a nice moderately priced alternative.
5. I lost a lug! What's up Vibram?

Short Summary:

I recommend the Radius low-cut for someone who likes to put in long hiking days with little more than a day pack. While the Radius doesn't really excel at any one thing, it performs admirably at everything. A heavier hiker though, or a backpacker with heavy loads, would probably prefer the mid-height option or a more beefy hiking boot. Still, if you're looking for a comfortable, durable, waterproof and lightweight hiking shoe that will last a long time, then consider giving the Radius a try. Hikers with narrow heels will be especially pleased.

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