This review is long overdue, but I wanted to get some solid hiking/walking miles in these shoes on various terrain to truly measure how they perform.
Merrell Women’s Proterra Vim Sport Stats:
4 mm drop / 9.5 mm cush / 20.5 mm stack height / 2.5 mm lug depth / 1 lb. 8 oz. / $100 USD retail
A little background, I currently run in the Bare Access Arc 2 which is one of Merrell’s minimalist road running shoes. I have flat feet, overpronate pretty badly, and one foot is a little over a half size longer. Generally minimalist shoes are considered to be bad for people like me, but my frankenfeet have responded well to them. It goes against the conventional thinking of having a highly supportive shoe to deal with these issues. Is it the right thing? I’m still not entirely sure, but it is working for me right now. With an upcoming trip to Colorado, I was in the market for new hiking shoes and almost everything on the market was the more traditional built-up boot. I really didn’t want such a big change in footwear and learned that Merrell had just come out with a new minimalist-style hiker. I went to REI to try them out, and ended up getting a pair in the snazzy purple color. I believe this is a special made-for-REI color, as I have never seen it elsewhere. I am normally a size 8, and a size 8 fit fine. I disregarded online advice to go up a half size for hiking purposes, and I don’t regret that decision.
My first impression was how colorful and stylish these shoes looked. Most hiking shoes are various shades of brown, tan, beige, greige, blah. I was excited to finally see a shoe company inject some color into their hikers. I took them to Wisconsin for a 6-mile walk along the Lake Shore Path on Geneva Lake. This path was a great test as it is comprised of a variety of surfaces: grass, gravel, packed dirt, bricks, pavement, and wood chips. It is not a hilly path, but the ground is uneven enough in most places that it gives a true feel of surface variety. There was also one (paved) hill/road that was a small test to see how it performs going uphill (grip/ground-connect) and downhill (to make sure toes don’t jam in the toe box). The Proterras performed well on all counts. I finished my hike feeling great with no blisters, hot spots, or other issues.
The big test was Colorado, as the terrain is less forgiving than it is here in the Midwest.
- The grueling 2,000 ft. in ONE MILE climb up the Manitou Springs Incline in Colorado Springs.
- Up the giant boulders and across the scree fields of the Flatirons 1st and 2nd trail in Boulder (where I spotted ultrarunner Anton Krupicka).
- Along the dusty, packed-dirt horse trails in Garden of the Gods.
- All throughout RMNP in Estes Park, including Bierstadt Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, up to Flattop Mountain.
The Proterra Vim Sports performed beautifully on all of these trails. The only time I started to get sore feet was descending Flattop. The surface of the trail is really rocky (they don’t call it Rocky Mountain for nothing!) and all the unevenness combined with the non-stop descent started to wear on my feet. This was also the end of our 10-day trip so my feet were bound to get tired eventually.
Do keep in mind that these are minimalist-style lightweight hiking shoes. It is important to note, you WILL feel the ground with these. This is a huge plus in my book, as I like to feel connected to the terrain, but those use to more traditional hiking shoes will really notice it and may not like it. On the other end of the spectrum, barefoot purists may feel enough ground-feel in these shoes. These are suited best for those who prefer minimalist footwear, but are looking for a bit more protection on the trails. You won’t feel the ground as much as you would in true barefoot-style shoes, but there is enough ground-feel that it should please most.
After 100+ miles, on all kinds of terrain, I can say that these are solid hiking shoes. They still look new (minus some Colorado dust), and the treads show no signs of wear. I’m glad Merrell came out with these, and look forward to more shoes like this in the future.