Shoe Review: Merrell Moab Ventilator

moabside1

As most of my runs lately have been of the muddy, off-road variety, I’ve completely trashed my much-loved, heavy duty New Balance 471s and consequently have had to go looking for something to replace them.

I’ve got plenty of lightweight trail shoes lying around the house, but really wanted something a bit more substantial to deal with some of the rockier trails I’ve got on my running schedule. So I sought a little advice from those nice folks at fitnessfootwear.com, who recommended the Merrell Moab Ventilator.

Once out of the box , my first impression of the Moab was that it looked more made for walking than running. It’s certainly not a super-light shoe in the vein of my Salomon XTs for example.

But with a whole bunch of rocky runs including the Lakeland Trails series on my summer schedule, I’ve been looking for something that gives my feet just a little bit more protection. And the Moabs certainly do that, with a chunky, grippy sole, plenty of padding all around the foot, and solid toe and heel protection, not to mention a bellows tongue to keep stones and mud out.

They also offer a very ‘fitted’ feel as soon as you put them on, even for skinny feet like mine: not to mention plenty of spring from the Vibram sole and ‘Air Cushion TM’ underfoot. Not quite like putting on a new pair of road shoes, but not too far off.

Anyhoo. While the latest in Merrell footwear was pushing all my buttons in the kitchen at home, that wasn’t really what I got them for. So, after having tried them out on an 8 mile hike in the Lake District, where they performed supremely well as trail walking shoes,  I tried out their trail running capabilities on a 12 miler that incorporated 4 miles of pavement, 3 miles of rolling sand dunes and 5 miles of beach featuring soft sand, hard-packed sand, tide-ridged sand and also, crucially, a long section of mud flat.

Hitting the Roadmerrellmoabsole1

Obviously, these aren’t road shoes, but quite a few trail runs feature paved or hard-packed sections, so it seemed fair enough to see what the Moabs were like on the paved route to the beach. And I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised.

The thick Vibram soles and internal cushioning certainly soaked up more of the pounding than I’d been expecting them to, and my old knees had no complaints at all.

The Moabs also felt fairly flexible and neutral underfoot, which was a surprise, bearing their somewhat rugged construction in mind.

Hitting the Dunes

While it’s nice to know that these things have got a bit of road cushioning going for them, that’s really not what I got them for. So the first real test showed up when I left the road and hit the dunes.

These were pretty steep, featuring soft sand that gives very little grip in any other shoe I’ve tried. But I have to say that the Moabs dug in well, and offered sufficient flex in the forefoot to make the really steep stuff marginally less hellish than usual.

muddymoab1They also did the job when I left the dunes and took a couple of miles along the ‘Velvet Trail’, which at this time of year is a pleasant mix of mud and moss. Ordinarily, I’d have been sliding all over the place here, but the Moabs dug right in and gave me the confidence to plough along this muddy stretch much faster than I’ve ever managed wearing anything else.

At the half way point I cut onto the beach proper to try the Moabs out on a variety of mud and sand surfaces, just to make sure that there wasn’t too much that the soles couldn’t deal with. Again, they performed well from a grip point of view, but by the time I’d gone 9 or 10 miles, the structural solidity of the shoes was beginning to tell slightly, and I found myself wishing I had something a little bit more lightweight to change into. Particularly as, having gotten the shoes pretty wet and muddy, the moisture that all the padding had absorbed was making them fairly heavy.

Pros v Cons

I got the Moab Ventilators because I wanted some super-rugged trail running shoes that could deal with the toughest trails, but still keep my feet fairly cool. Well, they absolutely do the job in that respect, as they’re rough, tough and boasted great ventilation qualities right up to the point I immersed them in 4 45jellyratinginches of sludge. Which means that I’ll almost certainly keep these shoes for some of the tougher trails on my schedule, such as Hellrunner and the Lakeland Trails series.

On the downside, these are not particularly light shoes, and I wouldn’t recommend them for the fleet of foot, or for anything but the toughest of trails. In short though, they’re pretty good for what I have in mind; so all in all, when you want something really tough for around £65, these are the business.

Product Specification

– Slip Lasted Construction
– Dura Leather/Breathable Ventilator Mesh Upper
– Breathable Mesh Lining
– Breathable Ventilator Bellows Tongue
– Rubber Toe Bumper/Heel Counter
– 7.5mm Narrow Gauge Webbing
– 4.5mm Anatomical Footbed
– Nylon 6.6 Injection Molded Arch Shank
– Compression Molded EVA Footframe
– Q-Form™ Triple Density Compression Molded EVA Footframe (women)
– Air Cushion® Midsole
– 5mm Sole Lug Depth
– Merrell Multi-Sport™ Sole/TC5+ Rubber

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Music to run to. Rawk or Rap? Or should I listen to Nike?

skreamRegular readers will know that I’m a die-hard iPod wearer with a taste for rock music of the most unfashionable ilk imaginable. Perfect Strangers by Deep Purple anyone? Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks? Classics, the pair of them, and just the things to match your pace to if you’re a slightly greying plodder like my good self.

However, times and fashions change; and I have been told many times that Rap beats Rock when it comes to keeping you motivated while running. So, always being willing to ‘get down with the kids’ (though not in a Wacko Jacko sort of way, obviously), I’ve recently borrowed a couple of CDs by such luminaries of the modern music scene as Eminem and 50 Cent (or Arfur Dollar as he’s known round here) with a view to testing modern music against classic rock as an aid to recreational running.

Well, first off, I couldn’t quite get my head around rappers’ obsession with, I presume, dog obedience classes and gardening respectively. It’s all bitches and hoes and I really couldn’t see the point.

Secondly, I run for a bit of feel-good factor…you know, the wind in your hair, that sweet rush of endorphins, the blessed relief when it stops…and I just couldn’t get my running mojo to go to its happy place with ‘Many Men (Wish Death)’ assaulting my delicate sensibilities. So, sorry rap fans, but that was the end of that experiment.

And then, those nice people at Nike+ sent me a voucher for one of 1,000 free tracks featuring someone called Skream. It was billed as ‘over 30 minutes of bespoke motivational music’ and that sounded just great. And it was a free download from iTunes, and that sounded even better. And then I put it on my iPod nano, and it sounded just awful!

No, really. When did making music simply become a matter of turning on the drum machine and going off for a lie-down? Can’t read music? No need. If you’ve got a drum machine, a keyboard with some annoying sounds on it, a pan lid to clank with a rusty fork and an absolute hatred of all things harmonic or rhythmic, you can now have a music career. So, cutting to the chase for a second, ‘Galassia’ by Skream fails utterly as a piece of music.

Is it any good as a motivational tool though? Well, kinda sorta. Once I’d run through the slow and aimless ‘warmup’ section of the track, then worked out that the 140 beats per minute was just that bit too quick to follow on a six mile run, I was able to tune it out slightly and not let it bother me too much. In fact, If I’d been running 4 miles instead of 6, this might even have been a useful ‘tool’ to run to, in much the same way that a metronome helps learners to play the piano.

What it certainly wasn’t was musical, far less enjoyable. In fact, the only bit of the track that sticks in my head is about 20 minutes in, when the annoying clanking sound alternates between your ears for a few seconds. But as that’s the kind of thing my 13-year-old does when he’s composing tracks on Garageband, I wasn’t exactly lost in admiration for the musicality of it all.

The long and the short of it is that the classic rock of my youth delivers roughly the kind of BPM I can run too, along with pretty high standards of musicality. Oh, and dreadful lyrics too, if I’m honest.

So look, if you really want great music to run to, start with Edge of Seventeen, Perfect Strangers, Long Live Rock ‘n Roll, Dreams I’ll Never See and Ride Like the Wind. Hell, with your headphones on, no-one will ever know.