Merrell Chameleon Prime Stretch Review – Hiking Trainers
Merrell Chameleon Prime Stretch Review – Hiking Trainers
This Merrell Chameleon Prime Stretch Review is based on years of occasional use and more regular use in recent years. I have worn them for hiking, walking the dogs, going down the shops, and working 8-12 hour shifts in a veterinary practice. It is worth noting that I bought these hiking shoes years ago when they were still using Vibram soles which have now been replaced by Merrell’s own materials (2017). The latest model is exactly the same design as the Chameleon Prime Stretch shoes I am reviewing and so hopefully still relevant to your decision making.
- WEIGHT: 1 lb 15.7 oz / 900 g
- UPPER: Leather and mesh materials upper
- LINING: Breathable mesh lining
- TONGUE: Bellow’s are part of the tongue to keep out debris
- FOOTBED: Removable EVA footbed
VibramMerrell tough rubber
- GRIP: 4mm Lugs
- Merrell air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
- Molded nylon arch shank
My first impression is that they look great and have plenty of flex when I manipulate them in my hands. As soon as I slipped them on I knew they were the perfect fit and incredibly comfortable. The quality is very good and as you might expect from Merrell and Vibram. I originally bought them as a work/hiking shoe but found myself wearing them for pretty much all light outdoor activities. They are super easy to take off and on and I don’t miss having laces at all.
Straight out of the box the Merrell Chameleon Prime Stretch hiking shoes are super comfortable and largely thanks to the padded cushion around the whole inside of the shoe. You might think this would make your feet hot but they are surprisingly breathable due to their not being a waterproof lining or treatment. The rim around the ankle is made from a supple and stretchy Lycra / Neoprene material which is super comfortable and doesn’t dig in anywhere (even with no socks).
They stay comfortable over long distances although are not great with big and heavy backpacks due to the low cut. They really hug your feet while allowing them to remain flexible which is great for scrambling over rocky terrain. Overall I am more than satisfied with the comfort and will buy them again simply because they are one of the comfiest low cut hiking trainers I own.
The fit is perfect for me. I have wide feet so the broad toe box is preferable to a pointy one and the padding inside feels like it would accommodate all kinds of foot shape. With the stretchy cuff, you can easily slip your foot in and out and the shoes stay firmly on your feet even when not fully tightened. This is great for casual wear but when you are hiking the adjustable toggle cord can be quickly tightened for less movement in the shoe. Order the correct size or the 1/2 size above if you plan to wear thick socks, but the sizing is very accurate and adaptive.
Materials and Construction
The combination of leather and mesh uppers offers excellent breathability and protection against loose rocks. This is my first pair of toggle cord laces and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier. You can fasten them up tight or loosen and take them off all with one hand which saves time and prevents anything from becoming undone in the field. I love Vibram soles because they just seem to last longer than other kinds of rubber sole, and these are no different. The toe bumper and rear heel guard offer some extra protection and grip and everything has held together very well over the years.
Grip and Soles
When I’m researching new hiking shoes, I look for deep lugs in a traditional spread (see the Meindl Burma Pros), but in this case, I wanted something that would be grippy on slippery flat surfaces. For this, they are outstanding and will grip to just about anything. While hiking on maintained trails the Chameleon Prime Stretch trainers will perform very well. In thick mud and on steep ascents with loose material they do lack a certain kind of bite and you may have to put in extra effort to make good ground.
Waterproofing and Breathability
The waterproofing is not good. I mean, your feet stay dry in light rain and you can walk through shallow puddles but the minute you walk through wet grass your feet become soaked. While they do dry out fast, the Merrell Prime Stretch shoes were never designed to keep your feet dry and instead focus on comfort and breathability. The breathable mesh is essential for ventilation because the shoes are so well padded on the inside they would become hot otherwise. My feet never get too hot in these shoes and they are more than suitable for wearing in summer.
Getting rid of the traditional laces is nothing new, but it is rarely ever better. The Merrell Prime Stretch Chameleon shoes impressed me a lot and have opened my eyes to the benefits. The way they fit when done up is super comfortable and snug, feeling secure without sacrificing flexibility. At first, I was a little dubious about not having any laces, but the easily adjustable toggle and elastic cordage quickly grew on me and is now something I look out for when shopping for new hiking shoes.
They are comfortable to wear all day long and are nice and breathable on hot days. The grip is fantastic on slippery surfaces and the soles have plenty of flex while having a really nice thickness. The laceless design works very well in terms of performance and also makes getting them on and off stunningly simple. The main feature and selling point for me is their unrivaled comfort. They don’t feel heavy or bulky, instead, they feel agile and as soft as your favorite pair of slippers. If you are a fan of Merrell or just comfortable walking shoes in general then for sure give these a go. Just don’t expect them to keep your feet dry!
Where to buy?
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Merrell Chameleon Prime Stretch Review - Super comfortable and breathable hiking trainers for trail walking and everyday use.