Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 GTX
Best for: Hillwalking, general hiking
Key attributes: Comfort, Gore-Tex
The MQM here stands for ‘Moving Quickly in the Mountains’ – and that’s exactly what you’re expected to do with these trail shoes. Designed to combine all of the best features of a trail runner and a hiking shoe into one fast, light and protective shoe, the Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX is second generation upgrade of one of Merrell’s best-selling trail shoes.
The MQM Flex 2.0 GTXs have a Gore-Tex membrane which, as you will know from the well-known brand, offers waterproof and breathable performance. The type of Gore-Tex used here is known as InvisibleFit, with a lightweight, breathable construction that doesn’t feel sweaty or constricting. The upper of the shoe is made from a waterproof mesh, while the tongue has a ‘bellows’ design – a wide-folding tongue attached at the sides to the upper – to keep debris (and water) out. There is a protective TPU toe cap, keeping your toe safe on rocky terrain; and the tongue-integrated lacing system enables fine-tuning of the fit and does everything you need it to.
In terms of the Flex 2.0 GTX’s structural composition, the FLEXconnect midsole is designed to enhance ground connection; a rock plate, positioned between the outsole and midsole, provides underfoot protection from sharp rocks or anything that could hurt your foot; and the Merrell Air Cushion – a sealed unit located in the heel – absorbs shock (up to four times your body weight, according to Merrell), adds stability, and helps to correctly align the foot within the shoe for a more comfortable and stable walk or hike.
And finally there’s the insole and outsole. The insole is a removable, contoured Kinetic Fit BASE insole, which Merrell says provides ‘flexible support’ to your foot, while the outsole is a Quantum Grip sole with a 5mm lug depth. The latter features an impressive lug layout, with braking section at the heel for easier slowing during your descent, a grooved contact area at the toe, and two types of multi-directional cleats for enhanced grip.
Our overall verdict? A good all-rounder of a trail shoe for hiking and running, ticking most of the boxes you need: grip, stability, support, waterproofing and breathability. For some they won’t be specialised enough. But for others the Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 will be the one shoe that does it all, proving ideal for all of their adventure and outdoorsy needs.
Read our full Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 GTX review
La Sportiva TX4
Best for: Scrambling, technical mountain routes
Key attributes: Superb grip, comfort, lightweight
Of all the approach shoes tested here, La Sportiva’s TX4 are those most reminiscent of a traditional climbing shoe. The Italian brand states they are designed for ‘technical approach routes, via ferrata and hiking’. It adds that they ‘guarantee grip, comfort and protection… to encourage technical use right up to the base of the wall’. It is, therefore, a practical choice for experienced climbers and more hardcore scramblers, rather than the average hillwalker.
The TX4 has a Vibram MegaGrip sole, with grippy circular lugs in the centre, a flat ‘climbing zone’ at the toe for edging and an ‘impact brake system’ at the rear. As such, the grip is superb. There is also a wraparound rand, which encircles the entire shoe, and a rubber toe box that protects your feet. Pleasingly, however, this has more give than others on test. Meanwhile the suede leather upper is flexible but also hard-wearing and durable.
The fit is close and comfortable too. At 380g per shoe, the TX4 is very light, and they feel perfect for nimble and quick moves on rocky terrain. These aren’t really the best approach shoes for a long hike in wet conditions. However, when you’ll be doing lots of traversing and climbing, these are perfect. La Sportiva says the TX4s are ‘the ultimate expression of moving in the mountains in comfort, speed and safety’ – and we wouldn’t disagree.
Best for: Scrambling
Key attributes: Grippy lugs, good lacing, rigid sole, rubber rand
The Scarpa Mescalito is the very definition of a trail shoe. All the typical elements are there: that rigid and sturdy sole, the thick rubber rand, grippy lugs and right-to-the-toes lacing.
It’s designed to attack rocky and technical trails and to assist those who’ll be spending a fair amount of time on a mixture of walking and scrambling routes. For the bare rock mountains of Snowdonia it would be perfect.