The first ever Chameleon shoe was released way back in 2001, and Merrell are now onto the seventh iteration in what has become their most popular franchise. This version of the Merrell Chameleon 7 on test is the Gore-Tex boot version but there are a number of other styles, giving you the option to choose between either a boot or shoe, and with or without waterproofing. There are also a number of different colours for men and women.
The first thing that struck me about it when I took it out of its box is the cut. It’s supposed to be a boot but the ankle is so modest that you could say it’s somewhere between a trail shoe and a boot. When I picked it up, its weight didn’t feel much heavier than an average trail shoe either.
Merrell are clearly going for fast and light with the Chameleon 7, aiming it at those looking to tackle tough, technical trails and big mileage at a decent enough pace to be able to bag a few peaks and still get back in time to enjoy a good evening in the pub.
Merrell Chameleon 7: Design
I personally think they should’ve called it the Armadillo. That’s what the upper’s design, with its slightly overlapping strips of suede nubuck leather, reminds me of anyway. It’s layered like protective armour around the shoe, combining nicely with a breathable mesh fabric. Other features on the upper worth noting are the strong, metal eyelets, the padded mesh tongue and the medium size – and strength – toe bumper.
Merrell Chameleon 7
Best for: Fast & light hiking, trail hiking, multi-day backpacking, scrambling
Features: Vibram sole, Gore-Tex membrane, suede nubuck leather and mesh upper, FlexPlate midsole, toe bumper, 3mm lugs
Sizes: 6.5-14 (men's), 2.5-9.5(women's)
Available from: gooutdoors.co.uk
Another intriguing aspect of the shoe is its outsole. In an effort to reduce weight while maintaining traction Merrell teamed up with Vibram to develop a minimalist-type tread that can only be described as two circular chains of lugs, with one on the heel and one on the ball of the foot. The idea is that the lugs are placed only where they are required, and therefore the weight of any unnecessary rubber is removed.
These lugs are layered over a FlexPlate midsole that is also specially designed to keep weight low without hampering performance quality; the sole remains solid enough to protect the foot from any sharp stuff on the trail while also giving the right amount of flex. Inside, there’s an EVA foam layer as well as a removable, contoured insole.
Overall, these design techniques and features help to make for an overall weight of 968g for a pair – that’s 25 per cent lighter than the original Chameleon.
Merrell Chameleon 7: Performance
What was very noticeable when I tried the Chameleon 7 on for the first time was its width. I’ve got slightly narrow feet so the boot felt quite spacious around the middle of the foot, even with the lacing pulled tight. There’ll probably be plenty of people with slightly wider feet who’ll appreciate the room.
“Merrell say that the construction of the Chameleon 7 was “inspired by mountain running" and this is clearly evident in both the style and the feel of the boot."
Over the course of testing the boot I found it comfortable to walk in, and on a long day out in the hills I really appreciated the low weight. When it comes to backpacking trips I like to wear lightweight but still protective footwear, so I'll certainly consider taking these with me on my next big multi-day hike.
The waterproof membrane performed well for me, and the ankle was just about long enough to provide assurance that no moisture or mud would get inside the boot on very wet and muddy tracks. If you’re planning on going properly off the beaten track over boggy moorland you’d need something that comes much higher on the ankle.
I’ve done quite a lot of hiking in one of the previous Chameleon models, the Chameleon Shift, even walking the whole of the West Highland Way in them. That model gave reliable grip on mud and throughout a whole day walking along slippery rocks on the edge of Loch Lomond. The Chameleon 7 is no different. 3mm is quite modest in terms of lug depth, but I didn’t have any problems in terms of traction when I tested these out on one particularly wet hike in the Peak District.
Merrell Chameleon 7: Conclusion
Merrell say that the construction of the Chameleon 7 was “inspired by mountain running" and this is clearly evident in both the style and the feel of the boot. For any people into fast packing, which is a backpacking journey that might either involve fast-paced walking or even running, this boot’s balancing of low weight, protection and performance should make it ideal.
That’s not to say it should be pigeon holed. As it’s name suggests, this is a boot that’s one of those all rounders. I’d take it on anything from quick jaunts straight from work to long multi-day backpacking adventures. With its decent sized toe bumper and performance on wet rock it’s a worthy option for some simple scrambling as well.
Here at OutdoorsMagic we liked this new release so much, we decided to include it in our Outdoor 100, our list of the latest and greatest gear releases for Autumn/Winter 2017. Head on over to the Outdoor 100 page to check out more images of this boot.