Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 GTX Hiking Shoes | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 GTX Hiking Shoes | Review

James Forrest tests out the new Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 GTX shoes on trails near his home in the Lake District

The MQM here stands for ‘Moving Quickly in the Mountains’. Sadly, the coronavirus lockdown put paid to my plans to rigorously test the Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 GTXs up gnarly, rocky mountains near my home in the Lake District. But, luckily, I have a few small fells on my doorstep with just enough ruggedness and steepness to put a pair of shoes through their paces.

Watch Hill (254m) near my home in Cockermouth, for example, has grassy slopes, a large forest with muddy tracks and trails, and a section of exposed bedrock near the summit. This is where I tested the Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 GTXs during my daily Boris-mandated walks and runs, safely and responsibly adhering to social distancing rules. It wasn’t quite Great Gable or Blencathra, but it still proved a good testing ground. This is what I learnt:

As with most Merrell walking shoes, I found the MQM Flex 2.0 GTXs to be comfortable straight out of the box. Due to the trainer-style design, they fitted like a glove and I immediately felt at ease with them on my feet. They were true to size for me, there was no rubbing or discomfort anywhere and I was immediately eager to get out in them. They were pretty lightweight too. At 708g per pair, they were far lighter than many other pairs of approach shoes I’ve owned in the past, which made me feel fast, light and nimble on my feet.

“At 708g per pair, they were far lighter than many other pairs of approach shoes”

The original MQM Flex GTX shoes and boots were a flagship product for Merrell, designed as a hybrid to combine ‘hiking, trail running, scrambling and climbing into one shoe’. This bold aim was clearly ambitious, risking being a jack of all trades and master of none. But the footwear brand managed to strike a fine balance and created a good all-rounder of a shoe, with strong grip, reliable Gore-Tex waterproofing and a comfortable, supportive structure.

The design has now been updated for spring / summer 2020, with the release of the MQM Flex GTX 2.0. They look and feel pretty similar to the originals. Merrell have kept most things the same – the air cushion in the heel to absorb shock and the FLEXconnect midsole, for example – opting to stick with a proven formula. But there are important changes. The M Select GRIP outsole has been upgraded to the Merrell mountain-grade Quantum Grip rubber outsole. This has increased the lug depth from 3.5mm to 5mm, and the new outsole is more rugged with improved traction.

The weight of the shoes has consequently increased from 648g to 708g, reflecting a sturdier and more durable build for the 2.0 iteration, but the extra 60g per pair isn’t particularly noticeable on foot. Another change is that the 2020 version is 100% vegan friendly, reflecting the growing consumer demand for ethical products.

The final modification is to the Gore-Tex membrane. The original MQM Flex had a waterproof membrane constructed by stitching pieces of Gore-Tex material together, but the 2.0 version use an InvisibleFit Gore-Tex with a single piece of seamless material providing wraparound waterproofing.

All in all, the changes to the 2.0 version are incremental tweaks and improvements, rather than a wholesale re-design, as Merrell have chosen to build on the solid foundation created with the original MQM Flex GTX product.

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.

Shop for the MQN Flex 2.0 here

In terms of the Flex 2.0 GTX’s structural composition, the Flex connect 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, 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 a 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 further enhance the grip.

I was definitely impressed with this new outsole. It gripped pretty well over mixed terrain, ranging from grass, muddy fields, rocky ground, forest trails and dusty, dry tracks, and I never once felt out of control. The Gore-Tex waterproofing also lived up to its reputation, keeping my feet dry over boggy ground and during a light downpour, while the shoe build provided good stability and protection. I was pretty convinced they’d be durable enough for longer-term use.

I found them to be winners in the comfort department  – no blisters or pinch points encountered – and versatile enough for a range of disciplines from hiking to trail running. For everyday adventures that weren’t excessively hardcore, I found them ideal and didn’t have any complaints.

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My only gripe is that the MQM Flex 2.0s aren’t particularly technical or specialised: they feel a little like a jack of all trades, master of none. Proficient scramblers, for example, would almost certainly prefer a more technical approach shoe like the La Sportiva TX4, while hardcore trail runners will want something grippier, lighter and more advanced like the Inov-8 Terraultra G 260. But perhaps that’s being a little picky. If you haven’t got the money or inclination to own numerous pairs of shoes for different terrain and varied activities, the Merrell MQM Flex 2.0 GTXs are certainly a good all-rounder: comfy, waterproof, breathable and grippy, striking a nice balance between being robust and nimble.

So all things considered, Merrell have created a good all-round 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.

Shop for the MQN Flex 2.0 here

Full Specifications

Quantum Grip rubber outsole with 5mm lugs / InvisibleFit Gore-Tex membrane / waterproof and mesh upper / tongue-integrated lacing system / protective TPU toe cap / kinetic Fit BASE removable insole / FLEXconnect midsole / Merrell Cushion heel / vegan friendly / available in a mid hiking boot and a hiking shoe / men’s and women’s/ Gore-Tex and non Gore-Tex versions.

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