[best for hot hikes]
For hikers in blazing climates who need well-ventilated, waterproof protection and all-terrain traction, the Chameleon4 delivers. Even with temps in the high 90s, the upper’s layered swatches of mesh and leather kept our Arizona tester’s feet from getting too sweaty, making the Chameleon the most breathable in the test.
Panels of mesh allow sweat vapor to escape with each flex and step while supple pig suede leather (it’s less prone to abrasion and tearing than cowhide) adds structure and durability. A sturdy rubber rand, rubber heel cup, and firm “stability arms” helped one tester keep his balance during off-trail scrambles in Joshua Tree and Channel Islands National Parks.
The Chameleon’s sticky oval lugs and deep heel-brakes kept another tester upright on wet rocks and roots around Lake Champlain, Vermont. “The trim Vibram outsole keeps my feet low to the ground, which helped with my balance and felt like a natural extension of my foot,” she says. The midsole—made of EVA cushioning with a short, stiff nylon shank in the arch area—has “enough torsional support and rigidity to hold up under a 40-pound load,” says a tester who wore the Chameleons on slick trails in Oregon’s Mt. Hood Wilderness.
Dings: The ankle collar requires a few days of break-in, and the soft rubber treads show signs of wear after two months of intensive testing.
> Weight 2 lbs. 8 oz.
> Price $165
> Mens Sizes 7-15
> Info merrell.com