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BACKPACKER Gear 360 Review
The Bravada excels on dayhikes, thanks to its all-day comfort with light loads. This women-specific shoe is flexible for easy trail striding, but is stiff enough for technical terrain. It gave us confidence (and solid purchase) as we scrambled up creekside rock ledges in Rocky Mountain National Park. The EVA midsole is comfy to walk on, but it and the flexy mesh upper don’t offer much in the way of support and stability if you’re wearing a heavy pack; the Bravada performs best under loads of less than 20 pounds. Merrell’s proprietary rubber outsole, with uniform chevron-shape lugs, gripped well on rock, dusty trails, and in patches of mud, although we found that gravel became stuck between the lugs. Ding: Although the upper isn’t thick, we got sweaty feet in summer conditions. The Bravada is also available in a waterproof version for $20 more.
I did some short hikes in this shoe. The terrain was hilly, root-infested, and uneven. The Bravada fit well and true to size right out of the box, and has firm but comfortable support. I thought it might be stiff and rigid and tough to break in, but it was just the opposite—no blisters or hot spots. The soles and toe box were great at protecting my feet from the tree roots and uneven surface of the trails.
It looks just like a trail-running shoe, except it’s definitely stiffer, which I appreciate for hiking. On my feet, it felt light and comfortable. The heel cup was perfect: It locked my heels in super tight and I didn’t have even a smidge of slippage. The grip is fantastic and I felt confident on a variety of surfaces, including some very slick rock. The mesh did a good job of keeping debris out of my shoes. When the lacing is cinched tight, a little piece of plasticky material on the middle of the tongue can be uncomfortable, so avoid overtightening.