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BACKPACKER Gear 360 Review
This low-top hiking/running shoe hybrid strikes a desirable balance between weight and support. At just over 1.5 pounds per pair, the MQM Flex 2 is light and nimble enough for dayhikes, but we wore it while carrying a 20-pound pack in the Adirondacks and emerged after a 16-mile overnight without sore feet. A thick, EVA midsole and TPU overlays on the mesh upper provide cushion and stability, while a rock plate underfoot warded off bruises in the Adirondacks and in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness. We appreciated the two webbing tabs near the top of the shoe that kept the laces tight all day, and the ultracushioned tongue never pinched. Merrell’s proprietary outsole and 5-millimeter-deep lugs held tight to mud, steep rocks, and even mellow snowfields (though we noted some wear on the lugs after about 20 miles). The MQM Flex 2 comes in non-waterproof ($110) and waterproof ($140) versions, as well as men's and women's; we found the Gore-Tex version kept the wet out and stayed breathable up to about 75°F, and the non-waterproof one kept our feet cool on hot days.
This shoe is a great combination of light weight and comfort. It slides on and wraps your foot like a second skin. The lacing provides excellent fit and adjustment, with no pinch points or hot spots. It even has a double eyelet at the top of the upper for gear-geeks like me to micro-manage the fit. I noticed excellent traction on dry dirt surfaces. The lugs are deep for a trail shoe and offered plenty of purchase for climbs, quick lateral moves, and pumping the brakes on the downhill. However, I had zero traction on rain-slicked rocks. The thin toe-bumpers are no match for the rocks and roots of New Hampshire, but few lightweight shoes are made for punishing trails. The mesh upper helps pour out the heat and dries quickly. Anyone with low-volume feet, like me, will tell you that finding footwear that fits well is a real challenge. The MQM Flex 2 hit the top of the comfort scale for me, and I would recommend it to anyone with low-volume feet.