The Vault Regulars

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Merrell Chameleon 5 Mid Ventilator GTX boots.

A few weeks ago i had an interesting email from Merrell asking me if i would be prepared to write a review of their Chameleon 5 Mid boots.
Funnily enough i had only just had a look at Merrell’s Proterra boots and quite liked the look of them, therefore it was a bit of a coincidence to be offered a pair of boots FOC from them.
Merrell make good gear (IMHO) and so it was an easy decision on my part to accept the offer.

So, the boots.

They came well packaged. Upon opening the box i was greeted with a horrid smell of a rubber/plastic/glue type pungent aroma, most unpleasant. Thankfully this smell disappeared after a days wear in the outdoors.

 Merrell Chameleon 5 Mid ventilator Gore-tex boots
Weight for size UK 8.5 is 560 grams

 Handling the boots, twisting, bending and removing the insoles i admit to being a little disappointed.
My first impression, and basically the impression that sells a boot was not fantastic, more of a oh?
Apart from the smell, these boots have an RRP of £140.00! I expected more wow factor for a boot in that price bracket.

 I liked the colour, the lacing, the heel support, the toe protection but didn’t like the look of the Vibram sole or the insole. My first impressions were that they were both not up to the job of backpacking. They are after all marketed as a light backpacking boot.

2mm thick, moulded EVA insole.
 So, having got my first impressions out of the way i set about finding out how they perform.
I have now worn them everyday for the past 5 weeks and they have covered about 140 miles.

 Trying the boots out on day 1, 
I found them to be exceptionally comfortable. The size 8.5 was perfect for me and the fit across the toe area was perfect for my foot which is on the wide side. The first outing was in dry conditions, quite humid and 22 degrees C, and i covered about 8 miles of mainly green lanes and woodland. 
 I had a bit of heel lift in my right boot and thought the worst. However it turned out that although the lace was tight around the ankle it wasn’t tight down the foot. I re-laced the boot and the heel lift disappeared. So getting the lacing right is important individually.

 The sole unit, which is Vibram rubber was impressive and getting back home my feet felt good. However when i removed the boots i was a little surprised to find that my feet and socks were quite sweaty. Considering that they are called Ventilator i was a little dismayed, although it had been a warm day.

 5 weeks on,
 I have now covered most terrains and weather conditions although as yet the temperature in the UK has not slipped into single figures and has not been particularly damp.
 I have worn a number of different socks, Bridgedale, Teko, X socks but i still had clammy feet. So venting is not as good as it might be. Taking into considering they do have a GTX membrane i might be expecting a bit too much. However, the boots have been treated with Aegis® which is an antimicrobial agent that suppresses odour. I found this has worked very well so far. Merrell say that the treatment does not wear out so it will be interesting to find out what happens further down the line.

 Walking on stoney paths, loose scree and on very steep grass has presented no problems. The sole unit passed with flying colours. I am pleasantly surprised considering my first impressions.
One of the conditions that usually find out how good or bad a sole unit is is when you are on wet and smooth slab rock. Once again they have surpassed my expectations. Good grip and support. So far so good.
The boot has a 2mm flexible plate in the foot section which protects the foot from stone bruising and a nylon insole which is a tougher grade than is found on the Chameleon 5 shoe, designed with medium pack carrying in mind. The EVA insole has proved to be very comfy.

 The outer boot is made from Pig suede leather, coupled with mesh and a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane. The heel has a pull loop and the tongue is the normal bellows type.
I have found cleaning them very easy with a soft bristle brush. I havn’t yet had the pleasure of entering a bog and so the need to completely wash them has not been done.
 Waterproofing has otherwise worked well and on one completely wet day they kept me perfectly dry. The wet days for testing have been very limited i must state, due to our warm and dry summer.

 The toes are protected with quite a high rubber toe cap but i would prefer it to come a little further over the top.

 The ankle has a tough plastic support arm that stops ankle roll, maintains the heel shape and works well. Even when contouring.

 I found the laces stayed secure all day and the lacing system is easy and adjustable but they are a little too long. There are 8 plastic closed eyelets and final lacing is held with 2 metal hooks either side.

 I wasn’t at all impressed with the material of the inner ankle cuff. It’s comfy but the weave is quite loose and it retained debris to the point of annoyance. Grasses especially, got trapped in the weave and then pierced the sock resulting in uncomfortable walking. Removing the debris was harder than you might think. Not just a matter of removing the boot and shaking out the debris, i first tried wrapping some duct tape around my hand and hoped i could get the grass to stick to the tape, this didn’t work. I had to get a pair of tweezers and pull the grasses out. Very time consuming too. Obviously wearing gaiters would have prevented this problem but you don’t want to wear gaiters in dry summer conditions.

Trapped debris on inside of the boot proved really difficult to remove. 
(Sorry the lower image is a bit blurred). But at least you can see the problem.

Within the time period for this review there is very little i dislike about them. Yes at £140.00 rather expensive but you can buy them on the internet for £84 - £105 which is where i think they should be priced and at this price they are a good buy.
 Comfortable straight from the box, probably the most comfortable boots i have ever had in fact. Great sole unit in all conditions outside of winter. Excellent build quality.
Quite lightweight for a mid boot with a waterproof membrane.
Inner ankle material needs improving.

I am now looking forward to the next 500 miles wearing them.

Update. 12th December 2013.
One point that i have found since my initial review is that they do take rather a long time to dry out.
With the boot having a membrane, you need to keep outside heat sources away from them otherwise your membrane could be damaged.  Drying inside a warm building or in a breeze still takes a lot longer than i expected. I would like Merrell to consider this point, but otherwise my original review stands up. A fantastic boot.

Where to view or purchase.
The boots can be found in pretty much all the major outdoor retail shops on the highstreet or you could just click on the links below if you wish.
The Merrell range at Fitness Footwear.
The Merrell Chameleon 5 Mid boot.

I would like to make the point here that these boots were kindly sent to me FOC for the purpose of this review. I thank Merrell for that.
I have no affiliation to Merrell in any way and the review is completely without bias, timescale or restriction.


Jules said...

Interesting timing here ....

I have been looking at (and purchasing!) some new hiking shoes, and have tried on various options from various manufacturers.

I tried a couple of options from Merrell, including the "low" version of the Chameleon 5 and the Chameleon 2. I've had footwear by Merrell before, so had no qualms about the brand.

Interestingly, both Chameleon options were pretty comfortable - but both quite different, with the Chameleon 2's being much softer underfoot and in the padding/ankle cuff than the 5's. I thought the 2's might even be too soft for extended walking - comfortable to start with, but perhaps not enough support for longer trips or stonier terrain.

In the end, despite the obvious "out of the box" slipper-like comfort, the sizing/fit just wasn't quite right for my feet, and I've ended up with some Scarpa Vortex XCR shoes instead, which I'm hoping will give me years of good service.

AlanR said...

Hi Jules. Thanks for your comment. I guess your foot is slightly narrower than mine. I have tried on the Scarpas and although there is not much difference, I found them a little tight across the toe. Good choice all the same.

afootinthehills said...

I've got a pair of Merrell shoes with what looks like the same sole as these boots. They're old now and for the life of me I can't remember their name, but they are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn - though I never used them on hills or trails. They are burst at the sides now but I still wear them!

AlanR said...

Hi Gibson, Looks like you are enjoying your hol. The sole unit is what has impressed me a lot. Considering I was a bit sceptical at first.

Phreerunner said...

Nice one Alan. It's good to get a bit of recognition for writing a popular blog, and those boots look as if they should serve you well. Their durability will be interesting, though given that they were immediately comfy and are relatively lightweight I wouldn't expect them to last for ever. That wouldn't stop me buying them though, if the fit was right.
I've just enjoyed catching up with the rest of your entries, and look forward to hearing about your current trip in due course...

AlanR said...

Thanks Martin,
These boots are the dogs b! I must say i do wear them every day. I know reviewers say similar things but they are so comfy. At the RRP i would have left them on the shelf but it would have been a mistake. They are quite similar to your Keens btw.
Hope you are back on your feet soon.

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