Product Type: Merrell Hunter Original
Newest Review: ... feel less exposed and they had the comfortable foot bed I know to expect from Merrell. So I purchased a purple pair and have owned the... more
Merrell Make Walking Sandals Pretty
Merrell Ladies Siena Sandals
Member Name: fizzywizzy
Merrell Ladies Siena Sandals
Advantages: Look good, comfortable, good colour range
Disadvantages: Don't tighten enough on heel for me
The other evening Himself commented that he could smell the aroma of new leather in our living room. I asked if he thought it was from the sandals I had just taken off. He didn't think it could be as I've had them since last year and gave them a bit of a battering while traveling in Croatia and Bosnia during some hot weather; besides I'd been wearing them since 9.00 am that morning, on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. Reluctantly he agreed to give them a sniff and to his amazement (and mine if the truth be told) he had to admit that the lovely leathery smell was emanating from the sandals.
Summer footwear is a bit of an issue for me. We do a lot of walking on holiday and usually take walking boots or shoes, even in hot weather, as we are often on rough terrain. However, these can look a bit daft in town, especially in the evenings. On the other hand, on cobbled streets or where there might be slippy or uneven footpaths (the Croatian resort of Split is a nightmare!) I still like to wear something supportive and comfortable.
While spending sometime in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, in 2006, I remember feeling slightly uncomfortable because my rather utilitarian trekking sandals were attracting looks of shock from the very glamorous women there: young Armenian women love to totter around in the sort high heels that can only result in oxygen starvation - no mean feat when you consider that the state of the pavements is shocking. Admittedly these sandals were very plain. They had a thick black sole and the top of the sandal was mid-brown nubuck. These sandals had no decorative detail at all. At the same time Himself was the subject of looks of disdain: either he was very mean for not buying me shoes like theirs, or else he should be ashamed of himself being seen with a woman wearing the ugliest shoes in shoe history. It was time to find some durable and comfortable, but not visually repugnant, sandals.
Of course, being the sort of person who lists procastination as a hobby, or would if I ever got round to making a list of my hobbies, I didn't get round to this until 2009 and only then because the offending sandals were by now not just offending but offensive too. What was originally a fairly soft suede-effect insole underfoot was now like sandpaper and after a day's wear the sandals would have to be shoved into a carrier bag lest the whole hostel or hotel be contaminated by the reeking footwear. The final straw came in Italy when a big blister popped while I was wearing the sandal leaving a disturbing stain on the innersole that couldn't be removed.
The trouble when looking for new sandals was that in spite of designers incorporating a variety of pretty pastel shades, the sandals still looked too "hikerish" and not suitable for evening wear. After checking out lots of brands and styles I found Merrell's Siena style which I bought through amazon.co.uk for around £54. (Prices go as low as £45 but it depends on size and colour)
Although these sandals have many of the features you'll usually see in the design of walking sandals, they have the advantage of having one or two minor features that give them a more decorative look. The main colour of my sandals is pistachio with details picked out on sage green but other colours are available (so far I have seen raspberry, seagrass, tan - a very pale colour, and black) . Unusually for walking sandals these have a toe post which I was initially sceptical about as I find they tend to be uncomfortable and cause blisters in hot weather.
The sandals are fastened/tightened by two straps - one across the instep and one around the heel. Both are altered as necessary and secured using Velcro fastenings. Another unusual feature is that the heel strap can be removed and the sandals worn as slip ons, a bonus if you want to wear the sandals in the evening for going out as it does make them look less sporty. The only criticism I have so far is that I'd be happier if I could tighten the heel strap a little more as I have quite narrow heels but on the whole I'm happy with the way the sandals feel secure when fastened.
The top surface of the straps is lovely soft nubuck and the lining on the underside is pigskin. The sage green detail at the end of each strap is a nice touch visually but also prevents damage to the ends of the straps and stops them looking shabby so quickly, after all you're handling this part of the shoe every time you put them on or take them off. A nice decorative feature is a two tone (pistachio and sage) woven braid which crosses the shoe parallel with the instep strap. Best of all for me is that the instep strap doesn't cross my foot at the base of my big toe which is now considerably swollen and not likely to improve because of osteoarthritis. Whereas shoes with static straps are now no good to me because they are to tight, these can be adjusted as necessary to accommodate my freaky foot.
The footbed - the part your foot sits on - is wonderful. The material is a microfibre but it feels like the finest suede and so far it has remained soft. Merrell have given this part of the shoe an antimicrobial treatment which probably explains why I can be in the same room as these shoes overnight without having to eventually hang them out of the window. I know eventually they'll go the same way as the others but I am optimistic that that time is some way off.
Comparing the ugly old sandals with these Merrell ones, it's clear that the new ones have been built to mimic the shape of the sole of the foot and provide support where appropriate. The other shoes had a couple of raised areas but these shoes have been designed with nothing but comfort in mind in this respect. Merrell talk about a "Q-Form Triple Density Compression Molded EVA Footframe" (the spelling is correct, the company is American) which doesn't mean much to me but whatever it is it works because these are the most comfortable sandals I've ever owned. Merrell claim that the shape of the footframe picks up on pressure points that are affecting by the way women tend to walk and concentrates on providing the right support for those points. Perhaps more obvious to the layperson, the shoes also have an air cushion mid sole which keeps the footbed springy in all the right places without compromising on support.
Unlike my previous sandals (and many I've seen in the shops), the sole is a light brown colour which looks more asesthetically pleasing than the clumpy black soles this type of shoe usually has. You can see that the sole has been given as much consideration as the rest of the shoe. Curved and contoured in exactly the right places, the sole is hardwearing but flexible enough to be responsive to quite heavy walking.
The shoes is light in weight but very sturdy. They have a number of practical advantages: they take up far less room in my rucksack and when they have become wet they have dried quickly. Getting wet doesn't seem to have affected the antimicrobial treatment as I feared it might.
While I wouldn't wear these for really serious walking, they are ideal for walking in urban/village areas and for areas of moderate terrain away from those areas - they'd be OK somewhere where it can be a bit uneven like Pompeii, or somewhere with old slippy flagstones, but you wouldn't consider wearing them for an ascent of the Matterhorn, even if Tomasz Schafernaker promised sunshine later on in higher regions.
At full price they aren't cheap but if you shop around on line you can get some good discounts. Then again, these are your feet and for walking you should certainly aim to buy the best you can afford. There is little worse than the misery of sore feet on holiday. While I might buy an additional pair - purely for reasons of vanity I'd also like to buy the pink ones - I know that I'll be wearing these for some time to come; they are sturdy, durable and have the bonus of being (so far) stink-free.
Highly recommended - a really comfortable shoe that looks pretty too! Who'd have thought it!?
Summary: Walking sandals that are comfortable and look good too