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A few months ago, I was in desperate need of a decent pair of walking shoes after I was talked into going on a 14 mile hike with some friends. I would usually have just got some £15.99 cheapo ones from Cotton Trader, but knew I would be suffering after this walk if I didn't wear something comfortable.
I've always been a fan of the Merrell design, but not being a serious walker, was always put off by the price-tag. I decided it was time to take the plunge, and hopefully purchase some shoes that would last years rather than months. I bought the Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slam from Go Outdoors for the princely sum of £78, although typically, got home and found them on the net for £60.
The Chameleon Wrap Slam are part of a range of footwear more commonly labelled as Trail or Approach Shoes. These lie basically somewhere in-between a trainer and a hiking shoe. More grip, more support and heavier duty than a trainer, but lighter and more versatile than a hiking shoe, whilst being more fashionable and comfortable too. These shoes can quite easily be used on a day to day basis, and I quite often wear them for work or popping down the shops for example.
The 'Chameleon' looks good and is available in a few different colours; Charcoal/Red, Army Green and Dusty Olive. I chose the latter option is they were a little more understated than the Red ones and looked the smartest of the 3 for everyday use. They use the 'Vibram' designed sole which provides amazing traction, grip and 'high abrasion resistance' to enable a higher performing, longer lasting shoe, in theory. The shoes are very well padded inside and on the tongue, and crucially, didn't have any uncomfortable bits of stitching or material that rub against your foot, like you usually find with cheaper brands.
Anyway, back to my walk. It went pretty well for someone that doesn't often walk more than 2 or 3 miles. They felt comfortable throughout, giving plenty of comfort and grip on the loose pebble paths and rocky grass sections. It wasn't until about 12 miles in when my little toe began to feel a little squashed and a touch painful. The walk was quite hilly, and I was beginning to feel it more going downhill as your foot slides towards the front of the shoe. I usually suffer from blisters, and got them nearly every game when I used to play Football, so it was a relief to be blister free when I finally got to the destination (the pub!) and pulled off my shoes. Happily, there was no real damage to my toe either, just a bit of redness, (I put that down to my random feet and the fact I'd just walked for 4 and a half hours, rather than the shoe itself!)
They are made from a breathable, mesh type material, so are not waterproof as I found out to my cost when I stepped onto some boggy ground and went in up to my ankle! I wouldn't recommend wearing these on a walk if you know it's likely to be in wet conditions. They seemed to keep my feet cool enough though, despite wearing a pair of under socks and a thick pair of walking socks.
Some slight squeaking has developed in one of the shoes which I think is coming from the heel area. Not sure if it's a design fault or just my sweaty feet!
Unfortunately, I've recently found that the rubber is coming away slightly where the side of the sole meets the upper, near the back of the shoe. I find this disappointing after only a few months of relatively light use from a top brand shoe. Nothing a bit of super glue can't sort out I'm sure.
Overall, I would buy these again if I had the choice and would award them 3.5/5 at the price I paid (£78), but as they are available around the £60 mark now I'm going to award them a 4/5.
Quite simply this is one of best shoes I have had on my feet. I have owned them for a year now and they are still going strong, plenty of grip left on them, and just as comfortable and supportive as ever. I have used these shoes in a variety of situations, primarily as an everyday shoe, which it is more than capable of being. However, being a keen hiker and camper, I have also taken these shoes across some pretty rough terrain and have to say they have been exceptional - grip is phenomenal even in wet conditions and loose surfaces. Also worthy of note is the plastic strap around the ankles, which works with the laces and provides excellent support for a low profile shoe. This is a particular concern for me as I have quite fragile ankles, and I would highly recommend the shoe based upon this alone. Other positives include excellent ventilation (owing to the mesh like construction), durability, and as I mentioned before, supreme comfort. I also happen to love the looks of it.
However, the shoe does have a couple of disadvantages. Firstly, the air pocket in the heel, despite doing an excellent job, will start squeaking after a week or so of use. It isn't the end of the world, but sometimes can be a little annoying. Secondly, they are not very weatherproof, and your feet will be easily soaked in rain. Overall however, I think this is a fantastic shoe, for nearly all applications, and the fact that everyone who worked as stage/lighting/sound crew at the theatre I did wore them is a testimony to how well they perform: it is a suprisingly testing environment for footwear.