Merrell’s Moab 2 Ventilator Low Hiking Shoes are the best-selling non-waterproof hiking shoes of all time for the simple reason that they’re stable, affordable, and available in wide sizes. I hiked in them for many years myself, all over the Catskills Mountains and the Gunks in New York State, and still keep a pair for kicking around in because they’re so comfortable. I wore the original Merrell Moab Ventilator shoe then, but can’t detect any difference between them and the current Moab 2 Ventilator Low, which fits me just the same.
The Moab 2 Ventilator Low was the first low hiking shoe that I switched to after hiking in leather boots for decades. While that might sound like a big transition, it’s not as drastic as you think. The Moab 2 Ventilator is a pretty chunky low trail shoe and provides much more protection than other trail shoes or trail running shoes. It’s actually designed and built more like a boot than a trail shoe in certain respects, which is probably why so many former boot users switch to them.
For example, the Moab 2 Ventilator Low has beefy toe and heel kicks to protect your forefoot and heel, with a nylon shank like a hiking boot for mid-sole protection against shock and bruising. Suede leather strips on the exterior of the shoe create a protective barrier, much like the safety cage in an automobile, around your foot, while breathable mesh panels vent perspiration and keep you cool. The lugged Vibram sole also has very little lateral or torsional flex, so it hikes much more like a boot, helping to reduce ankle turns because the sole is so wide and flat. While the forefoot still has some rocker, it’s considerably less curved than a trail runner. This combination of elements makes the Moab 2 Ventilator Low a solid choice if you want to transition to a low trail shoe, without giving up the familiar benefits of a trail boot.
The similarity to a boot doesn’t end there. The tongue of the Moab 2 Ventilator Low is thickly padded to wrap around the top of your foot and help lock your foot in position. The heel compartment is also narrow and shaped to help prevent heel lift, with a softshell covering to wick perspiration away from your foot. I never get blisters wearing these shoes, which is one of the reasons why I still wear them.
Sizing and Selection
The Moab 2 Ventilator Low runs true-to-size and requires virtually no break-in time to use when new. They will feel a bit snug in the heel and wider in the toes when you get a pair, but that’s on purpose to give your toes room to splay out. The Moab 2 Ventilator Low is also available in wide sizes if you require them, something that Merrell as a brand has long recognized as a need for in hiking shoes.
If there’s one thing I don’t like about the Moab 2 Ventilator Low it’s the thin foam insoles that come with the shoes. They provide very little arch or pronation support, which are both leading causes of plantar fasciitis. I replace mine with the Green Superfeet insoles that I use in hiking boots, instead of the thinner Carbon Superfeet insoles I use in trail runners because the Moabs have so much internal volume. That’s just as a suggestion based on my experience because I’d go mad if I contracted plantar fasciitis and couldn’t go hiking for a few months to let the injury heal.
I also prefer the non-waterproof version over the waterproof Moab 2 Ventilator Low (and its variants) because they stay cooler and dry faster than the waterproof versions. Most waterproof hiking shoes have an added inner sock made out of waterproof/breathable membrane that traps more heat and takes longer to dry if water comes over the top of the shoe, like in stream crossings, which is when my shoes tend to get soaked through and through. The waterproof/breathable membrane also breaks down with use, rendering the shoe non-waterproof. Different people have different preferences in this regard. That’s just my own.
Comparable Trail Shoes and Boots
The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Low is a stable trail shoe that stays cool and dries quickly. It has a Vibram sole which provides good traction and wears well, with a large toe box, and good forefoot protection to keep your toes from getting banged up on rugged hikes. The wide and low sole of the Moab 2 Ventilator Low is a good shoe to try for hiking if you experience ankle rolls or you blister easily in hiking boots or other hiking shoes. It’s a very good trail shoe to try if you’re transitioning from hiking boots or mids to a low trail shoe since it still incorporates some design elements common in boots, in addition to superior breathability. However, the Moab 2 Ventilator Low is first and foremost a hiking shoe, not a trail running shoe, which is important to keep in mind if you’re considering them as a footwear option.
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