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Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Low Hiking Shoes Review

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.

Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Low Hiking Shoes

Foot Protection
Traction
Stability
Sensitivity
Comfort
Weight
Durabiility

Spacious and Stable

The Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Low combines the stability of a hiking boot with the lightweight of a trail shoe. Available in wide sizes, the Moab 2 is a good hiking shoe to try if you want to transition from a hiking boot to trail shoes because they're lighter weight, better ventilated, and dry faster.

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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.

The Moab 2 is a well-protected shoe that has mesh panels for enhanced breathability

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.

The low profile Vibram sole provides good stability and traction

Recommendation

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.

Disclosure:  The author purchased these shoes.

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17 comments

  1. Phil, what is your current go-to favorite hiking shoe or trail runner for mostly on-trail backpacking in your part of the country? I’ve worn out a much-loved pair of Altra Lone Peaks and am shopping for replacements.

    • I’ve been using La Sportiva Ultra Raptors for the past half dozen years. Sticky rubber, great on wet granite. Drains well. Runs narrow. Definitely a trail runner, not a trail shoe.

      • Sorry, but I’m still confused.
        In the write-up, you extol the virtues of “hiking” shoes eg Merrell MOAB. But then here you say, as a hiker, you actually prefer “running” shoes eg Sportiva Raptor. Are you saying that “hiking” shoes are for beginning hikers on the way to transitioning into “running” shoes?
        Thanks for a great site.

      • No. I’m saying that these are good hiking shoes (in fact I still use them) if you prefer a shoe that has bootlike stability over a trail runner. Not everyone wants to wear a trail runner. They wear out quickly. It’s still easy to turn an ankle in one. They’re expensive. They provide far less protection that the Moab. Most have far less internal support (shank), etc.

  2. I have a of Moab 2s in the gtx mid variation. Not my type of footwear. Just seems too flimsy for me and the rubber compound on the Vibram sole is a soft compound.

    Ive had the sole lose chunks of rubber in carious places onthe right boot.

    I relegate them to cutting grass and metal detecting.

    90% of the time Im either wearing my Danner Lights which I love. Not sure why this boot isnt more popular than it is.

    I also have a pair of Mountain Light 2s which dont get me wrong I like…

    Just not as much as the Lights with the cordura side panels.

    Initial cost is a little pricey($380/pr) but many out there have had their Danners for north if 20yrs and still going strong.

    I have 5yrs on my Lights and 3 on my MH2s without any trouble and treat with Obenaufs HD as needed.

    In the long run your saving money by not replacing your footwear every few seasons.

    …at least they werent as much as my G2 Sms lol.

    I wish all Vibram soles had the varying plug in the sole which dictates what type of compound the rubber is that Vibram uses in the sole(soft, harder, etc.)

    My Scarpa M3s, Sportiva Pamirs, and a whole slew of other footwear I own have the plug in the sole. Some green, some black, blah blah blah.

    Easier to know what your buying.

    They should do this across the boards

    • Vibram soles are like Goretex. They’re custom-designed for each shoe, making the fact that it’s a Vibram sole essentially meaningless in my opinion.
      As for Danners…to each his own. I don’t take my shoes off for stream crossings. Do that in a leather boot and you’ll feel like your hiking in cement shoes. Takes forever to dry out.

      • Im only on trail late fall thru early spring. I carry a pair of Teva Omniums for any stream crossings and a pair of Neoprene socks.

        Wet shoes in summer is one thing but in the colder seasons its a no fly zone.

  3. …as always sorry about the typos. Not enough coffee and my thumbs are moving faster than my brain.

  4. Great trail shoes. Been using them for years too. Switched from boots and will never go back.

  5. For a low cut trail/approach shoe that can take a beating check out the Garmont Dragontail MNT.

    I have the gtx variation for approach and they are bomber.

    Also made in Italy and can be resoled. They retail around $200 but you can easily find them much cheaper on sale.

  6. The best hiking shoe is the one that fits your individual foot length, width and arch with respect to the type of terrain you will be using them on. Going lighter on my equipment enabled me to go lighter on my shoes and now 13 mile plus days with a pack are far more comfortable. Fully agree with switching to a trail runner for most 3 season applications. Give yourself plenty of room for swelling with an adequate toe box and no heel slip and find what works best for you.
    And when you find the right one buy a few pairs, chance are there will be an update in the future that you may or may not like.

  7. So when do you use these Moabs and when do you use your Ultra Raptors?

    • Great question. I use the Moabs when I know I’ll be doing some road walking on pavement or gravel. I get terrible blisters when I hike on those surfaces in my Raptors. The Raptors are very poor at insulating my feet from the heat, so they sweat and swell, and it all goes down from there. The Moabs are also good for off-trail and I fish with them sometimes because they provide a lot more protection than my Raptors. That’s important when you can’t see your feet.

  8. I have a pair of Keen Voyageurs, low-cut breathable hiking shoes, and find them extremely comfortable. How would you compare these Moabs to the Voyageurs? They sound very similar.

    • They’re really very similar. The only obvious difference is the sole, which doesn’t have as pronounced an arch in the Merrells. Otherwise same internal support and external protection.

  9. These shoes are legit ; they are the bestest !!
    Avoid any type of Vasque shoe products..
    Slap some Darn Tough sox and Merrell’s and u r set… Altra’s are glorified covered flip-flops….

  10. The Moab’s are definitely tougher than a lot of other trail/ running shoes but they do take a lot longer to dry out after wading a stream etc. As Phil states I find them good for pounding out the miles along dirt roads & hard surfaced paths but when it comes to Scottish cross-country bog trotting (e.g. TGOC) I choose something lighter & more free draining. My favourite shoe for the Pyrenees where the underfoot conditions can often tear up the footwear & generally not a lot of bogs or wading rivers.

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