The Merrell Moab 3 has one of the most instantly recognizable names in the world of walking shoes, and for good reason. The brand’s Moab series has been helping hikers conquer the miles for over 15 years, so we were excited to get our hands (or rather, feet) on the latest iteration.
Merrell prides itself on the shoes’ out-of-the-box comfort. To test these claims, we took them straight for a six-mile hike to the proving ground at a nearby nature reserve – and were very impressed. Within minutes, they had solidified a spot on our list of the best shoes for walking., take steep slopes and slippery surfaces in their stride.
Rather than taking sides in the walking shoe versus running shoe debate, the Merrell Moab 3 offer the best of both worlds. Like a classic walking boot, they offer enough support for long walks, but the low heel and accommodating upper mean they’re easy to put on and extremely comfortable from the start.
They fit true to size, the chunky grooves of the rugged Vibram outsole provide great grip on any surface, and at £90 or $110 USD they’re pretty pocket-friendly too.
So if you’re a fan of adventurous rides looking for 4x4s for your feet – but don’t want to spend a hell of a time lacing up a bulky pair of boots – look no further.
Design and technology
The Merrell Moab 3 have a pig suede leather and breathable mesh upper, giving them a traditional walking shoe aesthetic. They can be purchased in Black, Olive or Pecan (pictured) in the UK, with the additional Granite, Moss, Walnut and Walnut/Moss color options available in the US.
Their traditional design risks dividing opinions. Those used to thinner sneakers may find them too chunky for everyday wear, but fans of hiking boots will appreciate that they’re thinner than your average walking shoe. Overall, we liked the look and found it to work well with our walking set.
The Moab 3s feature a Vibram TC5+ outsole, Merrell Air Cushion technology in the heel and removable Kinetic Fit Advanced insoles with a reinforced heel. Combined, these provided a solid but supportive platform for our feet, and we could really feel the spring from the extra cushioning with every step.
Thick heel grooves tend to pick up mud, so might not be suitable for a trip to the shops. However, we found that this wide base made the Moab 3 great for balance and stability when traversing tough terrain. They are also easy to clean with a firm brush and warm water.
A nylon shank in the outsole ensures the shoes remain stiff and stable, but there is more flexibility at the shoe’s flex point (under the ball of your foot) than most walking shoes, allowing your feet to bend naturally when taking slopes. .
A toe cap protected us from crushed toes, and a gusseted tongue (wider and sewn into each side of the shoe) kept pesky debris like loose stones from entering our shoes and causing discomfort.
Fit, feel and comfort
The shoes’ impressive comfort qualities were evident from the moment we put them on, with the pig suede leather and breathable mesh upper providing a subtle balance of flexibility and stiffness.
The initial fit was almost sneaker-like, with flexible materials that immediately molded to our feet. So there’s no need to waste time breaking them in before hitting the trails. However, the upper still offers the midfoot support you expect from the best walking shoes, allowing us to take on longer hikes without having to endure sore feet after a few miles.
They adapt to size and are suitable for wearers with narrow to medium feet. I normally wear a size ten and have relatively narrow feet, and a size ten pair of Merrell Moab 3s provided an ideal fit; my heel locked firmly in place, preventing blisters from forming, and there was enough room around the toes that they didn’t hit the toe of the shoe on the way down. After making sure they were laced properly, I also found the shoes wrapped around the sides of my feet effectively without ever feeling constricted.
At 2lb 1oz, they’re lighter than traditional hiking shoes but heavier than many modern walking shoes, and the chunky sole may need some adjustment if you’re used to shoes with a slimmer profile like the On Cloud. But we found this sturdy design to be well suited for longer distances or more intensive hikes.
The extra padding in the sole (especially under the heel) puts a spring in your step, counteracting the extra weight, and the wide outsole provides a stable base when walking on slippery surfaces. The sole also has wide grooves that provide excellent grip in all the terrain we tested them on, from dew-covered grass to muddy slopes.
When it comes to support, the Moab 3s are the best walking shoes we’ve tested. It may be a result of Merrell’s 41-year history of making hiking shoes, but the shoes were unmatched in comfort and protection, especially over long distances.
The chunky outsole and reinforced heel sockliner combine to provide a cushioned yet responsive feel. Add the cushioned heel and tongue into the mix and our feet feel cradled and comfortable whether we’re on mile one or 10. So if you’re planning a walking vacation or a staycation where you’re likely to be on your feet for large portions of the day, this is a great option.
The upper material is malleable enough that it didn’t need to be broken, and we never felt like our feet were being forced into position. But, it was still firm enough to provide a good amount of midfoot support, preventing our feet from hurting when we found ourselves standing for long periods of time.
On Merrell’s website, the Moab 3 boasts a host of five-star reviews with buyers sharing their positive experiences with the shoes.
Most people agreed that the shoes fit true to size and provide an incredibly comfortable walking experience over a wide variety of distances and terrains, without breaking them down.
Most say they wear their Merrell Moab 3 for walking, but others praise the versatile shoe for being suitable for active work and everyday wear.
The only negative reviews mention that the shoes are not waterproof, with one saying they found their feet quickly wet when walking in long, dewy grass. An alternative version of the Moab 3s with a Gore-Tex membrane, offering both waterproofing and breathability, is available for the higher price of £120 or US$155.
The brilliantly comfortable Moab 3 are an impressive addition to the Merrell family, balancing the benefits of hiking shoes and sneakers to provide a versatile walking shoe. They have the sturdiness and support of a hiking shoe without requiring a long break-in period. Yet, thanks to their sneaker-style low ankle and premium materials, they don’t take long to put on and offer comfort from the first use.
They have a fairly chunky fit and, at 920g, are heavier for a walking shoe. But it has plenty of benefits, giving them a sturdy feel and making them well suited for explorers or active wearers with high daily step counts.
On Cloud X
After a versatile artist? The On Cloud X is one of the best cross-training shoes you’ll find, which means it’s great for walking, running, and any other form of exercise. Using the brand’s signature CloudTec technology (a series of rubber formations in the sole designed to provide multi-directional cushioning), they provide a comfortable walking and training experience to keep your feet cool and pain-free.
Allbirds Tree Runner
For warm weather environments, Allbirds tree runners are an excellent choice. Breathable and made from eco-friendly materials, this shoe is great to slip on if you’re traveling. While it may not have the same level of cushioning as some of the other models in our walking shoe guide, it does have a more flexible sole that allows you to “bend” the shoe over uneven terrain.