Review: Mucking around in the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots
Here's how these boots stood up to testing.
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One of the most valuable lessons the U.S. military ever taught me is the value of good gear, specifically boots. My five-year tour of duty in the Marine Corps involved packing every week or two for memorable field exercises; on rare occasions, we rode in trucks or helicopters, but an infantry Marine’s most reliable form of transportation is the Heel-to-Toe Express. At 215 pounds back then, I had my work cut out for me even before adding the 80-pound battle kit and 100-pound pack, and I quickly learned that the right pair of boots makes a world of difference when you’re relying solely on your feet to stay mobile.
For the past five years, I’ve been rucking around in the Merrell MOAB Mid Waterproof hiking boot. Founded in 1981 after Clark Matis and John Schweizer partnered with R.I. Merrell, the Merrell brand has established itself as a leader in the hiking and trail running footwear industry with a focus on sustainable manufacturing. In recent years, the MOAB in particular has gained popularity among U.S. service members due to its superior comfort and durability. It’s no surprise that famed “American Sniper” Chris Kyle wore a pair during his tours of duty, the same pair that even made a brief appearance in the titular film after Kyle gifted them to actor Bradley Cooper.
Editor’s note: the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots also made Task & Purpose’s guide to the best hiking boots of the year.
After years of performance and a stellar reputation, the company decided they needed to upgrade the design and materials with the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots. The biggest change is the MOAB’s footbed as Merrel switched from an Ortholite to the new M Select Fit.Eco+. Other changes were made to improve the suede leather upper and mesh paneling, keep in mind those are not available on the Gore-Tex version. For around $135 on Amazon, the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots are fairly pricey when it comes to hiking boots, but here’s why this pair may end up on your feet anyway.
Merrell does a great job letting their boots showcase the company’s brand by not wasting a ton of energy on fancy boxes that we’ll just stuff in a closet or throw away. The black box uses orange writing to display the manufacturer name and logo. A super cool detail that was added is subdued topographical lines on the lid. In the age of map apps it’s nice to see topo lines haven’t been forgotten about.
Opening the box was just like Christmas as I laid eyes on the boulder-colored MOAB 2 hiking boots. My first impression was that they looked puffy, almost bulky, despite only weighing one pound apiece. This is just the closed-cell foam cushioning that has been added to offer excellent ankle support. After a couple of hikes, you’ll notice the puffy appearance lean out as the boot molds to your foot. The deep, yet light gray coloring of the suede leather uppers was surprisingly aesthetic and pleasant to look at.
With feet big enough to give Sasquatch a run for his money, my boots were ordered in men’s 13 wide. Merrell does a great job offering these in half sizes from 7-12 and whole sizes from 13-15, a massive range for men’s sizes that are all available in medium and wide measurements. If you’re looking for even more customization the MOAB 2s are available in Earth, Boulder, Gold, Beluga, and even a Birthday (cake) color scheme.
Each boot features a protective toe cap that curves over the edge of your toes to prevent blowouts. The lacing features five sets of soft eyelets and one set of open hooks at the top to allow any combination of lacing for your security. The sleek lines of suede are complimented nicely by mesh gaps, quite a surprising feature on waterproof boots. There is even a pull tab on the heel to assist in pulling them on, and it doesn’t detract from the almost straight line coming off the rubber heel.
Putting these boots on for the first time was one of those special moments you only hear about. There were a few spots in the heel where I could feel the padding was firm, but after the first 15 minutes, I didn’t notice them anymore. It was almost like the boots learned from my every step and adjusted to fit my individual support needs. Left and right, front and back the boots gave no signs of failure. Even the mid-level ankle support was comfortable to start, with no chaffing or rubbing that could cause issues. In fact, I’ve avoided wearing anything shorter than mid-calf length socks with boots in the past as they’ve caused serious chafing after minutes of wear. With these MOAB 2 boots, I’ve felt comfortable wearing ankle-length and even no-show socks with zero complaints.
How we tested the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots
For a first run, we headed out to Salt Plains State Park in northern Oklahoma where we could get some varying terrain over the span of a two-mile hike. These boots had their work cut out for them with my 280-pound frame and ten-pound pack, plus an extra 30-pounds when I carried my daughter on my shoulders. My focus was on putting the MOAB 2 boots in as many situations as possible to get a feel for their true capabilities, including mud and water testing.
As we hiked around the spillway, I ran up and down a couple of steep water channels that had been built in to direct rainwater. These channels ran along the perimeter wall of the dam and stepped down in elevation at a couple of points by about 20 feet. I was able to maneuver up and down them easily and felt secure with every step. The Vibram TC5+ rubber sole gripped concrete, grass, rock, and dirt as if it were Spider-Man. Having been an infantryman during my time in the Marine Corps and with my penchant for outdoor adventures, it is safe to say my knees have been beaten up. Without proper support, they’ll be screaming at me in short order on any hike, especially when carrying a load or pack. But my knees were loving the FIT.ECO+ blended EVA contoured footbed as we adventured onward. At no point in time did I experience any knee pain, hallelujah.
Of course, you can’t say you’ve tested waterproof boots without getting them wet. Stomping in a mud puddle on the salt flats, I wasn’t a bit surprised that my feet stayed clean and dry. What did surprise me, however, was how the mud seemed to not even affect the traction these boots offer. The boots were tested by the high levels of salt. Now a state park and wildlife refuge, the Salt Plains are remnants of a dried lake bed that is unique to the area as nothing like it can be found for hundreds of miles. There is so much salt that the plains appear white and can be blinding on sunny days. Salt absorbs and retains water, it will even pull water from the material it touches. With rubber, this has a tendency to harden the material and can cause the rubber to become brittle. Coating the MOAB 2.0 in naturally high levels of salt gave it a chance to show off its ability to withstand nature. Despite getting them thoroughly caked and letting them sit for a couple of days with the salty mud, the rubber shows no signs of cracking or drying.
Where most waterproof boots fail is at the tongue when water laps over the front. To test these boots, I wanted a controlled environment, so I filled a six-inch storage bin and slowly stepped in to get the water above the tongue. Past experience has taught me that you’ll know right away when a pair of boots aren’t waterproof. After 30 seconds, my feet were still dry and there were no signs of leaking. When I added more water, I found the weak point in the waterproofing; right above the heel, just below the top of the boot, is a large section of mesh, and I could feel the water coming in from there. Despite this weak point, these boots still offer a solid four inches of water-free capabilities. You could easily pair these boots with some gaiters like I did with my first-generation MOABs, which kept me plenty dry.
While designed for the rugged and rough outdoors, these boots are pretty stylish, too. The comfort and versatility have been tested in various urban settings as well, since The Dad Life keeps me active. The grocery store, kid’s museum, city library, and local park are just a few places these boots have ventured so far and have been fantastic.
What we like about the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots
Obviously, we like the fact that they’re pretty darn waterproof. It’s in the name, and they live up to it despite their Achilles Heel. The balance between superior comfort, durability, and style is just excellent. Combining the comfort of the M Select Fit.Eco+ footbed with the insane durability and performance of the Vibram TC5+ outsole was a great move by Merrell that your knees and back will appreciate. Having worn the first generation version of this boot for years, I can say that this new version is a solid improvement.
One of the more subtle features of this boot is its mid-level ankle. For having hiked as many miles in my life as I have, it’s rather humorous how often I roll my ankles. This mid-level ankle offers exceptional support. While it doesn’t prevent me from ankle rolls, it does protect my ankle incredibly well when I do. It’s thick padding hugs tightly without rubbing and chafing.
Lastly, these boots just look good. We all know that rule #1 is to always look cool and you can easily achieve that with the Merrell MOAB 2 hiking boots.
What we don’t like about the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots
The only thing I truly don’t like about these boots is the back heel. My style of taking boots off has always been to use the toes of my opposite foot against the heel of the boot I’m removing. It’s worked well for me. However, Merrell designed the outer heel to contour with the foot to allow a natural rolling motion. This comes in really handy when going down steep inclines. That super rounded heel means there is nothing to really catch with the toes when taking them off. So when your boots are messy or it’s cold outside and you don’t want to grab them with your hands, you could struggle for a minute using your toes.
To buy a pair of Merrell MOAB 2 boots is a wise investment for your feet, knees, and back. These boots are unparalleled in their versatility, so it’s not surprising that MOAB stands for “Mother Of All Boots.” Whether you’re an adrenaline junky or weekend warrior, you can’t go wrong with the MOAB 2.0 Mid Waterproof hiking boots.
Generally, the higher the boot stands, the harder it is to put on. This is not the case with the MOAB Mids. Because the tongue is separate from the ankle above the metatarsal, the boot opens plenty wide. As a large-footed individual, I’ve appreciated this feature. A pro tip and nifty function I’ve taken advantage of is the open gussets on the ankle. Instead of untying and retying each time I put these on, I will pull the laces from the open hooks. This allows me to loosen them enough to take off, and I’ve even used the MOABs as slip-ons for low-stress trips. Wearing them like this negates the ankle support, but it works just fine for running errands around town.
FAQs about the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q: How much do the Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots cost?
A: The Merrell MOAB 2 Mid Waterproof hiking boots MSRP at $130.
Q: What does MOAB stand for?
A: While many believe they’re named after the famed location in Utah, MOAB stands for ‘Mother Of All Boots,’ according to the company itself.
Q: Do MOABs run true to size?
A: My experience is that they do, and there are many customer reviews on the Merrell website that agree.
Q: What is “rucking?”
A: A ruck (or rucksack) is a form of a backpack. The term “rucking” comes from the military exercise of putting sandbags or metal plates into rucksacks and going on hikes.
Q: How much do the Merrell MOAB Mid Waterproof hiking boots weigh?
A: These boots weigh in at 2 pounds 4 ounces, which makes them a lightweight option for long-distance hikes.
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Scott Whisler is a Marine Corps veteran and family man. He’s an avid student of philosophy who strives for self-growth and challenge, both found in his outdoor adventures. As a new Okie, his focus is on exploring the South Central region. His lifetime goal is to have excursions in all of the National Parks.