These shoes make it feel as though you are running on marshmallows – which you may or may not like. It adds up to a very comfortable, cushioned ride, but you don’t experience much trail feel.
Feel too much like slippers
Limited color choice for women
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Merrell Agility Peak 4: first impressions
The first thing you notice about the Merrell Agility Peak 4 trail running shoe is the cushioning. There’s loads of it. This shoe is aimed at runners who want a lot of protection on rugged trails (see more options in our Best trail running shoes and Best women’s trail running shoes articles). The insole and sole of the shoe feel spongy.
This is version 4 of the Agility Peak, and the new shoe has been updated with a slightly thicker midsole made of the lighter-weight FloatPro foam. The outsoles feature a new Vibram Megagrip traction, for good grip on slippery surfaces, and there is a rock plate for protection. FLEXconnect dual-directional flex-grooves in the midsole claim to provide “enhanced ground connection”.
The uppers offer extra comfort – for example there is an integrated lacing system “for a glove-like fit” and padded collar. Extra features include a large fabric loop at the heel, to aid pulling on and taking off the shoe, and a D-ring at the base of the laces for attaching a gaiter. The shoes also have a breathable mesh lining and a protective toe cap. Learn more about the specialist features in shoes like these in our Anatomy of a trail running shoe article.
• RRP: $130 (US) / £120 (UK)
• Weight (per shoe): 290g
• Drop: 6mm
• Materials: Jacquard upper, breathable mesh lining, EVA insole, FloatPro Foam midsole, Vibram Megagrip outsole
Colors: Men’s Exuberance / Tahoe / Black Women’s Atoll / Black
• Compatibility: Trail running escapades over a variety of distances – better on hard packed and rocky surfaces
On the trail
I was sent the black-colored pair of Merrell’s Agility Peak 4 trail running shoes to test, which some people will prefer but I found a little unexciting to look at – to be fair, though, the other colors look a lot more vibrant, and looks are a very subjective factor.
When I put them on, I found them immediately very comfortable and cushioned; it was rather like putting on slippers. The cushioning feels spongy, rather than firm, however, and while I can see that this will offer protection from impact when running on trails, personally I found them to be energy consuming. I would like a firmer sole that doesn’t absorb my feet, but rather gives protection and oomph.
The uppers are fairly supportive and well made, and the heel padding is easy to like. The tongue is thin and feels a bit like a neoprene fabric. I would prefer less padding at the heel and more on the tongue.
The shoes are easy to lace up and the laces stay tied when running. If you have a narrow foot like mine, you will find there is an excess of lace.
The soles are good for trails and some mud. I would not recommend them for hill running on steep, muddy slopes, but the cushioning comes into its own on hard-packed and rocky surfaces. The traction is pretty good for both wet and dry trails. The soles are protective against under-foot debris and this makes them a good choice if you are running on rugged surfaces.
Overall, I found myself wearing these shoes for trail walking rather than running, because the cushioning is a tad too soft for my liking. The price is fair.
Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.