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Merrell Havoc Vent review: a superbly comfortable and versatile hiking shoe/trail runner hybrid

The Merrell Havoc Vent is a winner for fast and light hikers and occasional trail runners who want one shoe to do it all

The Havoc Vent on a hillside
(Image: © Kieran Cunningham)

Our Verdict

A genuine jack of all trades. Whether you’re looking for a shoe to tackle testy mountain trails on the hoof, lightweight hiking shoes to take some of the strain off of your boot-weary calves, or fastpacking footwear that combines the grip of an approach shoe with the light weight of a trail runner, the Havoc Vent merits a place somewhere very near the top of your shortlist.

For

  • Highly breathable
  • Grippy Vibram sole
  • Harder-wearing materials
  • Versatile: suitable for hiking and trail running

Against

  • Not waterproof
  • Will feel slightly chunky and clunky if you’re used to ultralight trail runners

First Impressions

 

The Merrell Havoc Vent uses a mesh-lined suede upper to help keep your feet cool and sweat-free even in balmy conditions. The sticky Vibram outsole is designed to cling well to surfaces, but the lug pattern is less aggressive than you’re likely to need on particularly loose or wet ground. Many buyers are sure to baulk at the weight of these shoes, particularly if used to ultralight trail runners, but those added grams have been put to good use. There’s a burly rand to protect your toes against blows from roots, rocks, and debris, a shock-absorbing cushion in the heel to provide added underfoot protection, and a moulded nylon arch shank that helps to reduce the load on your arches, calves, and knees, and improve your balance on uneven terrain. The shank also helps the shoe maintain its shape over time and provides a little more leverage in toe-off to help you motor up inclines. 

The only standout downside to the Merrell Havoc Vent is their lack of waterproofing, but it’s hard to dwell too much on this flaw given that they’re intended for fair-weather adventuring. And given that they’re geared towards buyers who want a lightweight hiking shoe that can moonlight as a trail runner, their slightly hefty weight seems highly forgivable.  

Specifications

RRP: £100 (UK)
Gender availability: Men’s
• Weight (per shoe, men’s UK12): 400g / 14.2 oz 
Colors: Blue / Black / Gold / Olive  
Compatibility: Works well on all trails, with the exception of very muddy ones

On the trail

 

In any trail shoe, I look for the all-important trifecta of breathability, grip, and comfort, and the Havoc provided all three in spades. For our first outing, I took them on a run that involved just under 1,500 feet of ascent and varying conditions underfoot. They kept me upright and in control in loose dirt, scree, and on a steep uphill section that included a spot of boulder hopping. Forty-five minutes into the run, my feet were also pleasingly sweat- and ache-free. 

The Havoc Vent on a rocky trail

The Havoc Vent provided ample cushioning to buffer impact on rocky sections of the trail (Image credit: Kieran Cunningham)

I’ve always used trail running shoes with a slightly higher drop and a less burly outsole, so I was curious to see how my feet would feel by the time I’d returned to the car. Gladly, the answer to this is “peachy”.

Throughout the run, I was aware of how much the outsole and midsole were buffering the blows of the rocks underfoot, and I was impressed by how little this detracted from ground feel. Before setting off, my other main concern about these shoes had been the lug pattern, which, being far from aggressive, looked ideal for hard-packed and dry trails but suboptimal for the predominantly boggy terrain I’d be negotiating for the first mile or so of the run. While traction and control weren’t the best in the deeper brown stuff, they gripped well in lighter mud and came into their own on rock and gravelly scree further along the trail.

The Havoc Vent on a rocky incline

The Havoc Vent provide outstanding grip on rock (Image credit: Kieran Cunningham)

The Havoc’s low-drop design is also not quite low enough to earn them entry into the natural running or barefoot class of shoe, so they feel like a nice entry model that will break my feet in gently before I (and my Achilles) try anything in the 0-4mm drop range. Although a fraction heavier than other out-and-out running shoes I’ve used in the past, the reassurance provided by the Havoc Vent’s array of protective features is well worth the added grammage – especially when running in rocky terrain.

The bottom line? With the Havoc Vent, you’re getting a shoe that – depending on your take on things – either sits on the fence or represents a great happy medium between a rugged hiking shoe and a more agile, performance-orientated trail runner.