This stiff-soled walking shoe grips well on a variety of terrains and keeps feet dry thanks to its Gore-Tex lining. It may look like a trail running shoe, but the double helix of the Merrell MQM 3’s DNA lies in hiking.
Wide range of colors
Narrow to medium fit
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Merrell MQM 3 GTX: first impressions
The Merrell MQM 3 GTX may sound like a vehicle license plate, but Mountain brands in general love their acronyms and abbreviations. Think The North Face’s Flight series (fast and light), or Berghaus’s MTN Seeker range. Merrell is no exception with its MQM 3, the third generation of the company’s Moving Quickly in the Mountains hiking shoes.
Built on the platform of an excellent Vibram sole, with a stiff shank to help with stability on uneven ground, the MQM 3 has a mesh upper, saving considerable weight compared to nubuck and leather walking shoes.
• List price: $150 (US) / £130 (UK)
• Gender specificity: Men’s & women’s
• Materials: Gore-Tex membrane; breathable mesh and TPU upper; 100% recycled laces and webbing; Merrell Air Cushion heel; EVA foam footbed; Vibram TC5+ outsole
• Weight (per shoe): Men’s: 640g / 1 lb 7oz; Women’s: 542g / 1 lb 3oz
• Colors: Men’s: Black & Exuberance / Boulder / Olive / Seamoss & Granite / Tangerine; Women’s: Charcoal & Teal / Fuchsia & Burgundy / Tangerine & Teal
• Compatibility: Hiking and trekking in all kids of conditions
This upper also allows for a more contemporary look, which is handy if you only want to take one pair of shoes on a hiking holiday or like to head into town straight after a walk, with a choice of black, gray, blue and bright orange colorways.
The shoes are lined with a Gore-Tex membrane to keep water out and provide a good degree of breathability for sweaty feet. However, if you step in a puddle that’s too deep, the water will squelch around inside the shoe until you pour it out.
There’s a 6mm drop from heel to toe, which is lower than most running shoes (for more information see: What is ‘drop’ in running shoes?), a secure heel counter to keep your foot in place while walking, plus a long run of lacing to adjust the fit; in terms of width they are on the narrow side of medium.
Merrell MQM 3 GTX: on the trails
Any all-rounder suffers in comparison with a specialist shoe for specialist functions. Genuine approach shoes offer more grip than these Merrells on rock; trail running shoes have deeper lugs and provide a more intuitive feel for the ground underfoot; leather walking shoes ought to be more robust (so long as you clean and wax them).
But as the cost-of-living crisis bites, the MQM 3 is a strong proposition. It’s a lighter-weight walking shoe ideal for rocky and muddy paths and trails, which can also dabble with scrambling and doesn’t look like it’s been stripped from the foot of a 1980s geography teacher.
Arguably the most impressive element of the MQM 3 is the Vibram sole, made exclusively for Merrell. It grips well on gravel trails and fire roads, and copes admirably with mud, expelling it from its 5mm lugs to maintain a decent foothold in gloopy conditions.
Climbers and boulderers would want smaller gaps between the lugs for a bigger contact patch with rock faces, but for dealing with most of Britain’s mixed landscape, the sole emerges with first class honors.
Merrell suggests that the MQM 3 is agile enough to run in, but the rigid shank that runs through the shoe and stops it bending like a plimsoll, means it’s far from ideal for jogging. The thick, cushioned sole unit also denies the shoe the same feel for the ground delivered by supple trail running shoes.
On the plus side, this cushioning offers good protection against pebbles and stones, while the stiff shank (reinforced with a rockplate for extra protection) keeps the shoe reassuringly stable on broken terrain, even when carrying a heavy pack.
It took less than a fortnight for the waterproof coating – which turned dew into beads that rolled off the shoe – to wear off. Weeks later, however, the Gore-Tex membrane remains undefeated in the battle with wet grass, while the billows that run down either side of the tongue have stopped annoying grit and sand from finding their way into the shoe.
In rocky terrain I’d worry about abrasion on the upper fabric, although there’s a neat rubber rand (bumper) around the toes to offer some protection.
After spending a decade as editor of Country Walking, the UK’s biggest-selling walking magazine, Jonathan moved to edit Outdoor Fitness magazine, adding adrenaline to his adventures and expeditions. He has hiked stages or completed all of the UK's national trails, but was once overtaken by three Smurfs, a cross-dressing Little Bo Peep, and a pair of Teletubbies on an ascent of Snowdon. (Turns out they were soldiers on a fundraising mission.)