A super little hiking shoe from Merrell that is commendable for its eco-credentials. For easy going strolls and summer speed-hikes it’s a good lightweight option, with the bonus of a decent level of waterproofing. For technical missions, expeditions and scrambling exploits, it’s not protective enough but you’ll still get plenty of use out of the Speed Ecos for less demanding pursuits anyway.
Lots of recycled materials
Wide, grippy outsole
A little large for its size
Not suited to technical exploits
Not as protective as some
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Merrell Speed Eco Waterproof: First Impressions
The Speed Eco is Merrell’s most sustainable and eco-friendly hiking shoe to date. There’s about as much recycled material in here as in a kid’s elementary school robot costume.
The laces and webbing, breathable mesh lining, mesh footbed cover are all made from 100% recycled materials; the upper is 77% recycled; the EVA foam footbed is 50% recycled; and the rubber outsole is 30% recycled.
They boast a sneaker-like aesthetic and, weighing in at just 340g per shoe, they’re clearly aimed at the summer speed-hiking brigade. Comfy from the word go, they’re the kind of shoe you will reach for time and time again for casual walks and backcountry strolls.
• Materials: 77% recycled jacquard upper, 50% recycled EVA foam footbed and EVA midsole, 30% recycled rubber outsole
• Weight (per shoe): 340g / 11.9 oz
• Colors: Men’s: Avocado/Kangaroo, Black/Asphalt, Charcoal/Tangerine, Lava/Cabernet; women’s: Oyster/Burlwood, Sedona/Herb
• Best for: fast and light hiking in summer conditions and casual strolls
An unnamed waterproof membrane, something Merrell have cooked up undoubtedly, keeps the drink out, while being breathable enough to let moisture escape. Merrell use GORE-TEX in their more premium hiking shoes but no so here. It’s a very low cut hiker, so water is always liable to get in over the top unless you pair them with gaiters.
The outsole is noticeably wide, giving a greater surface area. Directional arrow-shaped 4mm lugs provide grip on soft surfaces, while texture flatter lugs around the perimeter provide traction on dry or wet rock. These aren’t the most aggressive lugs you’ll find, so they lend themselves better to hard-packed trails in summer than muddy paths in late fall.
There’s a 10mm drop between the heel and the forefoot, which suits heel-striking walkers rather than those who prefer a barefoot style. As is standard these days, there’s a fabric loop above the heel, which makes them easier to put on and take off or can be used to attach to a harness or similar. The cushioned bellows tongue prevents trail debris from entering and there are reinforcements in the toe and heel areas.
On the trails
The Merrell Speed Ecos are comfortable from the get-go and this comfort continues for miles and miles on the trails. Fit wise, they lock down the midfoot and there’s plenty of room for toes to splay. I did notice a little slippage in the heel, which could lead to issue on long multi-day treks. Perhaps I’d be able to solve this issue by dropping half a size from my usual, as there was still room to play with.
I felt light and breezy during my hikes and the outsole gripped most surfaces without any issues. They lend themselves well to speed hikes on defined trails and easier ground but once I upped the ante on rougher and more technical ground I found they were soon at their limit.
This is because one aspect the Speed Eco are a little light on is protection, with modest reinforcements around the heel and toes. When taking on rocky terrain, I felt unable to be aggressive with my foot placements.
Despite being waterproof, they are quite low cut, so boggy ground is a bit of no-go. Once water gets in, it’s also got a harder time getting back out. As mentioned earlier, I could have paired them with gaiters, but then this feels at odds with the kind of fast and light approach they’re intended for. If I avoided anything boggy and stuck to solid trails, I found that the waterproofing kept my feet dry even in heavy rain.
When taking on muddy terrain, the back of of the outsole tends to hold on to the dirt, requiring a bit of bashing to liberate. When it’s really muddy underfoot, the lugs don’t bite as well as some hiking shoes, making the Speed Ecos less than ideal for long descents on the kind of primitive trails you get in the Scottish mountains, for example. However, on the harder-packed surfaces they’re designed for, they’re perfectly suitable.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com