If your New Year Resolution for 2021 included take up trail running, you’d definitely want to invest in a good pair of shoes. And while there are plenty of options to choose from on the market these days, the Merrell MQM Flex 2 Gore-Tex is a good choice for beginner and experienced runners alike, delivering a solid level of performance in a variety of conditions.
Made for the Trail (Merrell MQM Flex 2)
Merrell has a long history of making sturdy, supportive, and well-designed hiking boots, earning themselves a huge fanbase amongst casual and serious hikers alike. Much of those same sensibilities have carried over to the company’s line of trail running shoes, including the MQM Flex 2.
Built to take on dirt, mud, rocks, and even light snow, the MQM Flex 2 efficiently maintains its footing on both wet and dry surfaces. The shoe’s aggressive outsole—a proprietary model, dubbed the “Quantum Grip”—features a pattern of lugs that have been optimized to hold tightly in shift conditions. This helps to provide a higher level of confidence and control, allowing runners to go faster while remaining surefooted.
Other trail-focused features include an integrated rock plate for added protection, a TPU toe cap that acts as a shield against rocks, and a lacing system that integrates with the tongue to provide a more customizable fit. A bellowed tongue helps keep rocks, dirt, and other debris from reaching the shoe’s interior as well, which goes a long way towards preventing abrasions, blisters, and hotspots.
Gore-Tex Invisible Fit Waterproofing
While Merrell does make a standard version of the MQM Flex, the model I tested includes a Gore-Tex Invisible Fit waterproof liner. As you would expect, this gives the shoe a high degree of waterproofing, which is also a nice feature to have out on the trail. Whether you’re crossing small streams, running in the rain, or slopping through mud and snow, keeping your feet dry is an essential part of staying comfortable.
That said, adding a Gore-Tex liner to a shoe—or any garment for that matter—will cut down on the overall breathability of that product. Gore-Tex has come a long way towards improving breathability in general in recent years. However, most waterproof membranes still tend to have a hard time keeping moisture out while allowing perspiration to pass through too. Because of this, I found my feet occasionally getting warm and sweaty, but usually, this only occurred on warmer days.
The MQM Flex 2 does use Gore-Tex’s new Invisible Fit technology, which was designed specifically for use in footwear. This material manages to remain incredibly thin without sacrificing a noticeable level of performance. The membrane integrates nicely into the shoe without adding an appreciable amount of bulk or weight. That is an exciting development to keep our eyes on for the future.
Comfort On and Off the Trail
One of the things that first caught my attention about the MQM Flex 2 is how comfortable they are on your feet. Not only do they provide plenty of cushioning, but they are also designed to move with your foot as it adjusts to the changing terrain and environment. The aforementioned Quantum Grip sole flexes nicely as you run, enhancing the runner’s connection with the ground at all times.
These trail running shoes also offer great stability, which once again boosts both confidence and speed. Because of this, I found myself able to focus less on the trail and instead soak up the scenery around me. Many times when trail running, I end up being so cautious about the trail that I forget to look around and enjoy the place I’m experiencing. The MQM Flex 2 made it easier to take my eyes and mind off the ground and commune more with nature instead.
Because of the comfort and stability that the MQM Flex 2 bring to the table, they not only make good trail running shoes but light hiking shoes too. This versatile set of footwear also makes a great running errands shoe or working around the yard shoe. Serious runners will most likely want to reserve them for that activity alone, but others will find plenty of other excuses to put these comfy shoes on their feet.
Big Shoes to Fill
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a fairly big fan of these shoes. Any trail running footwear that can provide the level of performance that the MQM Flex 2 has is likely to find a loyal audience. That said, there were a few nits I had to pick despite my overall sense of satisfaction.
My biggest knock on these trail running shoes is that they tend to run a bit larger than I would like. In fact, I would say that I could have gotten away with a version that was about a half size smaller and would have been just fine. When wearing a size 11—which is usual for me—the MQM Flex 2 seemed just a little too big for my liking. This can lead to blisters and hotspots, of course, which is why I recommend trying them on yourself before buying a pair.
Long term durability seems to be somewhat in question with these shoes as well. While I haven’t experienced any serious problems with how they perform in this category personally, I’ve read several reports online that indicate the shoes begin to breakdown after just a few months of use. As an avid runner, I’m accustomed to replacing my footwear every three months or so anyway, so this wasn’t ever a concern on my end. If, on the other hand, you intend to use these shoes for longer-term running, hiking, and travel, you could potentially run into issues.
If you’ve read any of my past reviews, you know that I often label something like a relative bargain for the price. In some instances, I have said that a product is too expensive, even when it offers many features and functionality. However, for the MQM Flex 2, I’d say that Merrell has managed to hit the right price point.
Coming in at $140, this shoe feels like it is priced exactly where it needs to be. Considering the performance and comfort level it delivers, it fills a mid-high end trail running quite nicely. If you can manage to find them on sale somewhere, all the better. Either way, you aren’t likely to be disappointed.
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