I recently tested five of the best hiking shoes to see which was the best. I rated the Merrell Moab 3 as the best budget hiking shoe. It lacks some of the features of more expensive hiking shoes tested but covers all the essentials.
The Merrell Moab 3 is a comfortable hiking shoe with an excellent quality-to-price ratio. If you are new to hiking, go on an occasional day hike, or don’t have extra cash to splurge on high-end footwear, then you should consider the Merrell Moab 3. It will satisfy most hiking enthusiasts across various hiking trails and won’t break the bank.
To support my ongoing testing consider purchasing your next hiking shoes using the links in this article.
Features I like:
- Vibram outsole provides good traction and grip on various types of terrain
- Suede and mesh uppers are well padded for a comfortable fit
- Ample room in a last that will accommodate lots of different feet types and widths
- Comfortable midsole that provides adequate support and cushion for longer hikes
- Features 100% recycled materials in the laces, mesh, and webbing.
Features I do not like:
- The lacing system tends to bunch up the material in the tongue
- As with other wide shoes, the top of the toe tended to wrinkle or fold when tightly laced
- The laces themselves are too thick
Traction and Grip on Trail
To test the five shoes for traction and grip, I hiked on various trails with different types of terrain. The Merrell Moab 3 performed adequately, thanks to their Vibram outsoles.
I ran head-to-head contests among all five shoes to test specifically for traction. I put a different shoe on each foot and scampered up a steep incline with loose dirt and debris in a deciduous forest.
I noted which shoe seemed to provide better traction. The Merrell Moab 3 tied with two other shoes and lost to two others.
Those shoes with chevron lugs performed better for traction than the lug design featured on the Merrell Moab 3 shown above. To learn more about how shoes grip and provide traction check out my recent article.
Here are the results of traction testing.
- Adidas Terrex Swift R3 provides superior traction on loose dirt and scored first place beating all four other shoes tested.
- Salomon X Ultra 4 offers good traction on loose dirt and scored second place, beating all other shoes, losing only to the Adidas Terrex Swift R3.
- Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite, NorthFace Vectiv Exploris, and the Merrell Moab 3 were indistinguishable. They all provide adequate traction on loose dirt.
Foot protection is a factor that distinguishes regular shoes from hiking footwear.
As hiking footwear has shifted from leather boots toward trail runners, manufacturers have added features to augment soft uppers providing added protection.
The Merrell Moab 3 features uppers in suede and mesh. They also have a toe cap that provides protection when stubbing your toes. The uppers give ample protection in most hiking scenarios.
The Merrell Moab 3 also features the Vibram® TC5+ outsole for decent protection underfoot.
This year I tested all five shoes for protection underfoot. I run head-to-head tests for all five shoes in ten combinations, putting a different shoe on each foot.
I step on a small stone with each shoe and pick which shoe provides more protection by transferring less of the shape of the stone to the bottom of my foot.
It is clear in this testing that the results are only relative to the other shoes tested. Also, it is important to note that all shoes provide adequate protection for most hiking scenarios. All shoes tested outperform virtually all sneakers or street shoes for protection.
|Protection Underfoot Rank||Comments|
|1. Adidas Terrex Swift R3||Hard rubber compound in the Continental outsoles are rigid but are extremely protective. They might be overkill. A softer compound would provide more grip.|
|2. NorthFace Vectiv Exploris||The second-place finish for these shoes has to do with the rocker sole design and its overall thickness, which exceeded other shoes tested.|
|3. Salomon X Ultra 4||The Contagrip outsole provides good protection and will work on virtually all hiking scenarios|
|4. Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite||The Pomoca outsole will provide adequate protection for most hiking scenarios.|
|5. Merrell Moab 3||The softer Vibram outsole has more give, which meant more pressure was applied to the bottom of my foot while testing.|
Stability on Trail
Hiking footwear companies have designed various trademarked systems to enhance the stability of their shoes.
The Moab 3 features the Merrell Air Cushion in the heel, absorbing shock and enhancing stability. Of the five shoes tested, the Merrell Moab 3 had inferior stability on the trail than all other shoes except the NorthFace Vectiv Exploris.
I would stress, however, that the results for stability are simply the ranking of the five shoes tested. Most of the shoes provide adequate stability for hiking (The NorthFace Vectiv Exploris was unstable on uneven terrain).
Just because the Merrell Moab 3 scored second to last against four other shoes doesn’t mean they are unstable. These shoes will be stable in various hiking scenarios and are significantly less expensive than the other shoes tested!
|1. Salomon X Ultra 4||Superior stability across all terrains is provided by the ACTIVESUPPORT system combined with excellent uppers, midsoles, and outsoles.|
|2. Adidas Terrex Swift R3||Exceptional stability thanks to the ProModerator midsole system. More rigid than the X Ultra 4.|
|3. Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite||Hiking/Approach hybrid with a decent heel lock and average stability.|
|4. Merrell Moab 3||Entry-level hiking shoes, lack stability-enhancing design elements. Adequate stability for most hiking scenarios.|
|5. NorthFace Vectiv Exploris||Rocker-style outsoles work well on flat terrain but introduce significant instability off-trail.|
Comfort and Weight
The Merrell Moab 3 is comfortable enough to please most feet. The shoe features the Removable Kinetic Fit™ ADVANCED contoured footbed. Merrel states that it has reinforced heel cushioning for medium support.
Again, the story is the price point, so this is a comfortable hiking shoe, especially for the price. It is not the most comfortable hiking shoe I have ever worn.
My pair is US 12 Men, weighing 17.56 ounces / 1.098 pounds / 497.8 grams. They were similar in weight to the other shoes tested.
The Merrell Moab 3 worked for me on day hikes. I had zero issues with hot spots. No areas in the shoe impinged my feet or caused any discomfort. After my first mile in these shoes, they felt like I had worn them for months.