“New Shoes! New Shoes!” So might the kiddies scream after their trip to Clarks this September at the start of the new school year (or so the advertisers might dream… I’ve never seen it happen). However I did experience a similar thrill when I retrieved the Merrell box from the post depot.
Merrells Annex GTX shoes are designed as a ‘waterproof casual hiking shoe’ especially for mountain towns and sloppy (sic) trails, which I’m sure is why GWA’s Ed saw fit to send them to me – I’m not one to attempt the north face of the Eiger of an afternoon – but wandering around woodland in most weathers is precisely how I spend my weekends – so these Annex-es ought to suit me down to the ground (ahem).
My initial ‘try them on in the shop’ impression however wasn’t brilliant as there seemed to be a semi-rigid ridge running down the top of the right shoe – pressing down on the top of my foot. A little adjustment of the lacing (I think it was part of the plastic lace-hole component that caused the ridge) and an hour’s wear soon seemed to lessen this however.
After a month’s wear that ridge is much less noticeable – however I can’t really say if it’s the shoe shape or my foot shape. The left shoe is mostly fine although the cut of the shoe does prevent me getting them on ‘tight’. As such I did get some very minor discomfort when my toes were moving about over a weekend of solid use. I think the use of a solid plastic lace-hole component maybe to blame here – without it the Annex-es would have a little easier time conforming to the shape of the upper foot.
The usage I’ve put the shoes to has been pretty close (I’d hope) to the manufacturer’s intentions – walking on the flat and on tarmac (village wandering) and some off-road usage (light trail), but not too much heavy climbing or solid trekking. I’ve used them for work and spent a few days in them in hot sunshine of September.
The Annex-es are pretty solid with good support, the ‘Remember Me’ foam footbed started out with some short term amnesia, but they are settling in, the nylon arch shank certainly makes it’s presence felt, which I got used to, and the Vibram sole is hefty and solid enough to provide a good walking platform and also are fine for driving (tested, for reference, in a heavy clutched classic car – no problems whatsoever and feedback was fine), some heavier duty boots can get in the way in a car.
However stomping around on some rougher / slipperier parts off road revealed a lack of outright grip – where a proper walking boot would stick, the Annex-es gave me a couple of moments. I’d say that for the intended purpose they’d be fine as long as you weren’t being silly! Not sure why this was, perhaps the schizophrenic sole pattern didn’t help. Being a ‘trainer’ cut they’re not bad for the occasional bit of running too, (impromptu footie after the pub) even though the sole isn’t as flexible.
Part of the test I was most interested in was seeing how well the ‘M-Select FRESH’ liner and the Gore-Tex lined uppers keep my feet fresh. My feet do get pretty hot and smelly so I’m very happy to say that in all the usage I have put the shoes through, my toes have stayed cheese-free (albeit still very warm) and my socks have stayed dry at all times – even through solid 14 hour days outside in warm September sunshine. Colour me highly impressed – my feet haven’t been this dry since a childhood of running around barefoot in the grass!
Overall I’m impressed with the Merrell Annex-es – they’re waterproof and breathe well, comfy and robust. One or two minor niggles won’t keep me out of them and they make a very good set of ‘general usage’ shoes, better than lightweight trainers, that can be smart enough for a (casual) office and the pub, but equally at home off-roading on splashy trails. These are Impressive Gear.