NOTE TO READERS: Some of the following brand names and locations have been changed for legal reasons.
In 2002 M. Night Shyamalan released a film called Signs.
It was about faith and death and OCD and aliens and stuff. Mel “do you wanna?” Gibson played Rev Graham Hess and Joaquin (pr: Wah-kee-eee-eeeen) Phoenix played his non-too-bright brother, Merril.
One of the best lines in movie history was in that film: “Why don’t we all just calm down and eat some fruit or something?”
That’s what pops into my head every time I think about Merrell the shoe people. I can’t help it. I wish I could. It drives me mad. Really.
So I’ve got these boots from Merrell. The footwear folk. Chameleon 5 Mid Ventilator GTX Carbon if you want to be precise about it, and that RRP thing is £140.
To get the dull stuff out of the way first before I go into my totally unconnected minirant, Merrell categorise these as a ‘high-speed backpacking shoe’. Inside they boast a Gore-Tex membrane and a support insole described as ‘suitable for carrying a light pack’. Outside they’ve got tough laces, a sturdy outer construction with breathable mesh and a tough heel to withstand kicking them off at the pub every day. On the bottom a thick and chunky Vibram sole does the business well.
And boy did I put these things to the test on Skagness Beach. And just to make sure I thrashed them on the mean streets of Nutlins for damn good measure. Don’t judge me.
You see Mrs Muz and our friends Martin, Sue, Juan (pr: “what?”), Ruth, Jon and Ghandi had gone to a certain motorcycle magazine’s event in sunny Skaggy for the weekend. Being the foo that I am I had just agreed to go without finding out what I had actually agreed to and where it was. Mrs Muz has a trustworthy face.
So I ended up at Nutlins hugging my knees and weeping gently in my cell at 4am while loony biscuits wheelied their badass bikes backwards and forwards outside, swigging from cans of Ace and screaming.
It was hell on earth. It was the Nattle of Nutlins. I still have Vietnam-style flashbacks at night and I think I’ve got PTSD.
And that’s how we ended up on the beach. We’d exhausted the bike kit stall (singular) and checked the trays of all the resort’s penny falls machines, then decided to make a break for it towards our only hope of safety. The open sea. But the water was too brown so we didn’t bother.
I’d had the Chameleons on out of the box for about 12 hours all-in by this point, and they were like slippers. Looking down on them they’re very blunt-toed – a bit too much for me, TBH – and if you squint you could almost swear your feet were round like Andy’s. I’m not a massive fan of the oval cut-out vents though, but it’s horses for courses. That said, the muted colours certain win a gold star from me.
These boots are nice and roomy around your foot, and don’t feel restricted like other boots can. I was only wearing (extremely) fashion(able) socks at the time, but I normally feel a bit squeezed in other new boots, even without walking woollies.
So I spent a little time trudging across the shale beach of doom, huffily kicking big lumps of flint and gazing out at the surfing turds, riding the chocolate waves of despair. I kicked shells, lumps of wood, a broken plastic spade and something I couldn’t quite identify, then I trudged back up the beach wondering if tonight’s raucous shenanigans would lead to gunfire and baby-burning.
The rest of my, er, ‘party’ did much the same in their own way. Martin matched my head-bowed shuffles while Sue and Mrs Muz miserably collected shells that they’ll never use. Jon and Ghandi were dry-humping idly by the ice cream van and I don’t know where What? and Ruth were. Probably drinking to numb the pain somewhere.
So this is the point: abandon hope all ye what enter Skaggy.
Actually, no, the point is that the Chameleons are lovely. Even after pounding up and down the walkways of the seafront furiously in search of decent drinking emporiums, a petulant trudge across the beach, an exhausting power-walk back to the room for Mrs Muz’s Cheese Strings and about six hours of driving, they felt as good as they did when they came out of the box.
Now I know I haven’t used them in anger on Striding Edge, but as a light – rather than heavyweight hiking – boot I’d expect them to be comfortable first and foremost, very closely followed by hard-wearing and grippy. And these are all of those things.
SUMMARY: My feet didn’t get too hot at any point and the few puddles I kicked through did nothing but wet my jeans and make Mrs Muz tut. Shallow puddles at the beach didn’t give me brown socks either and there was absolutely no sign of rubbing on my Achilles. These are good boots and just right for their intended purpose*. In fact I’m looking forward to the next time we go on a trail walk because I know my tootsies will be as fresh as daisies on my return.
* In much the same way that Nutlins is just right for its intended purpose: Sucking your soul out through your eyes and stabbing your self-respect in the face. A little bit of me died that weekend.