My lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself to wearing nice shoes. Within any given day I will usually find myself walking the dog along muddy tracks, kicking a ball around the garden, doing some sort of DIY, and standing at my desk for about eight hours (I got rid of my chair about six months ago).
So what I look for in a pair of shoes is for them to be a jack of all trades, and a master of all those trades as well. I’m unforgiving, I don’t take care of shoes, and I only ever clean them if I step in something unspeakable. So I was particularly pleased when outdoor retailer Outdoorworld.co.uk sent us this pair of Merrill Phoenix bluff shoes to test, because my experience of Merrill is that they make consistent and dependable knockabout shoes that suit my everyday lifestyle pretty well.
I must admit that I’m terrible that not undoing the laces, and slipping my shoes on and off at the end of the day, and for leaving them wet and covered in mud. So I’ve been extremely impressed by the way that the Phoenix bluff have stood up to my general abuse over the last three months. They’ve taken everything I’ve thrown at them or kicked with them and never wants missed a beat. In fact except for a layer of dust on them you really wouldn’t know they’ve been worn for about 70 consecutive days now.
I’m generally not a fan of Gore-Tex lined shoes because I just find them too sweaty. And that sweat inevitably lends to a bit of a smell. And I’m not saying that the Phoenix smell as fresh as they did out of the box, but there is certainly not enough of a pong to cause women to stare and children to cry and in fact I’ve only just noticed it when I put the shoe up to my face to test.
The upper of the shoe is a mixture of suede and fabric, and has been absolutely amazing at shedding water and mud. Boggy winter fields have been no match for these shoes and my feet have remained dry as a bone in rain, mud and standing water.
Comfort wise, they have suited my British shaped feet perfectly with their wide forefoot and a moderately snug heel which when teamed up with a slightly thicker walking sock, which is what I tend to wear, the shoes have been snug and never slipped. The lacing system is fairly simple with webbing loops which doesn’t allow for an awful lot of fine tuning but does hold the lace securely and keep things nice and tight.
There is enough padding around the tongue and the ankle that rubbing and comfort is never a problem, and the standard insole has enough shape to it to feel supportive and comfortable all day long. Merrell have added an air cushion in the heel which absorbs any shocks when you are pounding the ground. And if that pounding is on a rough track there is a pretty good toe box to protect your toes from light kicks of stones.
All in all my experience of the Phoenix shoes is exactly what I would have expected from a pair of Merrell footwear. It’s still as dependable and reliable, and all day comfortable as the Merrell shoes which I initially bought when I was getting into the outdoors many years ago. Like those shoes then, these Phoenix shoes are a great option for anyone who spends their day outdoors but doesn’t get into any kind of technical hiking where you would need more support. In fact the only downside I found with the Phoenix, is that the souls seem to clog up with wet mud fairly easily which leaves things quite slippery when that mud is wet. Otherwise they have been without fault.