06 February 2014

road review - merrell mix master 2

i think that i've rationalized my most recent shoe acquisitions by telling myself that (a) i need to spend more time on trails to prep for the Limberlost Challenge and therefore need trail running shoes; and that (b) winter workouts around here require additional traction - like that provided by trail running shoes.

so when my little brother provided me with a gift card for christmas, i decided that i would use it to pick up a pair of the merrell mix master 2 (which were on a nearly 50% off discount at the time).  


my appreciation of merrell running footwear began with the original road glove, which still may rank as my favourite marathoning shoe.  i'm slightly disappointed to hear that they are leaving behind the 'barefoot' line and i'm sure that i'm not alone in that - many blog reviews have revealed that the original trail glove (with it's omni-fit lacing system) is near legendary in the estimation of the trail running community.

i'd read many positives about the mix master 2 (as well as a personal recommendation from peter larson) and so far they have not disappointed.  

my thoughts:
  • fit - while trying these on i found myself feeling most comfortable in a half-size larger than i would normally take in my road-specific shoes.  with an eye to possibly using them for this summer's trail ultra i put a premium on comfort as well as adequate space for foot swelling/expansion.  so this size 10 pair fits fabulously without feeling like i'm swimming in them.  plenty of toebox space and not too snug around the arch and or heel - just enough to instill confidence.  i've tested these out on hard-packed/icy uneven sidewalks and roads and they've moved well with my foot.
  • weight - on my kitchen scale the mix master 2 weighs in an almost spot-on 8 oz., which seems lighter than other reported weighings - this may be in part due to the fact that i did swap for a different, less thick insole.  regardless, this is a great weight for a shoe with a rock protection plate.
  • drop - listed as 4mm (or 5mm if you consult with the running warehouse) it rides like it's an almost flat platform.  i've certainly had no sensation of the heel getting in the way.
  • ventilation - the airy-mesh upper was apparently an issue for the first version of this shoe - and having held a v1 in my hands i can see why it might have been prone to tearing.  the upper on the v2 is great - very breathable and even drainable (if you're into puddle-jumping) and surprisingly not so breezy as to freeze my feet during these winter runs.
  • flexibility - again keeping in mind that there is a rock plate, these bad boys surprised me by lending themselves nicely to the roll-up test.  i could tuck the toe into the heel cup with little difficulty - not the same could be said about the mix master 2 wp which felt (to me) like a wooden clog and had the flexibility of just about the same.  the day that i bought my mm2 the MM2 wp was on at the same price and i gravitated to them first because i wanted to use them for winter running - but no go after trying them on.  the MM2 is seriously an altogether different feeling shoe.
  • traction - this is probably one of the MM2s standout features.  the grip offered by the 3.5mm lugs dotting the outsole is impressive, and the fact that it is a sticky rubber compound with a lower durometer rating means that it provides just as much of an easy feeling ride on sidewalk/pavement as it does on dirt track.  again, it's done an admirable job through slushy snow and ice - can't say that i've tested it out through mud or wet woods but given my experience with them so far i'm not terribly concerned.
and just so you can see them in living colour:


overall these shoes earn high marks from me - i'd say they're worthy of a good 4-1/2 out of five:


it'll be a game-time decision when it comes down to whether or not to don the GBTs or the MM2s for the limberlost challenge.  i'm also eager to try out the new balance mt110 as well as the topo athletic mt (if the budget will allow for it), so we'll have to see what'll carry me through for the full 56k.

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