While feeling connected to the ground is something I appreciate during a gym workout, I didn't think this same feeling could translate to a hike — out in the wild, a stiffer shoe is the rule. I was dubious when Merrell sent me its new minimalist hiking shoe, but after going on numerous hikes in the Proterra Vim Sport ($100), I can't wear anything else on my feet. With hiking season just about to hit, here's why the Vims make an excellent choice on the trail.
Before I even got the Vims out of the box, I was struck at both the weight and size of the shoes. The Vims weigh in at only 24 ounces; surprisingly lightweight for a hiking shoe. On my first hike out, I found that I appreciated how light the Vims are; it made maneuvering the trail much easier, and unlike my other hiking shoes, I wasn't keenly aware of the added weight on my feet. This helped me move a bit quicker, and also added to my comfort level, which was especially important on a recent 10-mile hike. While many hiking shoes use steel to offer stability, Merrell saves ounces by using Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) in the arch, which allows for more flexibility. While I felt more connected to the ground in the Vims — but not so much I felt every twig and rock under my feet — they're still built with stiff support. In addition to stable arch support, the midsole is built with PU to offer added stability. While these shoes will definitely be my go-to for most day hikes, I would probably opt for a steel design for any difficult hiking with rough terrain.
Keeping reading to learn even more about the Vims!
Comfortable on the very first wear, what I really can't stop talking about is the toe box. First off, it's wide: toes don't get squished, and the feet have just enough wiggle room — something I crave during long, hot hikes. And while the toe box does offer some give, it's heavily protected, meaning no jammed toes should you accidentally hit a rock the wrong way. The shoes themselves offer plenty of traction from the sticky rubber on the sole, are breathable, and dry fast in case you step in any puddles. Available in four colors, there's something for every personality, whether it's bright pink or a more neutral khaki. I've worn these on rocky trails, had to balance myself up dirt paths with loose gravel, and jumped over logs to get to my destination; in every scenario I felt wholly supported while also appreciating the increased awareness I had of the terrain.