Merrell are well known for their wide range of outdoor footwear, suitable for all kinds of activities. Earlier in the summer they very kindly sent me and LincsGeek his n hers Proterra Sport shoes to try out. And yes, mine are pink and LincsGeek’s are blue…
The Proterra Sport is part of Merrell’s M-Connect range, designed to give you a true connection with the ground. It is a minimalist hiking shoe offering a lightweight, durable and flexible fit for optimal responsiveness. The low profile means you can feel the ground beneath your feet as you walk, encouraging a natural stride and walking rhythm.
Actually looking at the shoe you wouldn’t necessarily think “barefoot” at all – it has a rugged look. The Proterra does indeed offer a more sturdy outsole and more rugged upper construction than the Merrell Barefoots I reviewed previously, but with the 4mm drop, minimal design midsole and sticky rubber, these offer some of the same benefits as a barefoot shoe but with a bit more protection for your feet on the trail. When you put these shoes on and start walking you definitely realise that inside it is a low profile trainer-like hiking shoe that allows your foot to spread out naturally as you take each step.
The specification is as technical as you’d expect for a pair of Merrells. Apart from the minimal shoe credentials we have “Strobel construction” and “Stratafuse” fabric uppers which provide a strong but glove like fit for lightweight durability and natural movement – that’s what you can see making up the style and design of the shoe, and it means you have a well-structured shoe suitable for hiking without being anywhere near as heavy as a traditional walking shoe (although probably about the same as a decent pair of trainers). The low cut upper, bellows tongue, protective toe cap (so important for me!), breathable mesh upper and removable footbed with Aegis (to stop the shoes getting smelly!) all adds to the fit and comfort of this nice looking shoe. And they are wide enough to fit a pair of decent walking socks on underneath if you don’t want to go completely minimalist.
We have both worn our shoes quite a lot over the summer. This is definitely a long-test as we have had them for several months (I’ve been a bit slow with this post, sorry). We’ve worn them as we would any other pair of outdoor shoes – on short and longer walks (one of the longest was the six miles of the St Barnabas Midnight Sleepwalk around Skegness back in June), for wandering around town, for meandering along the beach, and for mooching about wherever we ended up on a normal Saturday.
LincsGeek commented the first time he wore the shoes that they were comfortable right away. I found that too; and I think that is the beauty of the minimalist design of the Proterra Sport – they allow your feet to sit and move just as they want to, without trying to force them to move in any particular way. The shoes are not as flexible as “proper” barefoot shoes, but there is plenty of give in the sole so you can feel the ground beneath your feet. Because these are a hiking shoe there is (thankfully) some cushioning, although it’s very thin – it’s not bouncy or air-filled, it’s just like a layer of foam that protects your foot from stones and other jaggedy bits, and to give your feet a fighting chance if you’re going to wear these for miles and miles.
While these shoes are not waterproof, I’ve worn mine in light showers and my feet have stayed dry and warm. They didn’t fare so well when I got caught in a rather heavy shower that immediately flooded the path on which I was walking – the shoes themselves I have to say did a great job and didn’t actually get soaked through the mesh upper; but because they are low cut the rain and mud and went down inside from the ankle area – squelchy! I wouldn’t want to be in these for a hike along a muddy footpath, but I wouldn’t worry if it was a bit drizzly or there were light showers forecast.
We can both say that the Merrell Proterra Sport shoes have fitted into our wardrobe very nicely. They are a casual looking outdoor shoe which makes them good for every day wear – they work as well with jeans as they do with walking trousers or shorts. Versatile is good, makes that £100 easier to spend! The low profile and light construction makes them comfortable for all day, and the sole gives you decent support and grip on whatever terrain you are travelling on.
Design and styling wise, they look good, don’t they? I like the rugged look, as you know, and find the way the outer structure of the upper is on show over the top of the mesh. LincsGeek said he found the colour rather bright to begin with, but after a few weeks commented it is actually fine and goes with jeans quite well without standing out too much. For me, being completely honest with you, the colour has been a bit off-putting because I would never choose a pair of pink shoes. But this is a review of the shoe not of the colour, and there are other colours to choose from in both the men’s and women’s fit – there is bound to be something for your taste.
The Merrell Proterra Sport is a shoe designed for every day, wherever that may take you. They are good for many miles on your feet, on a mixture pavement and path, and look the part in town and in the countryside. This is a great option if you are looking for something natural and light but with the added protection of a decent sole and structured upper.