There is nothing like a good old pair of walking boots, is there? Comfort for days, and all the happy hiking memories. The only problem is they don’t last forever, and I admit that I struggle to part with old faithful footwear, they seem to hold some weird sentimental value in my mind that makes it hard. After doing the West Highland Way, I knew it was time to retire my very well loved and trusted Merrell Chameleon Shift walking boots, which have taken me what must be thousands of miles since I got them a few years back, and replace them with something shiny and new.
When they were actually new… in the New Forest in January.
Back in the winter (remember that?!), Merrell were kind enough to gift me a pair of their brand-new Chameleon 7 Mid Gore-Tex boots. There was so much press for these when they first came out, the advertising was everywhere I looked, and I saw a huge number of reviews from people who were much more organised than I was. This post might have been a long time coming, but you can be sure that the test has been very thorough, as these boots have already taken me several hundred miles.
Out with the old and in with the new. On the left… Chameleon Shift. On the right… Chameleon 7.
I retired my Chameleon Shifts to the back of the wardrobe in the spare room (I cleaned them first, honest…), and laced up my new Chameleon 7 mids, which on paper were the natural next step in my hiking boot arsenal. They have the same black and teal colouring, which I really like, and while are clearly in the same family as the Shifts, have some significantly different features.
My first impression and observation was how the Chameleon 7 mids were just that little bit wider. Across the widest part of the foot both styles are the same 10cm width (for my size UK7.5 pairs), but the fact that the width on the Chameleon 7 pair stays so the toe area narrows much less than on the Shifts gives my toes much more wiggle room when walking. They also seemed much more flexible from the outset, and much lighter. I got the scales out to check, and the Shifts weigh 512g each, whereas the Chameleon 7 weighs 473g per shoe, giving the 7s more than 70g over their older counterpart.
I find the solid toe protector a definite bonus.
Technology wise, you’ll have noticed in the title that these have Gore-Tex so you are going to stay dry (assuming you don’t get water in the top… gaiters are your friend). They are made from a nubuck, suede leather and mesh upper, and have a protective rubber toe cap (surprisingly important when you are me), and feature a bellows tongue to keep debris out of your shoe. The contoured insole is removable (so you can wash it or replace it with your own moulded insole if you prefer), there’s an air cushion in the heel to help absorb shock and aid stability, and there’s a Vibram outsole with 3mm deep lugs to keep you from sliding onto your backside.
Ice, ice, baby…
What else do you need to know? The laces are plenty long enough (one of my pet hates in outdoor shoes is that often the laces are far too short), with metal hook and lacing eyelets. Oh, and there’s this strange looking moulded section at the back which is said to add stability to the boot, it kind of sticks out the back of the shoe, wrapping around the ankle and under the heel. No idea – not saying it doesn’t do anything, just that I’m not sure what exactly! All of this tech comes together to make a very well-rounded pair of boots that will go pretty much anywhere I am likely to want to take them.
Searching for Winnie the Pooh in Winchester.
I have walked hundreds of miles in these boots in the last six months, on all terrains and in all weather (it seems a long time since all that snow!), and they are indeed great boots. They fit well, look great, offer very decent levels of comfort, support and grip. I like them, very much.
But there is something about them that means they are not quite as comfortable as my old Merrell Chameleon Shifts. Maybe it’s the height – these are mid-height whereas the Shifts came well above my ankle. Maybe it’s the shape – these seem a bit wider than the Shifts. Or maybe it’s how flexible these are, much less solid and “clompy” than my Shifts. And so, while these are really great to wear, and I don’t actually have any complaints about them, they just aren’t quite right. I am still looking for the perfect replacement for my worn out Shifts. I think that probably makes me super fussy, but hey, my feet just want to be happy!
Despite the small reservation above, and the more I think about it the more I think it’s where they sit on my ankle, I am continuing to wear the Merrell Chameleon 7 Mids for hikes on the trail, and am enjoying doing so. I don’t use them off the trail as they are too “clompy” for concrete in my opinion, but for anything with varied terrain, mud, or whatever else, these are my current boots of choice. They feel like serious walking boots that are doing their job very well, and I can’t fault them for that.
I should also say that after what I think is at least 200-300 miles walked in these in the last six months, including in all that snow earlier this year, these are barely showing signs of wear, which gives me reason to be confident that these are going to last a long time. I wonder where we’ll go?!
At £160 for the women’s mids (a men’s fit is also available), these come in at the top end of the mid-range boots around at the moment, but I would say for the spec and comfort that is reasonable good value.
At Cheesefoot Head.
With thanks to Merrell for sending me a pair of the Chameleon 7 Mid Gore-Tex boots to try out and review. Please always know that my reviews are based on my own experience and opinion.