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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Merrell Outbound Mid Boots > Test Report by Roger Ault

MERRELL OUTBOUND MID GORE-TEX BOOTS
TEST SERIES BY ROGER AULT
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - January 08, 2010
FIELD REPORT - January 18, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - April 13, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Roger Ault
EMAIL: chance4272ATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Spencer, Indiana USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 276 lb (125.00 kg)

I have been camping for several years. I had limited chances as a child but have been camping a lot the past 20 years. I love backpacking and consider myself moderately equipped although I can never have enough gear. I want to spend more time winter camping. I typically carry 25 - 45 pounds (~11 - 20 kg). I generally use a tent for shelter. I generally hike in the woods and rolling hills of Indiana.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Merrell (A division of Wolverine World Wide Inc.)
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: MERRELL
MSRP: US$ 185.00
Listed Weight: 3 LB (1.36 kg) Size not stated
Measured Weight: 3 lb 8 oz (1.59 kg) per pair. Size 11.5 US Regular width (only width available).
Colors available: Bungee Cord and Red. I am testing the Bungee Cord.
Sizes available: US Men's 7-12, 13, 14 and 15. Women's 5-11

The Merrell website lists these as suitable for hiking, backpacking, climbing and winter use. I am sure I will try at least three out of the four. I am not a climber, unless you count climbing into bed.

The Merrell Outbound Mid GORE-TEX Boots (hereafter simply Outbounds or boots) are a very nice looking boot. The manufacturer says they are "Cordura, Synthetic and Ripstop Mesh Upper ". (Also available in a leather model) The midsole consists of direct injected polyurethane. The Outbounds have a Vibram outsole. They also have a TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) full-length toe and heel bumper. They have what the manufacturer calls "Merrell Spring Motion Technology" insole.

The lining has been treated with Aegis antimicrobial treatment to help prevent odor. I am curious to see how long this lasts. Most boots take a little time to develop any odor but I hope these take a really long time!

The tongue is well padded and is fully gusseted. The boots are 7 in (18 cm) tall to the top of the ankle cuff.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Outbound is a sturdier boot than I was expecting. The boots have a lot less flex than I thought they would. The area of the sole below my heel and the ball of my foot does not flex easily. The part from the ball of my foot to the toe does flex reasonably easy.

One thing that is quite noticeable is what I call the "billboard" on the outside of each boot. See the photo at the top of this page for what I am describing. I feel this is an advertising extreme that is going overboard. They have the name MERRELL spelled out in large letters down the side of the boots.

They have four sets of metal eyelets and three sets of metal hooks for the laces. The lowest hook is set back from the rest and I believe can aid in various lacing techniques. All of the eyelets and hooks are secured with metal rivets which do not protrude into the interior of the boot. In keeping with the "billboard" theme mentioned above the hooks all have a tiny "M" stamped on them. I think the Merrell logo that is on the tongue is sufficient to identify the manufacturer.

IMAGE 1
TOP/BOTTOM


The heel cup has a rather unique design that I believe is designed to work with the Merrell Spring Motion technology. It consists of a small well and an insert made of foam that should aid in reducing shock to my heel. It felt rather odd at first but after a few miles I no longer noticed it there. See below for a picture of it.

IMAGE 2
Heel cup


The lug pattern is fairly aggressive and is stepped on the interior lugs, but not the outer ones. I am not certain how these may affect the grip these boots have but I believe they could be a good wear indicator. The lugs are 9/32 in (7 mm) deep.

IMAGE 3
Toe end lugs


IMAGE 4
Heel end lugs

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

As I expected, there were no instructions included with the boots. I see no need for instructions to be included with boots as far as use goes. I do wish boot manufacturers would include care instructions with their products. GORE-TEX products in particular can require the use of a particular product over others to retain effectiveness.

The only things that came in the package (other than the boots) were a GORE-TEX guarantee, Merrell Mission statement (at least that is what I would call it) in five languages, a small GORE-TEX hang tag and a hang tag indicating the Aegis treatment.

TRYING IT OUT

The boots are a little stiff at first. Years ago I thought boots should fit immediately and be comfortable the first time I tried them on. To some degree I still feel this way. I believe they should be able to hold my foot without it sliding around or being constricted. I also think that walking in them at first should not be painful (a little discomfort is acceptable). I think a boot that fits too comfortably and conforms too easily at first is usually not rigid or durable enough to last. The Merrell boots fit my feet well enough to be reasonably comfortable, yet some minor things are noticeable.

The cuff is quite stiff and a little uncomfortable on my ankle. I have already noticed this getting better in just about 20 mi (32 km) of walking. They were a little stiff to walk in at first but have started breaking in. The toe box is a little small. I can intentionally push my foot forward enough, while walking, to make my toes make contact with the front. This does not happen during normal walking, even during descent of a hill. My heel does not rub at all and fits well in the cup. My little toe on my right foot is a little tight against the side of the boot. This is a common problem for me and these do not come in anything other than regular width. I generally prefer a slightly wider boot and I have been known to go up to a size 12 US. I will give these a little more time to see how they work out because they fit well everywhere else.

I generally allow a minimum of 50 mi (80 km) before going on anything more than a dayhike. I was out today for about 10 mi (16 km) and that is about as far as I will push a boot that is yet unproven and not broke in.

SUMMARY

I am surprised at how strong and durable these boots feel. I was expecting something less rigid and softer. I am glad they are because I prefer a sturdy boot that can be worn off-trail and provide the extra support.

Things I like:
Full length toe and heel bumper (except for the ad)
Vibram sole
GORE-TEX
Sturdy construction

Things I could live without:
"billboard" on the side


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

November 8, 2009 - I went on a dayhike of approximately 10 mi (16 km) in dry weather and unseasonably warm temperatures of up to 73 F (23 C).

I wore them on December 31, 2009 on an overnight trip to try out a new sleeping bag. It was about 28 F (-2 C) when I left home and it got down to about 16 F (-9 C) overnight. There was light snow when I set out but the ground had not yet frozen. The snow diminished to nothing by about midnight and the wind picked up and was gusting to about 25 - 30 mph (40 - 48 kph). This was only about 5 mi (8 km) total due to not knowing what to expect with the new bag and wanting to have an easy "out" in case anything became dangerous.

I went for a short hike of about 10 mi (16 km) on January 13, 2010. The temperature was near 0 F (- 18 C) and there was about 6" (15 cm) of snow on the ground. There was little to no wind and the elevation was about 700 ft (200 m).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

My dayhike on Nov. 8th was along a river bottom area, so it was nearly flat. The surface varied from asphalt, sand, rock and dirt. I spotted an eagle nest and saw one adult and two immature Bald Eagles. I was glad I took binoculars on this walk. It was beautiful day with clear skies for viewing the eagles soaring.

IMAGE 1
Eagles nest in Sycamore tree


Not far from the eagle nest is a very large treehouse in a large oak tree. It has been there for a few years but I had never taken the time to climb up there. Oh no, did I just say climb again? It was a short climb up a hill to the tree and about 60 ft (18 m) to the top of the stairs above the treehouse.

IMAGE 2

During this hike I noticed my little toe rubbing against the side of the toe box. I was wearing midweight hiking socks with liner socks. This was my first true field test actually hiking with heavier socks. I was really becoming concerned with how narrow the toe box was and the problems it presents.

I contacted customer service by email. The response I received said "Our footwear is made on a combination last. This is wider in the forefoot and narrower in the heel, so some of the styles do work well for a wide foot. We have a 2MM footbed (the standard that comes with the shoe is 5MM) that may be special ordered to give a more customized fit, and allow for more volume inside the shoe. I can send you a set in hopes that it will free up enough space for break in time." I had already explained that it was the side of the shoe rubbing my toe and I don't see how a slightly thinner insert will help, I will give it a try and see. I know GORE-TEX lined boots should not be stretched due to tearing the membrane. The customer service representative confirmed, "The Outbounds can't be stretched"

After receiving the thinner footbed, I changed the one that came with the Outbound to the thinner one. This actually made the pressure on my toe worse. I think that it caused my foot to sit lower and allowed my toe to fall into the radius where the uppers meet the midsole. I switched back to the original ones and it got better but still was not good.

I have been careful not to wear these for any long distance. The most I have worn them for is about 10 mi (16 km) on any one day. The problem is not so critical that I can't wear the boots. It is however quite annoying to have pressure on my toe all of the time. I still wear these almost daily and they do not seem to be getting much (if any) better.

On December 31 my feet stayed fairly comfortable and did not get cold with liner socks and midweight hiking socks. On January 13 my feet got quite cold but not to the point of being dangerous since I was not that far from home. If I could fit heavier socks they may be okay at that temperature in snow.

I wear these to work and most places so the mileage has probably reached several hundred miles. It is impossible to say how many actual miles with the varying distances I walk in a day.

The insert in the heel cup is deteriorating and I doubt it is very useful by now. I don't notice the cup under my heel any longer and the insert still partially fills the cup.

WATERPROOF ISSUES

My feet have started getting very wet. I stood in water in the bathtub that was almost up to the tongue gusset when I first got these. This is something I regularly do with new waterproof footwear when I get it. During this test my feet remained dry for the five minutes I was standing there.

Lately my feet started getting wet. The first time or two I thought it might be from sweat because I wear them to work and spend a lot of time inside. I recently walked through some snow after verifying that my socks were dry beforehand. When I got inside and checked, my socks (and my cold feet) were quite wet.

This time I tested them in the bathtub again with only dry weight inside the boots to keep them from floating up and turning over. I only put enough water in the tub to start to cover the toe cap this time. After five minutes the insides were pretty wet. I left one boot in there and filled the tub until the water was just a little below the tongue gusset and waited for another ten minutes. When I checked this boot there was approximately 1/4" (6 mm) of water in the bottom of the boot. I did remove the footbeds prior to this test.

I cannot find any damage that could cause them to leak. There are no cuts. rips or busted seams that I can see. I have contacted customer service by email.

Please check back in mid-March to see how this turns out.

IMAGE 3
No apparent damage


SUMMARY

I wish I had got at least a half-size larger. I am not sure if that would allow me to use really heavy winter socks but it would make regular socks more comfortable, even though I think it would allow my heel to move around because it fits well in the heel cup as it is.

The traction has been excellent in mud, snow and dry ground. The Vibram sole shows very little wear and seems to do a good job of channeling mud out to maintain traction.

Overall these boots have been fair. The fit problem could probably improve with a larger size but I like the way it fits everywhere but the toebox with the current size.


LONG-TERM REPORT

CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE

I contacted Merrell customer service via email to see if the boots could be replaced under warranty. They responded and asked that I go to the retailer where they were purchased. I told the customer service representative that I would need to deal with them directly without ever revealing that I was testing these boots. They issued a return authorization (RA) and I filled it out.

I stated on the RA that the boots had started leaking. I also requested that they replace with a one-half size larger boot after determining warranty.

I shipped the boots to Merrell on January 21, 2010. After about three weeks I emailed customer service and they responded that the boots had been shipped and FedEx showed they were delivered on February 4, 2010. The following day I saw my neighbor, who does not actually live next door, and he told me there had been a package left on his porch and that he had it in a different vehicle. He brought me the package on February 13, 2010.

When I opened the package I found a nice new pair of size 12 boots. I certainly commend customer service for replacing the boots with a half size larger. They could have simply sent the same size and I would have had to suffer through trying to break in the boots that are too narrow for me. Customer service was very professional and helpful throughout the entire exchange. This is the sort of service that creates repeat customers. No one likes to have to deal with defective merchandise. Good service when defects occur does make a huge difference.

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I got less use in due to the time spent getting an exchange. Therefore this report is "long term" only in the length of time since I wrote the initial report. Usage has been limited to about five weeks with the replacement boots.

I went on a short overnight hike on February 27, 2010. I walked about 6 mi (10 km). The temperature was near 55 F (13 C) that evening and got down to freezing overnight. There was very little wind and I was at approximately 700 ft (200 m) elevation. The ground was a little sloppy on the way there and was slightly crusty with ice by the return trip.

I went for a walk in the rain on March 13, 2010. I don't have any idea of actual distance but I walked for about 3 hours in light rain with the temperature near 45 F (7 C). I wore the Outbound boots with gaiters through mostly wooded and slightly hilly terrain at 700 - 800 ft (200 - 240 m) elevation.

I had a three day weekend for Easter, so I went backpacking for a couple of days. I went to Owen-Putnam State Forest Saturday. I spent the night there and went on to Cagles Mill Lake on Easter Sunday. A friend came up on Monday and we went fishing on the lake. Walking distance was about 20 mi (32 km) plus a good bit of meandering. Elevation was from 600 - 900 ft (185 - 275 m) and there was light rain Saturday. The temperature was from 55 - 75 F (13 - 24 C). On the way home Monday we got hit with a strong storm and hail the size of golf balls. I was glad to be in a vehicle then.

April 11, 2010 I went hunting Morel mushrooms and spent several hours crisscrossing the woods. Over small hills and crossing small streams.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The overnight hike on February 27th was my first actual hike carrying a pack with the replacement boots. The larger size helped a great deal with the pressure on my toe, but it also allowed my foot to move around more. The uppers were quite stiff and rubbed a little on my ankle, so I did not lace them tight at the top.

On March 13th my feet stayed quite dry, even when sloshing through water that was only slightly below the top of the boots. The gaiters certainly helped shed water but the boots did not leak.

During Easter weekend my toe was slightly irritated, but not as bad as I thought it might get. My feet stayed completely dry until Monday when I got caught in a sudden downpour while loading the boat and wearing only shorts. Of course this has happened with every boot I have ever worn and is not a problem. With waterproof pant and/or gaiters I have not had a problem.

The only problem while hunting Morel mushrooms was that I only found one tiny mushroom. It is a little early in the season and the woods I was in is not known for producing many morels.

SUMMARY

These boots are not wide enough for my toes. The size 12 US did give my toes a little more room, but they are still rubbing a little more than I would like. The larger size also lets my heel move around, whereas the size 11.5 US was a great fit in the heel.

I am hoping these continue to keep my feet dry. Spring rains are near and I will want to try to wear them in rain and mud more than I have had a chance to during the past few months.

They offer good support when carrying a load and the tread provides excellent traction. These are a great pair of boots except for not fitting my feet as well as I would like.

CONTINUED USE

I fully intend to continue to wear these until the weather gets too warm for comfort in them. I hope to push for more and longer trips in the hope they will get broken in better in the future.

Thanks to Merrell Performance Footwear and Backpackgeartest.org for allowing me the chance to test these boots.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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