Last updated: 04-Aug-21
When I think of Merrell I think of lightweight hiking, trekking and outdoor ‘lifestyle’ shoes. I do not think of running shoes. So here I am with a pair of Merrell running shoes and I am pleasantly surprised!
According to Merrell, this ‘cushioned, grippy trail runner is designed for those who want a lot of protection on even the most rugged trails’ and for the most part this shoe seems to be living up to the expectations of its marketing department.
Caveat: my review is based on having run in the shoe sans insoles (more on that later).
- Jacquard upper • Integrated lacing system for a glove-like fit
- Padded collar • Gaiter D-Ring • Protective toe cap
- External rear strap locks in the heel
- Breathable mesh lining • Removable EVA insole
- Rock plate for protection • FLEXconnect® dual-directional flex-grooves in the midsole for enhanced ground connection
- FloatPro Foam™ midsole for a lightweight ride that lasts
- Drop: 6mm
- Vibram® MegaGrip® for the best combination of traction and durability on wet or dry surfaces
- RRP £120
Pros of the Merrell Agility Peak 4
On unboxing the shoe, I was impressed with their light weight, given their rugged look and feel. I also got the general feeling of high quality – everything seems really well put together and the materials very high quality.
The upper is made of a Jacquard fabric. Whatever that means, it certainly feels tough while also retaining suppleness. There is a very well designed integrated tongue which, after some initial difficulty getting my foot in, contributed to a secure fit around the heel and midfoot.
Once I’d done away with the insole, I found I had just enough room for my wide forefoot. Then we have the laces. The integrated lacing system is superb and I found I could really dial in the fit around the midfoot, while keeping them looser up front. There are also lace lock eyelets to really help lock the heel in. Probably the best lacing system I’ve used on a running shoe.
The upper is finished off with a heel loop for ease of putting on (I’ve never felt the need for these) and a D-ring gaiter attachment loop (surplus to my requirements). The midsole feels protective without feeling overly squishy, and the Vibram MegaGrip sole has so far done its job well, though I think it would definitely find its limit on steep and very muddy slopes.
The heel to toe drop on this shoe is 6mm, which I think is a very good compromise that will appeal to a wide range of runners. The shoe is considerably stiffer than what I am used to, and initially I felt this could be a deal breaker for me. However, I’ve been noticing my feet feeling less beaten up after runs, and my abiding feeling is that this shoe will look after my feet on rough and rocky terrain. It is clearly designed with the mountains in mind, but also offers a reliable (if not necessarily nimble) ride on the undulating woodland trains around my home.
Cons of the Merrell Agility Peak 4
This shoe does not make me feel fast! I am not fast, but I do like a shoe that at least feels fast. I think perhaps the rugged and protective qualities of the Agility Peak 4 are given at the expense of a nimbleness that you will get with a more flexible, lighter shoe. Par for the course I guess (or perhaps I just need to actually get faster).
Another area where I’m not feeling the love is on the road. I’m not sure if it’s the sole, the midsole or the general ride, but the shoe feels ‘slappy’ and somewhat ‘laggy’ (I’m struggling for the right words here but hopefully you get my meaning). But it’s not a road shoe or a road to trail shoe so I’m nit-picking.
Regarding fit, I found there was not enough volume for my foot to feel comfortable with the insole fitted, and I also found there was some heel slippage. Once the insole was removed, I instantly got that more secure fit, with sufficient space up front. It’s a credit to Merrell that the shoe can be used sans insole, so I guess with this con there is also a pro.
I like this shoe when using it for what it was designed for. I’ve taken it up to the chalky and undulating trails of the Chilterns, where the excellent midfoot hold really shone on steep descents. It is also a nice shoe for chilled running on my local forest trails.
However, I will be avoiding long road sections and when I want a fun and fast run on my local singletrack, I’ll likely reach for something else. This shoe is designed for the higher, rougher terrain. My next race is The Fan Dance in the Brecon Beacons. It is mountainous, steep, rocky and technical and I think the Merrell Agility Peak 4 is the perfect candidate.
About the writer: Conrad Wild has walked/jogged/ran some 30 ultramarathons, as well as a spoonful of DNFs and a marathon in a multi-story car park. These days, when he hasn’t got his head stuck in a book, he can be found jogging around his local woods with his spaniel, Jack.
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All photos courtesy of Con Wild. Shoes supplied by Sportsshoes