Crush’n It: It’s been a while since the Merrell brand has in any serious way popped its head up in trail-land in Australia. With a fairly successful outing in the minimalist category years back (with its broadly well-received Trail Glove range), they seemed to disappear on our radars, content to concentrate on the urban wanna-be adventurer category (comfortable shoes for pavement to pub that give the illusion the wearer is about to head into the wilderness).
[the following review first appeared in Edition #21 of Trail Run Mag. Download now at www.trailrunmag.com/magazines]
There was a brief aborted attempt to re-emerge last year with a shoe that was more fast packer than runner (Capra). Now, Merrel has realigned with the release of its All Out Crush, a shoe originally designed with the mob behind – specifically for – Tough Mudder. It is however, one that defies my middling expectations on trail as a solid sweet spot performer.
Traditionally styled, this lightweight dirt-muncher was, according to the blurb, targeted squarely at the obstacle course market. I can’t attest how they go tackling the fire and pseudo brimstone of a muddy paddock packed with pyrotechnics, but I can say that taken out on singletrack, these are a great all round performer that firmly places Merrell back on the consideration radar, especially for the recreational (as opposed to pointy end competitive or extreme) trail runner.
A fairly firm forefoot ride means these are on the touchy-feely side, great for trail feedback (proprioception), and excellent when on soft trails that provide their own mulch cushion. The 5mm lugs – reminiscent but not quite as aggressive as Salomon Fellcross models – back up on that kind of terrain, too, giving excellent grip when they have something to bite into.
Where the midsole’s firmness starts to bite back is on hard-packed surfaces or pebbly, sharp rock terrain that continues for long stretches. On such surfaces your feet feel the pinches and prongs after a while and tenderfeet types will certainly notice the incursions. It’s fine for sub-30 kays on flatter, firmer surfaces – indeed I found these a measured balance of trail feel, grip and comfort on fast paced runs in this range – but anything longer requires a more forgiving undercarriage, in my opinion. The Crush’s pre-disposition for mushier ground makes sense given these were aimed at folks running around obstacles in mucky paddocks at distances at most stretching to 20km.
The Crush are also for runners who have a broader, squarer forefoot as there is more room in the toe box than many other narrower Euro-brand shoes which traditionally have narrower lasts. In general, the Merrell would be considered a more traditional, conservative shoe, but it’s no lesser option for it and may actually service a wider array of runners because of it’s no frills approach.
Where these are not as conservative is in the heel-toe drop – a lower range 6mm (traditional being more in the 12mm range) means that you need to at least be striving toward better mid-foot strike and good general form.
Those with small slabs up front may find these swim a little in the toe box with the ability to tighten the hug across the middle of the foot barely there, as the first rung of laces and general upper design doesn’t allow much adjustment.
The obstacle course considerations prove a benefit to trail runners via drainage ports wicking away water quickly once plunged in puddles. The mesh upper layered with a perforated pliable rubber lining allows the shoe to release heat just as quickly. Overall, the shoe remains comfortable on the foot at all times in anything except the coldest of weather.
If any concern, it would be that of longevity. Being lightweight, the upper and the sole are supple and if one were to guess, may not be the longest wearing of shoes. Hard to tell after only 150-odd kilometres.
Overall a great shoe for those tackling the many short course (5-25km) trail series taking place across Australia and New Zealand where event terrain tends to be softer, the trails less extreme without hard rocky sections, but where a need for grip, comfort and all weather wear is primary.
Great for: grip, softer trails, door to trail, training all-rounder, wet runs, obstacle courses
Not-so-great for: sharp, hardcore rocky or mountain terrain, thin feet, ultras
Test Conditions: singletrack, mildly technical, some hardpacked, some fire roads, approx. 155km
Tester: Chris Ord, Trail Run Mag editor
Tester Mechanics: mid foot striker, tends to more technical style running