3 Best Merrell Trail Running Shoes in 2024

Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen on
3 Best Merrell Trail Running Shoes in 2024
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Over the years, the Merrell trail running shoes have been very popular among off-road adventurers and trail runners in the world. In fact, its Moab model has been the most sold trail boot in the world and has evolved over several updated versions.

Trail enthusiasts love the Merrell brand for its solid quality materials that feel lighter and softer. Its reliability, performance-driven design, and stout build appeal to the most hardcore ultra trail runners and regular outdoorsy folks.   

If you’re out looking for a new pair of Merrell shoes for your next adventure, we can help you find that perfect fit. We’ve tested trail running shoes from the Merrell brand and selected our best picks for your browsing convenience. We were also critical in examining them one by one, so our choices were certainly refined.

How we test trail running shoes

For this fantastic list, we’ve rounded up the latest and previous offerings of Merrell trail running shoes. We’ve spent hours in the lab and the trails to test and review each one of them, and select the best for different categories. To give you some idea, our entire process involves the following:

  • Buying all the trail running shoes with our own money. This is to show everyone that we don’t have any loyalty to the brand. It also keeps us honest and unbiased in our reviews.
  • Cutting the shoes in the lab, reducing them into their essential parts. We do this so we can easily measure 30+ different parameters such as cushioning, durability, and traction, among others.
  • Testing each model in the trails to see how it can handle technical terrains and other various conditions.

Best Merrell trail running shoes overall

Merrell Nova 3
85
Good!

What makes it the best?

Having done lab tests and actual runs cements Nova 3’s position as Merrell’s number 1 trail shoe. It offers incredible stability and support for extended outdoor adventures and ensures we’re protected throughout. We’re impressed by its Vibram outsole that blends grip and durability beautifully. 

Nova 3 features the softer Vibram TC5+ rubber. True enough, our durometer registers only 75.5 HC vs. the 85.2 HC average. This is equipped with 3.5 mm Traction Lugs, emphasizing grip. Despite the softer rubber, Nova 3 reassures its durability by beating the average in our Dremel test. It serves as additional protection underfoot without sacrificing traction. 

Adding to our shield is the 34.1/24.2 mm stack height that offers plenty of cushioning. We note the extra FloatPro Foam pod in the heel for softer landings and the rock plate in the forefoot for extra protection.

This is balanced by a firm midsole, enhancing stability and support. Our durometer confirms a close-to-the-average 24.0 HA. Ensuring a steady ride is the set of midfoot sidewalls that create a bathtub effect so that our foot sits inside the midsole, not on top of it.

Unfortunately, Nova 3 sits quite heavy at 10.8 oz (305g) vs. the 10.4 oz (296g) average. We hope it sheds some weight in the next version to make it suitable for faster paces.

Pros

  • Upper crafted entirely from recycled materials
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Versatile for both hiking and walking
  • Superb Vibram outsole with effective Traction Lugs
  • Attractive pricing for its features
  • Integrated rock plate for underfoot protection
  • Secure heel lockdown
  • Really cushioned

Cons

  • Only suited for mild to moderate trails
  • Needs a reduction in weight
  • Not suited for fast paces
Full review of Merrell Nova 3

Best barefoot Merrell trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

In the 7th iteration of the Trail Glove series, we discovered the best barefoot Merrell trail shoe. Through intensive lab and run tests, we learned that TG7 offers the true minimalist experience with its grounded profile and high flexibility. We’re amazed by its exceptional agility and the unmatched traction of its Vibram outsole.

We measured a low 16.1/16.0 mm stack with our caliper, which essentially features a forgivable 0.1 mm drop. This offers a genuine barefoot experience with TG7’s high surface feedback. Our durometer shows the cushion is a dense 28.8 HA, which balances support and firmness perfectly. 

Even on fast corners, we feel surprisingly stable since we can easily control the midsole. TG7 features a highly flexible platform as it scores one of the lowest numbers in our bend test — 10.5N, 65.0% more adaptive than average. This enhances comfort, even for long walks and hikes.

TG7 is supported by a Vibram outsole that ensures traction through its maze-like pattern, 2.5 mm lugs, and softer-than-average 76.4 HC. We have no instances of slipping on loose gravel and soil.

What we find lacking in the outsole is durability. Its soft rubber is only 1.8 mm thin, which makes it more vulnerable to premature wear. We recommend using them for light to moderate terrains only, not hard surfaces such as asphalt and concrete.

Pros

  • Authentic minimalist experience
  • Genuine zero-drop design
  • Provides a good amount of cushioning
  • Doubles as hiking and walking shoe
  • Sturdy and long-lasting upper
  • Perfect for summer adventures
  • Exceptionally flexible
  • Super quick and agile on corners
  • Ideal for both experts and beginners

Cons

  • Completely unsuitable for winter conditions
  • Outsole durability is a letdown
  • Might be excessively narrow for some runners
Full review of Merrell Trail Glove 7

Best protective Merrell trail running shoes

What makes it the best?

We discovered through intensive lab tests and actual excursions that Agility Peak 5 offers the best protection among Merrell trail running shoes. With a nearly 40-mm stack, it offers exceptional comfort as the cushion absorbs much of our landing impact. It has the highly-esteemed Vibram Megagrip outsole with strategically placed lugs as our weapon for traction and defense against unwanted elements.

We’re impressed with AP5’s outstanding grip on diverse terrains. The outsole features widely spaced 4.5-mm Traction Lugs — making it suitable for technical conditions. After putting the rubber against our brutal Dremel test, the Vibram Megagrip promises a solid lifespan as it shows less indentation than the average.

Not only are our feet protected, but our muscles are also saved from the impact of repeated landings thanks to the heavily cushioned midsole. AP5 rises to an above-average stack, notably its 39.2 mm heel, which shields us from sharp rocks and protruding roots. On top of that, we found a rock plate in the mid-to-forefoot areas for additional protection. 

Because of the skyscraper heel and modest forefoot, the heel drop is a significant 13.4 mm, which may feel too steep for midfoot and forefoot strikers. We find AP5 ideal for heel strikers.

Pros

  • Outstanding Vibram Megagrip outsole
  • Easily handles tough trails
  • Performs well on both downhills and uphills
  • Extremely durable upper with numerous TPU reinforcements
  • Suitable for year-round use
  • Loads of recycled, eco-friendly stuff
  • Great for long-distance runs thanks to its cushioning
  • Wonderful for heel strikers
  • Excellent all-terrain shoe

Cons

  • Heavier than expected
  • Actual drop deviates significantly from what's stated
  • Could be more affordable
Full review of Merrell Agility Peak 5
Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.