The Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX hiking shoe sits at the sportier end of Merrell’s range, so while it sits in our best men's walking shoes ranking, it also takes inspiration from trail running shoes. Now in its second iteration, Merrell has made a variety of improvements on the original to deliver a competent all-rounder.
As well as the shoe version reviewed here, there's also a boot option; head to our Merrell MQM Flex 2 Mid GTX review for more on that one. These come with an RRP of £120, but they're no longer brand new out so chances are you might not need to pay that (you should also double-check for Merrell discount codes before you buy). Read on for our full Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX hiking shoe review.
Update: this hiking shoe has now officially been replaced with the Merrell MQM 3 GTX (opens in new tab). If you want something more run-focused, also check out our Merrell Agility Peak 4 review.
Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX hiking shoe review: design
The Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX hiking shoe has a strong design game, offering a surprisingly long list of features wrapped up in a deceptively simple shoe. From the top, there’s a bellows tongue, which also boasts integrated lacing, TPU overlays add protection to the mesh upper, particularly over the toe, while an integrated Gore-Tex membrane plays a vital role in keeping water at bay.
Down into the business end of the shoe, there’s a combination of ‘FLEXconnect’ dual-directional flex-grooves baked into the midsole, and a hidden ‘air cushion’ in the heel to maintain comfort. A key design element lifted directly from decent trail shoes is the midfoot ‘rockplate’, as is the aggressive 5mm lugged outsole. A final trail touch is the generous thumb loop at the rear, which is perfect for rapid donning of shoes in a carpark.
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In terms of fit, a few customers say that the sizing runs slightly large, but the main thing to note is that Merrell has opted for a particularly roomy toe box. The idea is that you have room for your toes to splay while walking / running. Most reviewers agree that while this might feel a bit odd and oversized when you first put these shoes on, the design actually works well in practice.
Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX hiking shoe review: performance and comfort
That ‘Quantum grip’ outsole isn’t just for show, providing plenty of grip, especially in sketchier mud-style conditions, but also doing a sound job in drier and more pleasant surroundings. The toe and heel are equipped with surprisingly 80s style ribbed tread, which doesn’t favour more aggressive rock scrambling, but does behave well on normal trails and tracks.
While we’re not had any durability issues in testing, the darker blocks in the outsole are slightly undercut, which may weaken them during extended use, although the undercut does allow more flex in the tread for more versatile grip.
The Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX is a very light shoe, and that low-profile trail runner styling makes it seem even more minimalist. Merrell has used a bonding system to integrate the Gore-Tex membrane inside, as well as TPU overlays on the outside, both of which combine to remove bulk and streamline the design. That makes for a visually appealing shoe, but there are practical tradeoffs, most obviously in terms of support and ankle protection. Less obviously, there’s no protection against deeper mud, rain or debris getting into the shoe, leaving the wearer quite exposed. A dedicated trail runner might use gaiters to avoid this issue, but that seems a little overkill for a hiking shoe.
Comfort is good for a minimalist hiking shoe though, the flexing midsole and air cushion cocooning the foot nicely against the ground, while the laces lock the foot in very well too. That webbing strap across the forefoot lacing does a particularly good job, adding support in a key area, but floating so it is tensioned by the laces.
Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX hiking shoe review: verdict
Merrell has put out a good looking shoe here, very low-profile and streamlined in the best technical trail-running tradition. As a hiking shoe the Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX hiking shoe gives lots of ankle movement for speed, but less protection than a more robust shoe or even a mid-height hiking boot. This generally means that the wearer has to compensate by concentrating harder on more technical terrain and dig deeper on longer journeys – not necessarily a bad thing, but a more taxing proposition.
Overall, you win on speed and precision here, getting good grip and a solid lacing system, but lose on heavier protective materials – even the toecap is a slim bonded overlay. Brilliant for good trails and fast walks on paths and similar, but these will soon start to struggle in more rugged terrain.