- Merrell Phoenix
- Merrell Phoenix Bluff Review
- Waterproof hiking shoes, buyers guide
The Merrell Phoenix Bluff is a range of hiking, outdoor, and adventure shoes. The range is made up of two products the Merrell Phoenix bluff low-rise waterproof hiking shoe, and the Merrell Phoenix bluff mid-rise waterproof hiking shoe. These two options are identical, except for their cut.
While the low-rise option sits below one’s ankle like a regular sneaker, the mid-rise shoe comes up past the ankle like a boot. The mid-rise option’s higher cut provides extra ankle support, while the low rise shoe is lighter.
Ultimately, both options will provide you with an extremely capable pair of hiking and outdoor exploration shoes. They both combine weight saving technologies with extreme comfort, ultimate durability, and practicality.
Furthermore, because of their rugged, but sleek and unassuming style, they are versatile. You can wear your Merrell Phoenix Bluffs to casual social events, in the office, and on industrial job sites.
Merrell Phoenix Bluff Review
Details of our review
Setting off with the rising sun on our back, we started the long trek up Table Mountain. We chose the India Venster trail, one of the most beautiful, but challenging routes up Table Mountain.
From the end of the India Venster trail, we made our way to Maclear’s beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain, and then down the Kasteelspoort trail on the Camps Bay side of the mountain. In total, we traveled 13.8 km and gained just under 900 m altitude.
The Merrell Phoenix Bluff Range
Comfort, probably the most important attribute of any hiking shoe. The Merrell Phoenix Bluff range provides extreme comfort from the first wear with its breathable waterproof fabric and debris resistant technology.
The shoes’ uppers consist of a suede, mesh, and a waterproof membrane treated with Aegis™. Suede and mesh two light fabrics that allow your feet to breathe, ultimately allowing you to go further in hotter conditions. In our experience, even the heavier and longer mid-rise cut felt cool and light during a hot day in Africa (29°C/84°F).
The waterproof membrane will keep your feet dry unless you completely submerge them, while the Aegis™ has antibacterial properties. Wet feet are not only uncomfortable but cause debilitating blisters. It is therefore of the utmost importance that you keep your feet dry.
Debris resistant technology, in the form of a bellows tongue that fits snugly beneath your laces, prevents small stones from making their way into your shoe. In our test, this functioned effectively, even the low option succeeded in preventing any debris from entering the shoe.
Furthermore, the shoes did not require a wear-in period and were comfortable from the outset. This is impressive as many hiking shoes, if used on a long hike when first worn, will cause blisters.
In addition to being extremely comfortable, Merrell’s Phoenix Bluff shoes also remain lightweight hiking shoes. This can be attributed to the materials used in the shoes’ uppers and soles. The upper is created with a lightweight suede and mesh membrane, while the sole is made from Merrell’s lightweight synthetic rubber replacement called M-Select Grip.
Ultimately, this contributes to the Phoenix Bluff weighing just 718g (1lb 9oz). Such impressive weight will mean a great deal to long distance hikers who lift their legs tens of thousands of times a day.
We certainly appreciated Merrell’s weight-saving efforts, as a fair amount of scrambling and mild climbing is needed on the India Venster trail. I must say, you really notice every ounce saved when you are marching up such a steep trail.
Can handle even the toughest terrain
As a hiking shoe, the Phoenix Bluff must be able to handle the toughest terrain, and it can. It is durable enough to survive abusively harsh trails, while protecting your feet from harm.
The shoe’s impressive durability can be attributed to the quality materials used by Merrell, as well as the impact and abrasion resistant toe and heel caps. Ultimately, they protect your shoes when you scuff them on sharp rocks, as I always seem to do once my legs are tired.
On the other hand, the shoes protective qualities come from the aforementioned heel caps, as well as the shoe’s air-cushioned heel and M-Select outsole. The air cushioned heel helps absorb the force of dangerous impacts, while the M-Select anti-slip outsole helps ensure you stay on your feet.
Although we cannot vouch for the Phoenix Bluff’s durability, as it would require months of tests, Merrell’s reputation for quality should give you a fair amount of confidence. On the other hand, the M-Select outsole stuck like chewing gum, while the air cushioned heel made it feel as if we were walking on clouds.
So far the Merrell Phoenix Bluff has shown itself as an effective and functional hiking shoe, performing perfectly as a hiking shoe. Additionally, it shoe includes well thought out details, adding to its practicality.
The lacing configuration and the bellows style tongue combine to prevent your shoelaces from loosening or coming untied. I was especially appreciative of this effective solution, as constantly re-tying shoelaces is a pet hate of mine.
Furthermore, the loop on the heel, as well as the inclusion of two grommet hooks instead of eyelets, makes the mid-rise boot easy to take on and off. This is a welcome addition as mid-rise hiking shoes can be difficult to remove, especially after a long day out on the trails.
In addition to being an effectively functional and innovatively practical hiking shoe, the Phoenix Bluff range possesses stylish versatility. It is not a flashy statement piece, rather remaining understatedly elegant. The shoes look perfectly at home on a trail, with rugged features and natural colours seamlessly blending into the wilderness around you.
And because the Phoenix Bluff range is such a comfortable shoe, you will never want to take them off. Luckily you don’t have to, as the shoes versatile styling is appropriate in almost all circumstances. You can feel comfortable in your Bluffs whether you are exploring the great outdoors, at a casual social gathering, in the office, or on an industrial job site.
Mid-rise VS Low-rise
So Merrell’s Phoenix Bluff range has proved itself to be a capable, practical, and stylishly versatile waterproof hiking shoe. But should go for the lighter low-rise cut, or the more stable mid-rise cut?
There is no straightforward answer to this question, as neither option can be generally considered as better than the other. This is because the choice comes down to your personal demands, needs, and circumstances.
The low-rise option fits like a normal sneaker, rather than a boot, sitting below your ankle. This means a lighter or more maneuverable shoe, but less ankle support.
This cut is suitable for shorter hikes without heavy packs, as ankle support is not as necessary in these circumstances. Furthermore, hikers who enjoy trails requiring serious rock scrambling often prefer this cut, as it makes them feel more nimble.
The mid-rise option fits more like a boot, rather than a sneaker, coming up above your ankle. This means greater stability and ankle support, but also more weight.
This cut is suitable for longer hikes or people with a history of ankle injuries. The greater ankle support provided by the higher cut helps prevent one from rolling your ankle, a common injury when fatigued. Furthermore, increased ankle support helps one carry the weight of a heavy pack.
Unfortunately, this ankle support noticeably increases the weight of the shoe, although I had no issues with the mid-rise cut we tested. Despite the increased weight, it is still a relatively light hiking boot, and didn’t feel as if it was weighing me down.
Ultimately, both of Merrell’s Phoenix Bluff options will provide you with an extremely capable pair hiking and outdoor exploration shoes. They combine weight saving technologies with extreme comfort, ultimate durability, and practicality.
Because of their rugged, but sleek and unassuming style, they are versatile. You can wear your Merrell Phoenix Bluffs to a variety of occasion.
While the low-rise option sits below one’s ankle like a regular sneaker, the mid-rise option comes up past the ankle like a boot. The mid-rise option’s higher cut provides extra ankle support, while the low rise shoe is lighter.
Waterproof hiking shoes, buyers guide