Merrell Pulsate 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoes Review

Merrell men’s pulsate hiking shoe

The Merrell Pulsate is a range of specialty day-hiking shoes, perfect for your next outdoor adventure. This extreme, no-compromise outdoor footgear emphasizes lightweight performance, durability, and practicality. Ultimately, this leaves you with a prime example of Merrell’s famous go-anywhere attitude.

Within the Merrell Pulsate range, you have the option between a waterproof or ventilator fabric. The waterproof upper fabric will keep your feet dry in wet conditions, while the ventilator upper fabric will keep your feet cool in hot conditions.

The Pulsate Range is the ultimate lightweight hiking shoe that can take you anywhere. It combines cutting-edge footgear technology with Merrell quality, to produce the perfect day-hiking shoe.

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Merrell Pulsate Review

Details of our review

We received two pairs of Merrell Pulsates – one waterproof and one ventilator– just before a trip to my favourite hiking area, the Wild Coast. The wild coast is on the East Coast of South Africa between Durban and Cape Town.

Mainly populated by traditional African farm settlements, hikers are welcomed with smiles and open spaces. Furthermore, with tall vertical cliffs and rolling grass hills dropping dramatically into the ocean below, the area is spectacularly beautiful.

We set off from Cape Town for Dingezwene Backpackers Village in Mbotyi. Although the 17-hour drive may seem excessive for a weeklong hiking trip, having been there before, we knew the trails were worth it.

From Dingezwene Backpackers, we set off on daily hikes, traveling between 15 km and 43 km a day. This gave me the perfect opportunity to test the Pulsates. Watch the stunningly beautiful video below for a better idea of the terrain we were lucky enough to explore.

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Ultimate comfort

The first thing to consider when looking at a pair of hiking shoes is comfort. Do not even consider a pair that feels a little tight or slightly loose. The Merrell Pulsate range is known as a fantastically comfortable hiking shoe, helping your feet stay perfectly comfortable and blister free on the toughest trails.

The upper is constructed from a combination of nubuck and suede leather. This lightweight fabric promotes ventilation, which along with the shoes low cut, allows your feet to breathe. Furthermore, the footbeds receive an M Select Fresh odor control treatment, giving them antibacterial properties.

Ultimately this helps control the temperature of your feet in hot conditions, preventing damp and sweaty feet. On our trip, the Merrell Pulsate performed valiantly in this regard. Even on some of the hotter days, in the baking African sun, they managed to keep my feet cool and dry. We cannot overestimate the importance of this, as damp feet are susceptible to blisters.

A bellows-style tongue provides debris resistant capabilities, ultimately preventing small sticks and stones from entering your footwear. Because of our mutual hatred of having to stop a hike to empty your shoe, this is a much-loved feature. Furthermore, it worked extremely well, preventing even a single annoying stone form entering one of the Merrell Pulsates during our adventures.

Furthermore, neither pair of Merrell Pulsates required a wear-in period. Although we meant to wear the shoes around the office before the trip up the East Coast, shipping issues meant that we only received them the day before we were due to depart. Although I was worried that this would mean blisters, that was not the case, with the shoes being comfortable from the outset.

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Although the engineers over at Merrell spent a great deal of time creating a comfortable shoe, comfort was not the only Pulsate’s only selling point. It is also a lightweight piece of equipment, mainly owing to its upper and sole.

The upper is created with a lightweight ventilator fabric, made from a combination of nubuck and suede leather, while the sole consists of Merrell’s M-Select Grip – a lightweight synthetic rubber replacement.

In the end, the Merrell Pulsate weighs in at just 879g (1lb 15oz). A lightweight shoe such as this will help long-distance hikers who are required to lift its weight many thousands of times per day. We felt the benefits of Merrell’s weight-saving technology, especially traversing the Wild Coast’s steep coastal cliff trails.

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Can handle even the toughest terrain

Specialty hiking shoes such as the Merrell Pulsate are designed to take on the most demanding trails. They must stay intact, protect your feet, and perform in a manner that helps you complete the trail.

The sole of the shoe is made from Merrell’s M-Select anti-slip material. This extra sticky synthetic rubber replacement forms deep 5mm lugs, providing ultimate grip. Even on the looser coastal trails, we generally felt assured with our feet firmly anchored to the ground.

Beside grip, further protective qualities come from the shoe’s anti-abrasion toe caps, air cushioned heel, and nylon arch shanks. The toe caps and air cushioned heel work together to absorbs heavy impact, while the nylon arch shanks provide extra stability to protect your ankles.   

Although our weeklong trip was not a sufficient durability test, Merrell’s reputation as a manufacturer of quality, long lasting footwear should inspire a fair amount of confidence. Furthermore, the sole and toe, traditionally quick-wearing areas, have been reinforced. While the toe is covered by an anti-abrasion toe bumper, the sole is made from Merrell’s long-lasting M-Select rubber replacement.

As someone who consistently scuffs the front of their hiking shoes when my legs get tired, I always opt for footgear with a reinforced toe area. It allows me to focus on completing the more difficult hikes, rather than protecting my footwear.

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Stylish Ruggedness

The Merrell Pulsate looks great on the trail. This stylish specialty hiking shoe will provide that special feeling the first few times you put them to the test, leaving you with an extra spring in your step. With natural earthy colors as well as a rugged but elegant design, it looks like a proper hiking shoe.

The Pulsate range comes in 3 natural colours: black, bracken, and espresso. The black is…  well black, while the bracken is a brown shoe with orange accents and the espresso is a brown with green accents.

Unfortunately, as a specialty hiking shoe, the Pulsate is not as stylishly versatile as some of Merrell’s other option. It looks perfectly at home in many outdoor scenarios, but will not be appropriate in more formal settings. If you are looking for a shoe you can wear on the trail and to the office look towards the Merrell Phoenix Bluff.  

Although not as capable on the trail, the Phoenix Bluffs are more versatile. They are perfect for an outdoor exploration, a casual social gathering, a day in the office, or a visit to an industrial job site.

Price – Merrell Phoenix Bluff Low-Rise      Price – Merrell Pulsate 

Merrell Pulsate Waterproof

If you Plan on hiking in wet weather, you will want to consider the Merrell Pulsate range’s Waterproof option. This option uses Merrell’s M Select Dry Waterproof membrane to protect your feet from getting wet.

Although this clever waterproof technology will prevent wet grass and puddles from wetting your feet, their protection will prove insufficient if your feet are completely submerged. You may need gumboots if you plan on keeping your feet dry through raging rivers.

Besides being squishy and uncomfortable, wet feet become soft, making them more susceptible to debilitating blisters. It is, therefore, extremely important to try to keep your feet dry.

Although a lack of dewy grass or puddles meant mostly dry trails, our trip did require us to cross many small estuaries and creeks. During these crossings, the Pulsates performed as expected, with the waterproof option’s M Select Dry membrane effectively keeping out moisture.

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Merrell Pulsate Ventilator

On the other hand, if you hike in hot and dry weather, you will want to consider the Merrell Pulsate range’s Ventilator option. This option was focused on in the main review. It uses a lightweight combination of nubuck and suede leather to maximize breathability.

Increases breathability helps your feet regulate their temperature, ultimately keeping your feet cool in hotter conditions. This is extremely important as inappropriately warm hiking footwear will result in damp, sweaty feet.

As mentioned above, damp feet are susceptible to debilitating blisters, making it extremely important to keep your feet cool and free from sweat. In our experience, the Ventilator effectively kept our feel at a comfortable temperature in humid 26°C/78°F conditions. On the other hand, the Waterproof Pulsates was noticeably hotter and proved themselves relatively uncomfortable on the hottest days.

You don’t a more quintessential wild coast image than this. Taken on the hottest day of our wild coast test by @danielcronwright.

Merrell Pulsate Mid

This previously offered option was part of the pulsate range before it was discontinued. Merrell Pulsate Mid was identical to the currently available Pulsates in every way but its cut. Whereas the current Merrell Pulsates sit below your ankle like a regular sneaker, the Pulsate mid would come up past one’s ankle like a boot.

Although this option was both hotter and heavier, it provided extra ankle support. This made it ideal for multi-day hikes or people with weak ankles. If such an option suits your needs, take a look at Merrel’s Phoenix Bluff range, it includes a low-cut and mid-cut.

In Summary

The Merrell Pulsate range are specialty day-hiking shoes. They maximize comfort and performance in the harshest conditions to helping you glide over toughest and loosest goat trails. If lightweight performance and durability are what you are after, look no further than a Merrell Pulsate.

The range is suitable for a variety of weather conditions with the Merrell Pulsate Waterproof option perfect for wet weather, and the Merrell Pulsate Ventilator suitable for hotter conditions. No matter what mother nature throws at you, the Pulsate range has got you covered.

However, if you are looking for a more versatile shoe you could wear to formal events, or require a higher cut boot that provides extra ankle support, you may want to look at Merrell’s Phoenix Bluff range.

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9.1 Total Score

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