Merrell Nova 2

Cushion is king

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BACKPACKER Gear 360 Review

With this light hiking shoe, cushion is king. The Nova 2 has a chunky-yet-springy EVA midsole (29.5 millimeters thick at the heel, 21.5 at the toe) that had us feeling like we were walking on carpet during hikes around Colorado’s Front Range. “The padding kept my feet fresh even on long dayhikes,” one tester says. He also noted that the Nova 2 felt stable as he carried a 15-pound pack on approaches to climbs in Staunton State Park, and that the midsole and mesh upper are best-suited for loads under 25 pounds. Even at the minimalist weight of just over a pound per pair, the Nova 2 still contains a rock plate that protects against bruising underfoot. The breathable mesh upper disperses heat quickly (it’s not waterproof, but is available in a Gore-Tex version for $140). A soft Vibram outsole with multidirectional, 5-millimeter-deep lugs never slipped in loose dirt and moderately steep, dry rock; however, we did notice some deterioration on the outside-most lugs. Just avoid gnarly terrain and stick to what this shoe is made for—all-day striding on trails—and it’s a comfortable, breathable option for big and small dayhikes. Note: The Nova 2 is men’s-only; the women’s equivalent is the Antora 2.

Consumer Reviews from Around the Web

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Chris Cullaz
The first thing I noticed about the shoe while pulling it out of the box was how light it is. Slipping it on, the shoe felt true to size, but I felt that the toe box was a bit on the wider side. On my first run out the door the shoe felt comfortable, with enough cushioning to make pavement running to the trailhead fine, and the traction on trail (which was a mix of shale and clay) was adequate. I did notice the heel cup didn’t feel as snug as I would prefer, so it made me much more cautious on sidehilling terrain. The temps climb quite quickly here in southwest Colorado, and the breathability of the Nova 2 was much appreciated. In some soggy conditions I was less than impressed with the Vibram sole on wet rock. Overall I think the shoes are quite comfortable straight out of the box, no breaking in needed, built for dayhiking and some light trail running. Backpacker

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