Innovative lightweight boots

The latest model in Merrell’s well-established Chameleon range is said to be their most technical yet.  The Chameleon 7 Mid is a low-cut boot with a rather striking appearance. The upper is made from suede and mesh. There’s a sewn-in tongue and a hard rubber toecap and a solid moulded TPU (thermoplastic polypropylene) heel counter. Lacing is by four sets of webbing loops, one set of metal rings linked to the heel counter with a long strip of hard TPU, and one set of metal hooks. Inside the boot is a Gore-Tex membrane and a soft breathable mesh lining.

The sole unit is quite unusual. Rather than a one-piece rubber outsole there are rubber Vibram pods with 3mm deep lugs placed in strips on a piece of solid plastic called a FlexPlate. Merrell says the pods are placed only where needed and that this construction reduces the weight by 25%. Above the FlexPlate there’s an EVA midsole for shock absorption with Merrell’s Air Cushion built into the heel. Inside there are the usual removable footbeds.

The 9.5 size pair sent for test weigh 1090 grams, making these boots quite light. I usually take a size 9 but these fitted me fine. I generally find Merrell hiking boots a little too narrow but the Chameleon 7s are quite wide at the forefoot whilst fitting snugly round the heel. Once laced up they hugged my feet and I’ve had no problems with heel lift. They flex easily at the forefoot but are quite stiff side to side.

In use I’ve found these boots supportive, comfortable and quite warm. They feel more like a trail shoe than a boot, which I like. I’ve used them on mud, snow, wet grass, wet rocks and stony ground and the sole has gripped well. The rubber pods feel quite hard and hopefully will last well as 3mm isn’t very deep for the tread. On stony ground I couldn’t feel any sharp stones pushing against my feet, an advantage of the hard FlexPlate. Being stiff from side to side means the boots don’t twist or distort when traversing steep terrain.
The Gore-Tex lining makes these boots waterproof but also warm – I think I’d find them too hot in summer. I wore them in deep snow one day and my feet stayed warm. They gripped well on hard snow too and I did kick a few steps. I also wore them with snowshoes for several hours. This was really pushing them as they aren’t designed for winter. However on rolling hills and moorland I think they’re fine in the snow.
Overall these are good lightweight hillwalking and backpacking boots.