The Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch Hiking shoe is the newest version of a longstanding design. This stretch style is slightly different than previous versions and it gained precedent over the older Capra Rapid style, for lighter trail hiking. This replacement brings you a sturdiness to the style but other than that I don’t know if I can quite adapt to the chameleon.
I got a pair of the Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch shoes at the beginning of January 2019 as a replacement to my ailing Capra Rapid shoes. Even though I had been wearing my Capra hiking shoes for less than a year they begun falling apart. Keeping to the same motto of functionality as the Capra the Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch provides a breathable mesh upper mixed with neoprene and a removable sole insert. Hosting a tongue free slip on style for easy on and off the Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch also comes with a quick draw elastic cord system to tighten and a molded heel for stability.
As soon as I took my new Merrell hiking shoes out of the box I immediately noticed the extra heft and sturdiness to the shoe, compared to my Capra Rapid. My first thought was that the Chameleon 7 Stretch is more akin to a low cut hiking boot than a trail running shoe. This extra stability will be great for hiking but they were supposed to replace my old trail running shoe which now kind of leaves me without.
I immediately turned on the treadmill and gave these babies a whirl, and ran into hesitation about liking these shoes. First off the quick draw elastic shoe string system is kind of a pain. It’s difficult to actually tighten these shoes down properly for running, I felt like I was going to break the elastic cord when doing so. Loosening the elastic clinch is another bother, especially when your hands are sweaty from running. It has this little nob on the bottom that locks down which you have to slide up to release. The next issue I encountered was after a few minutes the molded back support piece rubbed something fierce on my heels. The back of the Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch has this hardened rubber bar going across the heel to provide stability and support. I found it blocked the movement needed for me to run freely.
Over the next week I took my Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch hiking shoes out for a spin in the cold weather and they did surprisingly well. These shoes are definitely geared for walking and hiking not running. The elastic drawcord provided enough clinch for my walks, keeping the boots on tight and I only had a slight rub from the back on one of my heels. For being constructed out of neoprene the Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch actually kept my feet feeling warm in the below freezing temperatures. They would not last for an all day winter hike but for the hour or so I was wandering around each time my feet never got cold.
Final Thoughts on the Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch Hiking Shoe
The extra support and heft will make the Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch shoes great for day hiking, or trail walking, not for running. They are lighter than a traditional hiking boot, are breathable and the quick-dry feature will be nice for wetter treks.