The Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch Hiking shoe is the newest version of a longstanding Chameleon design. This stretch style is slightly different than previous versions and it appears to be taking over the now retired Capra Rapid style, for lighter trail hiking shoe. This Stretch style brings you a sturdiness to the Chameleon lineup but other than that I don’t know if I can quite adapt to the Chameleon as lightweight hiking shoe.
I purchased the Merrell Chameleon 7 Stretch hiking shoe in January 2019 as a replacement to my ailing Capra Rapid shoes. Even though I had been wearing my Merrell Capra Rapid trail running shoes for less than a year they begun falling apart from my extended wear and tear on them and I wanted something new for my upcoming travel adventures.
Keeping to the same motto of functionality as the Capra Rapid 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 lightweight hiking shoe also comes with a quick draw elastic cord system to tighten and an uncomfortable hard 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, compared to my previous Capra Rapid shoes.
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 has great for easy hiking days but I was looking for something to replace my Capra Rapid as a trail running shoe.
Since it was full on winter at home, I turned on the treadmill to give these babies a whirl, and that’s when I ran into hesitation about liking these shoes.
First off the quick draw elastic 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, or trip over how much excess cord there was from trying to tighten them.
Loosening the elastic clinch is also a small bother. There is this little nob on the bottom that locks down, which you have to slide up to release.
After a few minutes of jogging the molded back support piece rubbed my heels raw. 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 my ankle to move 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 light hiking, not running. The elastic drawcord provided enough clinch for walking, keeping these hiking 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 on an all day winter hike but for the hour or so I was wandering around each time my feet were never cold.
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, breathable and the quick-dry feature is nice for wetter trails.
2020 update: Over the past year having these hiking shoes I’ve worn them on a few day trails at home, took them on my adventure to Bali but in the end I mostly find myself using them as a quick pair of slip on shoes when the weather is bad, rain and snow, if I am heading to the shop or store.
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