Last December I wrote a first impression review of the Merrell Mix Master trail shoe. My thoughts on the shoe at the time were positive, but shortly after I wrote it the Mix Master started to disappear from on-line shoe stores. I was a bit puzzled, but soon found out that there had been a material issue with the upper – it was tearing frequently and causing a lot of returns. Rather than continuing to sell a lemon, Merrell did the right thing and pulled the shoe from the market, and set on redesigning the upper to improve durability.
The Mix Master 2 came out this summer (disclosure: the pair reviewed here was a media sample provided free of charge by Merrell), and aside from the new upper material it’s pretty much the same shoe I reviewed last December. As such, I’ll try to be brief since most of what I wrote in the previous review applies to this shoe as well.
First and foremost, Merrell has succeeded in fixing the upper issue with the original Mix Master. I’ve run over 40 miles on the Mix Master 2’s and have had no durability issues. In fact, the MM2 has come to be my favorite lightweight trail shoe for the reasons I’ll outline below.
My favorite thing about the Mix Master 2 is the fit – like the Merrell Barefoot shoes it feels as if it was made specifically for my foot shape. The heel and midfoot are snug but not constricting, and the forefoot is plenty roomy for me. I get no hotspots from this shoe, even when sockless, which is a big plus. A big improvement over the Merrell Barefoot shoes is that the ankle collar in the Mix Master is cushioned, so it does not dig into the skin over my Achilles. The upper drains very well – it did not get waterlogged the one time I ran through a stream in it.
The sole of the Mix Master is well-cushioned but firm – this is not a springy shoe. Stack heights reported on Running Warehouse are 16mm heel, 12mm forefoot (weight comes in at under 10oz), so it’s a reasonably close-to-the-ground ride. Despite have a full-length, lugged rubber outsole and a rock plate, it’s a pretty flexible shoe. The lugs provide reasonable traction (no slippage as I have experience in the Brooks Grit), but the thin sole will allow you to feel rocks underfoot (though the presence of the rock plate means no sharp pain or serious bruising as experienced in a shoe like the NB Minimus Trail).
I’ve used the Mix Master over quite a variety of terrain, from rooty trails, to roads, to gravel road, to a rugged section of the VT100 race course, and it has handled all very well. It’s a solid hybrid shoe that can handle both roads and most trail conditions very well (maybe not so great for mud with the low lugs, but haven’t tried it for that).
I can honestly say that as I plan to run a few trail ultras next year (looking for a new challenge!), the Mix Master 2 would be the early frontrunner to be the shoe on my feet. I’ve enjoyed every mile that I’ve put on them so far, and give them my highest recommendation! In fact, my wife was recently in need of a trail shoe, and given all of the options out there, I bought her a pair of the women’s Mix Master Glide – she’s a tough critic, but so far she seems to be enjoying them (and I haven’t been yelled at about the shoe choice!).
For more additional commentary, I’ll refer you back to my original Mix Master review since it mostly applies, and also check out my hard-core trail running buddy Nate Sanel’s review of the Mix Master 2.
The Merrell Mix Master 2 can be purchased at Running Warehouse.