If your search for the best hiking shoe brand has boiled down to Columbia vs Merrell – and you can’t decide which one of these is the best choice for you – you’re in the right place.
In this article, I’ll be taking a detailed look at the most popular hiking shoes designed by these two companies, see how they stack up against each other, and, in that way, help you make the final decision.
Table of Contents
- 1 Columbia – The Background
- 2 Columbia – Popular Hiking Shoes
- 3 Merrell – The Background
- 4 Merrell – Popular Hiking Shoes
- 5 FAQs
- 6 The Verdict
Columbia – The Background
Based in the Pacific Northwest, this well-renowned brand was established just two years after Merrell, in 1983. Unlike its rival, Columbia isn’t so focused on footwear products – the brand also designs and sells outerwear, outerwear accessories, and camping equipment.
Columbia started out as a modest hat-making company and has managed to remain a family-run business all the way to this day. Right now, Columbia is run by the nephew of the company’s founders – Tim Boyle.
This brand has a very wide range of prices – especially when compared to some of its outerwear rivals, such as Arc’Teryx and Patagonia – that make it accessible to pretty much everybody.
To get a Columbia-made product, whether it’s a pair of hiking shoes or a rain jacket, you don’t have to spend an entire paycheck. And while some of their products can cost a lot, I think it’s pretty safe to say that this is a relatively affordable brand and one that often provides very good deals.
Columbia – Popular Hiking Shoes
Columbia Facet 60 Outdry Hiking Shoes
The very first Columbia hiking shoe I’ll be taking a look at is Facet 60 Outdry, a versatile and comfortable model that can be used both on the trail and around town. Well-cushioned and supportive, it’s a shoe that definitely deserves a closer look.
I have no complaints when it comes to comfort. The main culprit behind the plushness of this hiking shoe is its Techlite+ cushioning, which provides wearers with much-needed relief while they’re traversing hardpack dirt and rocks. The model’s laces loosen very easily and slipping these shoes on is effortless.
Although the model feels and looks somewhat wide, the fit that it provides is still very secure. One thing I didn’t like, however, is the size of the toe cap – it is very small and doesn’t provide that much protection. On the other hand, these shoes are very light (a pair of US size 10.5 weighs only 1.78 lbs) and this can make a lot of difference when it comes to long-distance hikes.
Due to its wide base, the model’s sole provides excellent support, while the OmniGrip rubber outsole does a decent job of hugging dry rocks and dirt. The shoes are also waterproof, although the manufacturer advises against using them in excessively wet conditions.
- A well-cushioned pair of hiking shoes
- Supportive & secure fit
- Eye-catching design
- Not the most protective hiking shoes
Columbia Vitesse Outdry Hiking Shoes
Significantly cheaper than the model described above (Facet 60 Outdry), these hiking shoes have a lot to offer for their price – comfort, versatility, as well as above-average breathability. These can turn your summer hike into a truly enjoyable experience.
Columbia advertises Vitesse Outdry as a pair of waterproof, multi-sport sneakers that feature durable, seam-sealed construction. All of this is true, especially the waterproof part – you’ll never have to worry about your feet getting wet while crossing streams in these shoes.
The only thing I didn’t like about this shoe is its fit – Vitesse Outdry runs quite small and feels somewhat narrow. And while this turns it into a great choice for folks with narrow feet, it can be a dealbreaker for a lot of other people. I would recommend buying these shoes in-store only – make sure to try them on first.
One important thing to mention here is that this shoe isn’t made just for trekking, but for speedier movements as well. That is precisely why it sports a breathable construction and comes with a trail-ready non-marking rubber outsole. Running on level terrain in short bursts is an absolute joy with these shoes.
- Very versatile – great for hiking & trail running
- A pair of genuinely waterproof shoes
- Very breathable
- Narrow fit
Columbia Crestwood Hiking Shoes
Next up is yet another highly popular Columbia model – the Crestwood hiking shoe. Featuring a versatile design and sturdy construction, it’s a great choice for all those looking for a lightweight and affordable hiking shoe.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first – these shoes are not the best choice if you’re looking for top-notch water resistance or breathability. They lack ventilation and will allow water to soak your socks, despite the manufacturer’s claims that they’re fully waterproof. After all, one can’t expect too much from a pair of shoes that costs less than $70.
The Crestwood does, however, sport a very sturdy construction – it’s a shoe that can handle a lot of wear and tear. Sporting a combo of webbing, mesh, and leather, it is surprisingly durable and can take quite a beating. Columbia’s signature OmniGrip outsole is here as well, so you won’t have to worry about the quality of traction.
These shoes are also very nimble (only 0.76 pounds) and provide all-day comfort thanks to their TechLite midsoles. After a quick break-in period, the Crestwood gave my feet a very nice hug, particularly around the instep and the heel.
- An inexpensive pair of hiking shoes
- Surprisingly durable construction
- Solid traction & comfort
- Lacks ventilation & water-resistance
Merrell – The Background
Currently owned by Wolverine World Wide, a Michigan-based footwear manufacturer, Merrell was established more than four decades ago – in 1981. It was founded by Randy Merrell, together with his friends John Schweizer and Clark Matis.
The guys combined all the knowledge they had – John and Clark their experience in outdoor adventures and Randy his expertise in making quality footwear – to create the market’s best hiking shoes. Back then, their main focus was to make footwear that’s both affordable and high-performing.
As the years went by, Merrell started designing and manufacturing other products related to outdoor activities, such as clothing and clothing accessories. However, quality footwear is still their No.1 priority – when someone mentions Merrell, most people will immediately think of hiking shoes.
In 2022, Merrell is one of the top brands when it comes to footwear that is both well-made and reasonably priced. For example, their Moab 2 Ventilator hiking shoe is among the best-selling products of this type in the world. If you want to check out other brands like Merrell, read our Salomon vs Merrell comparison and our Keen vs Merrell comparison.
Merrell – Popular Hiking Shoes
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Hiking Shoes
There are a few good reasons behind this shoe’s immense popularity – it’s very breathable (hence the “Ventilator” in its name), it’s relatively affordable, and it provides both above-average traction and out-of-box comfort. All of this turns Moab 2 into a phenomenal choice for those who have just started hiking.
As it sports a roomy toe box, this shoe doesn’t require a long break-in period. What is more, it creates no hot spots or pressure points, which is something that can’t be said for a lot of pricier hiking shoes. Its laces, on the other hand, are very thick, and untying them is quick and easy.
The main selling point of the Moab 2 Ventilator is its breathability. Excellent ventilation is ensured by the presence of a mesh, waterproof membrane-free upper, which turns this shoe into a great option for day hikes in the summertime. One thing I didn’t like, however, is the weight – these shoes weigh more than a lot of hiking boots I’ve had a chance to test out.
Thanks to their Vibram TC5+ outsoles, these shoes also provide above-average traction and easily hug both wet and dry rocks. Once we combine this with breathability and comfort, we get a perfect shoe for light hiking needs.
- Among the most breathable shoes on the market
- Excellent out-of-box comfort
- Above-average traction
- Somewhat bulky
Merrell Moab Flight Hiking Shoes
The next Merrell shoe I’ll be taking a look at is Moab Flight, a very comfortable model that provides hikers with phenomenal stability and breathability. It’s an all-around trail shoe and a great choice for both long-distance trekking and trail running.
This shoe thrives in the desert, as it works the best on firm and dry trails. It feels very cushy and comfortable, with its FloatPro midsole providing wearers with a genuinely lightweight ride. The rubber-made outsole improves the shoe’s grip on wet surfaces and also adds to the overall durability.
The wide platform of Moab Flight provides the much-needed stability for jogging and walking. And, this stability is accompanied by above-average breathability – the shoe has a mesh upper with an elastic mesh lining. This ultra-breathable upper also contributes to the model’s overall low weight.
The only thing I don’t like about Moab Flight is that it’s somewhat loose-fitting. Otherwise, it stands as a pretty good choice for those interested in both hiking and trail-running. The last thing worth mentioning here is that this shoe sports a genuinely appealing design, particularly the “Tangerine” variant.
- Great for both hiking and trail running
- Ultra-breathable mesh upper
- Impressive stability
Merrell Moab Speed Hiking Shoes
Offering durability, excellent traction, as well as low weight, Merrell’s Moab Speed hiking shoes are popular for a good reason. The aforementioned low weight is, in my opinion, the model’s main selling point – if ounces are a top priority, these are the hiking shoes to go for.
Although well-cushioned, this Merrell shoe provides a somewhat sloppy fit. The fit is especially wonky in the mid-foot area. In addition, the interior fabric folds and ripples even when you’re walking on flat ground, which can lead to foot slippage inside the shoe. I would definitely advise against purchasing Moab Speed if your feet are narrow.
Fortunately, the model excels in all other departments. This is one of the lightest hiking shoes in its price category as it’s made out of several very light materials. The traction also deserves words of praise – with its deep lugs, the model’s Vibram EcoStep outsoles do a great job at keeping the wearer stable on all kinds of terrain.
Finally, Merrell Moab Speed is available in waterproof and non-waterproof versions. I tested the variant with the Gore-Tex membrane, and have no complaints when it comes to the overall water resistance. All in all, if you don’t have narrow feet, these hiking shoes are a fantastic choice.
- Excellent durability & water resistance
- Great traction on all kinds of terrain
- Super lightweight
- Sloppy fit
Are Columbia hiking shoes comfortable?
Columbia hiking shoes are comfortable to wear when hiking or trail running. In fact, even people who are not into hiking like wearing Columbia shoes for their comfort. Columbia footwear is some of the best in its class and has overall positive reviews.
Are Merrells good quality?
Although Merrells are a notch or two below the best hiking shoe brands, they are good quality shoes overall. They are designed to be comfortable, supportive, and durable. This is all mostly thanks to Merrell’s Air Cushion technology that places a wide cushioning zone under the heel.
While it designs and manufactures other products as well – such as clothing and clothing accessories – Merrell’s first and foremost priority is still footwear.
That is precisely why this brand’s shoes and boots are almost always a better choice than the footwear made by Columbia. To put it simply, Merrell strives to make its hiking shoes as comfortable and feature-rich as possible, and it shows.
That is not to say that you shouldn’t consider a pair of Columbia-made hiking shoes for purchase, though. For example, their Crestwood shoe offers the kind of comfort, durability, and traction that are often found on much pricier models.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.