Review: Merrell ChoprockGear
ITEM: Merrell Choprock Trail Shoes
STYLE: Water-compatible hiking shoes
ACTIVITY: Hiking, trekking, water sports
WHAT THEY SAY: For days spent on trails around water, this capable hiker is packed with considered materials that dry out fast, grip on slick terrain, and protect your feet from debris.
The plan was simple: journey from the source of the Lake District’s River Derwent to the sea. By any means. There were three days to do it. We had paddleboards, tents and walking poles. It sounded fun, but there were going to be challenges, and packing was one of them. We were going to get wet, perhaps very wet. And staring at the packing list, the subtle differences of clothing became starkly apparent. Materials used in walking gear are different than those used for paddling, sometimes subtly, but for a reason. Styles change too; the length of a jacket, the cut of a pair of trousers. It adds to the backapck significantly. Shoes are often the biggest faff. Taking water shoes and a pair of hikers is bulky and heavy. And while there have been efforts over the years to mitigate the need for both – sandals that you can walk distances in, shoes that let water wash in and out – few have really managed to be 100% suitable for paddling or 100% comfortable as you walk on. Merrell’s designers have plunged into this problem and emerged with the Choprock. It seemed a perfect solution to the problem with our trip. But was it?
Immediately, the Choprock look like a pair of Merrell walking shoes. Fully covered, laced up, toe protection. But on a second glance, the details shift into focus. There are holes in the soles – Hydramorph™ midsole channels and ports to be exact – that let the water out and air in. The upper has a synthetic mesh and webbing, again to let water out effectively. The last thing you need is a pool of water in the bottom of your shoes.
Styhead Tarn was the first camp, near the source of the River Derwent, from here the team walked into the Jaws of Borrowdale. The water seemed to be coming from all directions. A common issue with water shoes and hybrids is that once water gets in between the bottom of your foot and the shoe, the foot begins to slide around, and you feel a bit shaky, especially when you’re lugging paddleboards or heavy backpacks, but our testers, Cat Sutherland and Alex Jones didn’t experience this. Careful footing was required dotting down the steep path flowing with water. Here, the grip shone through, with 5mm deep lugs (easily enough for trails), on the Vibram Megagrip. These would be fine for a splashy trail run for example.
After a warming coffee, it was onto the paddleboard, plunging straight into the frigid waters. Storms loomed, and any hope of minimising a soaking on the board was forgotten. Cat Sutherland wrote: ‘Side winds gave the white-capped waves reason to overturn us, and our only waterborne companion was a ferry sending its threatening wake towards us. The nose of my board wallowed under its turbulence, but our Merrell Choprock’s came into their own for this water-based section of the journey.’
It was here that the other features of the shoe lit up. The webbing loops hold the foot in securely, and another essential component is the moulded heel, again adding up to the secure feeling in the shoe. The spongy EVA insole is removable, but can happily be used in the water. The subtle nuances of the EVA midsole add to the stability, whether on a paddleboard or carrying packs, and the ‘toe bumper’ protects what it says it should. And soon, like all good gear, the shoes were not thought of again but trod from rock to shoreline, path to lake.
As the journey continued, the team developed a rhythm of sorts, paddling, walking, sheltering from the storms, paddling again, and eventually coming out on the vast expanse of the Irish Sea. It was a simple plan, well-executed, and an essential part of that is the gear. And it just worked.