Review: Merrell MQM FlexGear
Fast and Light Through The Mountains
Written by Jenny Tough // Photography: Kelvin Trautman
I’m frozen to the core – teeth chattering, lips blue. My clothes are wet and it’s too cold outside for them to dry. I pull my gloves on and grip my trekking poles tightly to stimulate blood flow to my fingers. Part of me wishes we could have stayed all day in the warm café at Drumnadrochit where I had tried to warm up over two coffees, but I know that there’s only one thing for it: I need to get running.
The wooden sign points towards the High Route, which takes on a literal meaning as the path rises like a wall in front of us. I’m grateful for the steep climb. It’s my only hope for warming up.
The trail is a mix of packed dirt, rocky steps, and fresh mud, and my MQM Flex light hikers come into their own here: a hybrid between a trail shoe and a responsive runner, with gentle lugs that grip the loose terrain perfectly, but allow enough motion for my feet to run with full freedom of movement. They naturally connect to and respond to the trail. I smile and run harder, warmth returning to my toes as they flex and bound over puddles and rocks. On each footstrike I can feel the rush of blood and my core temperature rising. The shoes are incredibly light for a trail shoe, and my Day Three legs are grateful. My feet are light as air, even if my thighs are closer to concrete.
We ascend above the trees and the High Route levels out, the trail forming an undulating ribbon in front of us, with views of Loch Ness below and to our right, snowy peaks to our left. A smaller, rocky peak stands between us and the loch. We agree to leave the trail and explore the view.
Off trail, the glen is a mix of bog and boulder, and my shoes alternate between sinking ankle-deep into sucking mud or grabbing onto slippery bits of rock. We forge our own path to the summit, crawling with our hands and pumping with our legs, our MQMs tackling the variety of terrain we are throwing at them.
When we crest the rocky spine, we are heartily rewarded with a view to die for, lochs and Munros in all directions – a special treat in the Highlands. We add rocks to a small cairn, pointlessly marking our pointless accomplishment.
Our objective on the Great Glen Challenge is to move fast and light, covering nearly 200km in four days, and the MQM Flex Trainer is the perfect choice for this style of adventure. The grippy sole, Gore-Tex invisible fit (where the Gore-Tex is woven into the panels of the hiker to improve breathability), and light total weight – combined with flexibility and responsiveness to suit a faster pace – on a remarkably simple shoe mean that we have one less thing to worry about. Even at this stage, well over halfway there, my feet are comfortable, even if no other part of my body is.