It’s Gotta Be the Shoes

Photographer Jim Beckel checks out Ada Magazine in the spring of 2011. Not only is Jim a good friend, I rank him among the best photojournalists I have ever met.
Photographer Jim Beckel checks out Ada Magazine in the spring of 2011. Not only is Jim a good friend, I rank him among the best photojournalists I have ever met.

I’m not normally a product reviewer. Besides thinking that most product reviews are one-sided and ill-researched, and I usually end up disagreeing with them, I believe that for the most part we like the products we like out of a sense of style, and no writer can tell us what style we will like. A good example would be how car reviewers are hard on the “outdated” design of the dashboard on Abby’s Nissan Frontier, which Abby and I think is excellent, and which I believe reviewers criticize simply because it hasn’t changed in a few years. That’s not reviewing. That’s complaining about boredom.

With this in mind, I am writing a review.

Abby and I had dinner with Daily Oklahoman photographer Jim Beckel Sunday to discuss my upcoming hiking trip with Jim. He doesn’t hike or camp in the outdoors as much as I do, particularly in the desert, and he wanted some tips. One thing we discussed was hiking shoes.

“When you say shoes, do you mean boots?” he asked. Good question. And no, I don’t hike in boots, nor does Abby. We both prefer much lighter low-top hiking shoes. Abby has very narrow feet, so she ended up with a pair of New Balance hiking shoes as her favorites. Not only do they fit well, their tread grips like gunmetal magnets. I, on the other hand, have several brands of hiking shoes, since I wear hiking shoes at work nearly every day. I have good ones from L. L. Bean, Lands End, Hi-Tec, Columbia, and so on. I even have some sport sandals from Keen that are excellent for wet crossings.

These are the L. L. Bean hiking shoes I tried to drown in Terlingua Creek in 2007. They survived the attempt, and are still comfortable and tough to this day.
These are the L. L. Bean hiking shoes I tried to drown in Terlingua Creek in 2007. They survived the attempt, and are still comfortable and tough to this day.

But over the years I’ve found a favorite brand, and within that brand, a favorite shoe. They are Merrell’s Moab Ventilators. I have two pairs (which I always recommend for hiking in case one pair gets wet), one tan and one chocolate. Last year I had a good chuckle when, while hiking with Dennis Udink, we discovered that he, too, had the tan and the chocolate Ventilators.

I don’t just like these shoes because they bear the name of the city where I got married and love to vacation (Moab, Utah); they are actually really great shoes. They are light and comfortable, and provide good traction on slickrock. They never hurt my feet, and my feet don’t feel tired after hiking all day in them, winter or summer. They look great, too. (For a hiking shoe to look great in the 21st century, it essentially has to avoid looking stupid, which a lot of them do.) If I had a criticism of the shoe, it would be that they tend to run a little snug for their size, so I would recommend a long try-on session before buying.

Looking at this shoe on Zappos.com as I write this, I find that it costs $90, making it a fairly affordable hiking shoe. I also see that the colors now available are granite, earth, beluga, walnut, and black.

These are my Merrill Moab Ventilators, an excellent lightweight hiking shoe.
These are my Merrill Moab Ventilators, an excellent lightweight hiking shoe.
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4 Comments

  1. Someone needs to inform Wikipedia that beluga is now a color. ;-)

    “it costs $90, making it a fairly affordable hiking shoe”

    My review probably would have focused on the high price, since I’m a cheap bastard. I’ve never, ever paid more than $80 for a pair of shoes, and that was in the late ’90s for Reebok high tops.

    As for your review of reviews (first paragraph), I must solidly agree. A product review can certainly mention style, but should never focus on it. Long practice has taught me to read around the fluff and find the actual, practical nuggets in there.

    For the few product reviews I’ve done, I try to list relevant facts.

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