The Ultimate Hiking Shoe Showdown: Merrell vs Salomon

If you’ve ever gone to a shoe store for a pair of hiking shoes, you’ve probably looked at both Merrells and Salomons and thought: wait, aren’t these the same shoes? Aside from a few aesthetic features (and the logo), they do look a lot alike. That’s why in this article we’ll explore the differences between these two titans of trail shoes.

Trail Shoe Showdown: Merrell vs Salomon

Merrell the Brand

As the story goes, before the Michigan-based Merrell became a hiking shoe giant, there was a custom boot maker named Randy Merrell. Back in the 1970s, the avid outdoorsman and hiker saw an opportunity when he realized that most hiking boots at the time were just mountaineering boots. Shortly thereafter, his idea of a lightweight hiking boot gained traction.

Then, circa 1981, Merrell was approached by two executives from a French ski gear company who wanted to mass produce his design, so he agreed and Merrell hiking boots were born. Although Merrell left the company that bears his name (he still makes boots, by the way) and it’s gone through multiple owners, today, it’s one of the biggest brands in outdoor footwear and apparel.

Merrell Shoes

Some of the most popular Merrell hiking shoes and hiking boots include the Merrell Moab and the Merrell Nova series, and for trail running shoes, there’s the Merrell Speed series and an assortment of trail gloves.

While there are shoes, boots, and trail runners, they all seem to have the same aesthetics. For instance, most of them are designed with a breathable mesh upper that’s wrapped in a soft leather outer layer (or Gore-Tex) and equipped with a Vibram outsole. Merrells also tend to use a traditional single shoelace lacing system. And most models are priced somewhere between $100 and $200.

Additionally, Merrell says that its shoes come in either medium or wide sizes, and they fit true to size, which means they should adequately fit your foot as measured. The company also makes half sizes up to 12.5 and whole sizes up to 16. 

Salomon the Brand

The French-owned Salomon, which means Solomon in French, is a global sporting goods company. Back in 1947, it started as a ski gear company but evolved over the decades into making a variety of high-performance gear, including ice skates, skis, and ski boots. 

In the spring of 1992, the company launched its first line of lightweight hiking boots dubbed the “Adventure range” with much success and then 10 years later, released the XA Pro trail running shoe, which was called a “technical benchmark for multi-sport raids.” As the years passed, Salomon’s product line expanded to include trail runners for long-distance running and more. 

Salomon Shoes

Some of the most popular Salomon hiking shoes and hiking boots include the Salomon X Ultra, the Salomon Quest, and the XA Pro series, and for trail running, there’s the Salomon Cross series, which includes models like the Speedcross and Thundercross

Like Merrell shoes, Salomon boots and shoes are often equipped with a breathable mesh upper and a durable cover (or Gore-Tex). They mostly use a single pull lace, which the company calls a quick lacing system. Additionally, they often fall in a similar price range as Merrell hiking shoes, ranging from $100 to $200.

Salomon says a handful of its hiking footwear — the X Ultra, XA Pro, Speedcross, Cross, Aero, and Ultra 2 Glide — come in wide sizes. While some reviewers say that Salomon shoes fit true to size, the company doesn’t make that claim. For men’s shoes, Salomons come in half sizes ranging from 7 to 12 and then whole sizes from 13 to 14. 

Hiking Shoes & Hiking Boots: Merrell Moab 3 vs Salomon X Ultra 4

For the Merrell vs Salomon match-up, we decided to pit the Merrell Moab series against the Salomon X Ultra series of trail shoes. The reason is they are the broadest and most popular series of trail shoes both companies have to offer. They’re both offered as hiking shoes and hiking boots (see the differences here) as well as waterproof hiking boots and trail running shoes.

In researching this topic, we compared the series by looking at feature and specification options and we took a deep dive into user reviews for multiple variants posted on websites like Amazon and REI as well as independent review sites.

Here’s what we found.

Merrell Moab

The Merrell Moab is Merrell’s flagship design. While it was named after the rugged and popular outdoor adventure area, the Moab Desert, the name is also an acronym meaning the Mother Of All Boots.

Today, the Moab is available as a hiking shoe, hiking boot, and even as a trail runner. At nearly 20 years old, the company says it’s still its most popular multi-sport design.

The latest iteration of the Moab hiking boot and shoe, the Merrell Moab 3, was released in 2022. Compared to the Moab 2, its construction uses more recycled material, a newer Vibram outsole (the Vibram TC5+) for better and some say excellent traction, and features enhanced arch support and more cushioning.

According to Merrell’s website, the Moab hikers are available in 36 different models, which vary in gender, color, materials, width, and intended use. A majority of them are designed for moderate or rugged trails while about half of them are meant for snowy or cold conditions.

Most of them are labeled “waterproof” although there’s some dispute about that in the reviews and only eight of them use Gore-Tex materials. The ones that have a non-waterproof construction are lightweight models or are also classified as trail runners.

Out of hundreds of reviews on Amazon and REI, users rate the Merrell Moab 3 well above average. Most variants rate higher than four stars. MSRP ranges from $110 to $170 depending on the design (the hiking boots cost more).

Additionally, in a variety of independent reviews, some say the Merrell Moab 3 is a budget option (although we don’t consider spending $100+ on shoes inexpensive), so we’d rather say it’s a great value option because they’ll last you a long time.

Merrell Moab 3

Salomon X Ultra

Like the Merrell Moab, the Salomon X Ultra is available as a hiking shoe, a hiking boot, and a trail running shoe.

The newest iteration, the Salomon X Ultra 4, was released in 2021 with a major redesign. While reviewers say the X Ultra 4 is more lightweight and more agile than its predecessor, they also say it’s less supportive in the sole.

The X Ultra 4 was originally released in three different models, including a hiking shoe, a Gore-Tex hiking shoe, and a Gore-Tex hiking boot. Today, according to Salomon’s website, the X Ultra 4 is available in about 30 different models, which all vary in design, color, gender, and waterproofness.

Almost all of them are equipped with Salomon’s quick-lacing system, and some of them feature the ClimaSalomon, which is supposed to be a waterproof membrane with moisture-wicking qualities that doesn’t add rigidity to the shoe.

Additionally, the Salomon X Ultra 4 can be paired with an assortment of other Salomon Ultra gear, such as socks and hydration vests.

Out of thousands of reviews, the Salomon X Ultra 4 has maintained ratings well above four stars on sites like Amazon and REI. Almost every aspect of the shoe is appreciated, including comfort, fit, quality, waterproofness, and appearance.

Multiple independent reviewers rank the Salomon X Ultra 4 as their best overall and above the Merrell Moab 3. However, MSRP runs a bit higher as it ranges from around $110 to nearly $200 for feature-rich variants.

Salomon X Ultra 4

The Verdict for the Best Hiking Shoes

Image by Salomon

This might be one of the hardest verdicts I’ve ever had to make in my entire professional life. If we based the decision on quantitative data, we’d have to go with Merrells.

Using aggregate metrics provided by Google, the Merrell Moab 3 rates higher than the Salomon X Ultra 4 with 4.5 stars to 4.1 stars. People say they found the trail shoe more comfortable, supportive, weather resistant, and a lot more durable.

However, there’s a bit of an imbalance in the reviews since the Merrell’s have some 6,000 reviews compared to Salomon’s 2,000 reviews. Plus, there are way more positive reviews to cancel out the negative reviews.

While you can’t really go wrong with either shoe, I think it’s fair to say that the Merrell Moab 4 will be a better option if you want a dedicated hiking shoe and the Salomon X Ultra 4 will be a better choice if you’re looking for speed performance.

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