We tested Merrell’s minimalist Trail Glove in 2011 and what impressed with that zero rise* barefoot shoe, apart from the seriously tasty proprioception**, was how generous space in the toe area was. Merrell have hit the sweet spot again with even more space in the Mix Master 2’s toebox, coupled with a sturdy hard toe protector. If you’re prone to kicking your tootsies against rocks, as especially newcomers to trail are, the Mix Master comes highly recommended. Kicked toenails often turn red, then purple, then black and then they drop off. Best to avoid getting them if you can. When you wear a trail shoe with a proper toe protector, your toes get a physical barrier from the outside world through the thickened material in that area. The extra space (assuming you’ve sized your shoes properly) lets your toes decelerate before they hit the wall of the toebox. The Mix Master 2 has one of the best protected yet lightweight toe boxes we’ve tested out of more than 30 over the past five years. And that protection comes without being overly bulky elsewhere. In fact, this shoe is one of this tester’s top five choices for an affordable no-nonsense shoe.
It is ideal as a second shoe for trail runners intent on weaning themselves into barefoot shoes without feeling radically different to their current pair. It’s not quite a zero-rise shoe yet but its 4mm heel-to-toe drop is half the 8mm drop that is the average in the market currently. Another major benefit is that with a second or third pair of shoes, you can alternate them to make each pair last longer. The MM does incorporate Aegis Microbe Shield to prevent odours, but resting a shoe on alternate days also gives the microscopic cells in the midsole time to expand to their normal shape, so the sole doesn’t harden as fast with time.
Pros: Exceptional value for ride feel relative to competitors. One of the best transition-to-barefoot trail shoes we know.
Cons: Cheap-feel shoelaces. Bland and basic colour scheme. They don’t have the bling of many of the other trail brands.
Weight: 282g (UK 11.5)
*Difference in millimetres between the heel thickness and midfoot height.
**Feel for the ground