The Rundown

Surface:
Trail
Stack Height:
High

With its release of the new Antora, Merrell added a sturdy, women-specific trail shoe to its vast line of off-road footwear. The Antora’s stability features and durable outsole make it a great pick for runners seeking protection from rough ground surfaces, while the upper retains the accommodating toe box and comfortable, foot-hugging shape Merrell is known for.

Merrell Antora
photo: Christine DiGangi

The Specs

Weight
8 oz. (W)
Offset
8 mm
Stack Heights
34 mm heel/26 mm forefoot
Midsole
Multi-density EVA foam with forefoot rock plate
Outsole
Full-coverage Vibram®TC5+ rubber with 5mm lugs
Upper
TPU overlays bonded to an abrasion-resistant knit mesh
Price
$110
muddy trail shoes Merrell Antora
photo: Christine DiGangi

100 Miles In: The Review

As soon as I tried on the shoe and put weight on my foot, I noticed the Antora’s stability components. The shoes are designed with Merrell’s Q FORM™ 2 technology, a multidensity midsole designed to cushion, guide and support a woman’s unique foot shape and hip angles. While some shoes with stability features feel more restrictive than supportive, that’s not the case with the Antora—it’s a comfortable fit and allows you to run confidently on rocky routes.

I also immediately noticed the shoe’s roomy toe box, which is a key feature I look for in trail shoes. The toe box gives you the room you need to move with comfort and agility, while the rest of the shoe fits snugly. It all comes together with secure laces, and I never had to worry about losing a shoe in thick mud or deep water. Over 100 miles and trail runs up to 10 miles, the Antora retained its fit and proved itself as a durable, reliable piece of gear.

Merrell Antora trail shoe tread
photo: Christine DiGangi

The Vibram outsole is a major factor in that durability. Its 5-millimeter lugs offer superb grip in even the sloppiest of conditions, and the outsole serves as a strong first layer of defense against uneven and jagged terrain. The “TrailProtect” rock plate provides a second shield from sharp obstacles, and it lives up to its name.

All these key features come in a reasonable package: The Antora has a simple design that comes in four colorways, or you can choose a Peruvian-mountain-inspired Rainbow edition. A pair costs $110. Consider the fact that the Antora can easily double as a solid hiking shoe, and you’ve got a good deal on your hands.

There’s The Rub

The above features make the Antora a great trail shoe, but they also have downsides. The rugged outsole, protective rock plate, and stabilizing components give the Antora a high stack height which adds bulk to the bottom of the shoe. You feel the shoe much more than you feel the ground, and in my experience, that makes it more difficult to adapt to terrain changes.

The volume of material also makes the mid- and outsoles a bit stiff. This construction means your feet don’t have to respond to every bump below you, but it also means that responsibility shifts to your next closest body part: the ankles. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s something to be aware of and the lack of proprioception and adaptability creates its own dangers.

Merrell Antora
photo: Christine DiGangi

The good news is all that underfoot protection doesn’t carry a lot of weight. The shoe specs say the Antora weighs 8 ounces and it runs lightly.

It’s a good thing the Antora doesn’t start out heavy, because it doesn’t have the best drainage. That’s a definite downside, given how wet and muddy trail running can be. The TPU-textile fusion makes for a durable and water-resistant upper, but it also traps some moisture inside. If you want an even more durable and protective shoe, Merrell makes the Antora with GORE-TEX waterproof technology—which adds $30 to the price and 1 ounce to the weight.

TL;DR

After 100 rugged miles, I have few complaints about the Merrell Antora. Female runners who want stability beneath their feet and protection from unpredictable trail surfaces can’t go wrong with this model, but if you want to feel more connected the the earth, try something else.