Where better to test out new kit than Simonside fells in Rothbury. A testing playground for Berghaus product developers in the past and a great spot for a walk. Woodland paths, open fells and some scrambling meant I got to put my new shoes through their paces.
The walking shoes in question are Merrell Siren Sports Gtx, kindly provided by the lovely people at OutdoorWorldDirect. When David got in touch to see if we wanted to try some new products out, of course we were delighted. By asking a couple of simple questions he managed to pair me up with the right shoe (arched feet, size 7.5 and looking for a shoe to walk and run in).
I eagerly awaited their arrival and had a little read up of other reviews online. There are mixed opinions out there and a big dispute over whether or not they are waterproof, so I made a note to myself to check this out once and for all.
So Saturday morning arrived and we set off North in glorious sunshine. Needless to say it started raining almost as soon as we hit the A1. 30 minutes later we had arrived in the quaint market town of Rothbury. We decided to start our walk on the North side of Simonside hills were you can get a dramatic view of the Cheviots on a clear day. Managed by the Forestry Commission there are routes available for all levels of walkers, although we didn’t see many people out on this rainy Saturday.
Before I go into any product specifics, I will say that I purposefully splashed through every puddle and squelched through the deepest sections of mud- I want to give you an honest review after all! I felt like a six year old, it was great!
Comfort: the first thing I noticed when I tried the Merrell Sport Sirens on was how cushioned and comfy the footbed was. What they describe as “Merrell® Air Cushion matched to QForm® stride-centering” technology, I’ll just call luxury comfort. It feels like walking on sponges. We started our soggy walk on the track up the hill, trying to stay in the tree line where possible in the hope that it would be more sheltered (in theory). Initially I was a bit worried that the tongue was going to dig in to my ankle (because of the Gore-Tex lining the material feels quite stiff) however this did not cause a problem at all. A two hour walk for their first outing with no blisters or sore feet is not bad going!
Grip: As an existing walking boot wearer I am used to walking with really thick heavy soles, really clunky but loads of grip. Moving to a walking shoe I was a bit worried it would be too much like a trainer- I’d be slipping all over the place and feeling every rock I stepped on. This was not the case! Back to technicalities and we are talking “Vibram® Siren Song Sole/TC5+ Rubber.” To me that meant a decently thick sole but a really light shoe, win-win. I did slip a bit, especially on the tree roots on the forest path but I am not exaggerating when I say it was monsoon season in Rothbury.
Waterproofing: the big debate topic! An hour in to our walk, as I splashed through the newly formed rivers that were cascading down from the fells, I declared “my feet are as dry as a bone.” The same however, could not be said about the rest of my body. I had stupidly worn my cotton climbing trousers which were wringing with water. I was drenched down to my knickers and the rain had not eased at all. Before I knew it, my feet were really wet. By the time we had climbed out of the treeline and on to the open fells my feet were squelching about in my new shoes, nightmare!
So to summarise, the Merrell Sport Sirens Gtx are an incredibly comfy walking shoe that don’t need any breaking in and can be used for walking on all types of terrain.The Gore-Tex lining keeps the water out to an extent however I am pretty sure that the water must have eventually come in over the top of the shoe as a result of my bad choice of trouser*. I can’t recommend OutdoorWorldDirect highly enough, the staff are knowledgeable and friendly and their delivery service is spot on.
*In the nature of a fair product review, this blog is to be continued in slightly less extreme weather conditions…
10 month update
I’ve now been wearing my Merrel Sport Sirens for 10 months – even moving to Japan with them in this last month. So, how’ve they held up? All in all they’ve been the perfect travel shoe. Versatile for trail running, hiking or sprinting for a bus. I’ve even felt comfortable enough wearing them to bars or restaurants as they’re pretty discreet and trainer-like. The only downside for me is the slipping mentioned above; in the wet autumn leaves there has been almost no grip or stability! This could be due to the heal of the sole slightly wearing down. Apart from that there has been no wear or tear on the upper and best of all they are still waterproof.