When people think of hiking boots, the first name that comes to mind is likely Merrell. The company’s Ventilator is the gold standard for what an affordable hiking shoe should be, earning Merrell a top spot in the mind of most hikers. Recently, Merrell has wanted to move into a top spot in the minds of trail runners as well. Their current attempt at the trail running space is called the Agility Peak Flex. Merrell sent a pair our way to test out, and after 40 miles of Park City single track, here’s what we thought:
1. Grip: Lord almighty, the Agility Peak Flex grips well. Almost too well. On the most technical, loose and step descents, slippage was non-existent, thanks to the shoe’s foot skeleton pattern of 5mm lugs under the toes and forefoot.
2. Lacing: Not only does the Agility Peak Flex feature bungee laces out of the box, but the laces are also connected to a system of bungee eyelets to hold it to the shoe. This results in a very well balanced lace fit that doesn’t shift over time.
3. Fit: Merrell includes a feature called Hyperlock to keep the heel from moving around in the heel cup. It works very well. Moving forward past the heel, however, the Agility Peak Flex has a very flat fit with a massive arch support. The flat fit is also wide and almost immediately allows for the front 2/3 of the foot to pivot left and right in the shoe with the heel staying in place as the pivot point. For me, personally, this resulted in the arch support rubbing like crazy and causing blisters. This movement is made worse by the shoe’s ability to grip so well. The staying power of the shoe to the ground means energy will now manifest itself in the form of foot movement inside. Sizing is true and despite a fantastic lacing system, the Agility Peak Flex cannot get around what is one of the weirdest foot fits I have ever tested in any shoe.
4. Stack Height: With a heel stack height of just over 33mm, the Agility Peak Flex is just shy of being a maximalist shoe. The platform feels very tall, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. But with a small footprint (see below), the height of the shoe is something that needs constant attention at all times. When that attention isn’t given, rolling an ankle becomes likely on uneven terrain and rocky segments.
5. Small Footprint: The unsure feeling of the tall stack height of the Agility Peak Flex is due in part to the shoe’s footprint being on the smaller side. Despite having a wide upper that results in lots of foot movement, the midsole and outsole remain narrow enough give a feeling of instability when paired with the height of the shoe. This combination becomes especially noticeable on quick turns around tight corners.
Merrell has said their second generation Agility Peak Flex is due for spring 2018. With a handful of adjustments to the platform, they could have a winning product on their hands. And Merrell definitely knows how to make a good running shoe. Their Trail Glove 4, for example, is midway through our testing and is already proving to be one of the best trail runners we’ve ever tested.
At an MSRP of $130, the Agility Peak Flex is up against some of the biggest guns in the trail running segment. It’s hard to make the case for the Merrells when far more capable shoes like Adidas’ Terrex Agravic can be purchased for the same price. The next generation of the Agility Peak Flex will undoubtedly address many of the current generation’s shortcomings, but until then, it’s not the trail running shoe we would recommend.