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Interested in Merrell Boot Anatomy?


There are three main parts to the construction of a shoe: Upper, Midsole and Outsole. We’ve broken out each part in more detail to describe the function and purpose of each piece.

The Upper – You have two main material choices when selecting a hiking shoe upper: leather or synthetic

Leather – The best for durability, protection, strength and comfort. The type of leather can affect the aesthetics & waterproof capability.

• Full Grain Leather – This type of leather is smooth & shiny. It takes on waterproof agents very well. The thickness of this leather and tightly knit fibers give it exceptional durability.
• Reverse Full Grain Leather – This is the strongest leather due to its thickness. The tough outer layer stands up against abrasions.
• Nubuck Leather – This is a type of full grain leather that has been buffed as to not show imperfections in the hide. Reacts well to embossing, pressing. Various waterproof agents will work, but may result in a darker appearance.
• Split Leather – This is the split side of the hide after the upper full grain portion has been detatched. This option is the most affordable available. The fibers are slightly looser than full grain leather to provide a softer feel. This leather can also be oiled, waxed, & buffed to improve appearance or water resistance
• Pigskin Leather – This leather responds the best to unique color treatments. During the retan and coloring process, it is treated with leather protectors making this leather extremely impervious against water and stains.

Synthetic – This is a man made product that can be used for the construction of the upper in shoes.

• Ventilated: This option is best for warm climates & dry conditions. The upper is ventilated & ultra breathable, but still durable to keep out dirt and other trail debris.

• Waterproof Synthetic Leather: Looking for a vegan option for your shoes? Our synthetic leather functions very similarly to traditional leathers. Water resistance & durability are not lost with synthetic leathers. You can still expect exceptional performance on the trail.

Waterproof Linings – Many hiking shoes have a waterproof option. This means there is a waterproof, breathable membrane built within the shoe. GORE-TEX® is a common waterproof membrane. Merrell also offers options with our own proprietary waterproof that is often a lower cost.

There are 2 ways a shoe can become waterproof:

• Full bootie construction: this is like constructing a waterproof membrane shaped like a sock into the footwear.

• Seam-sealed construction: This process includes taping pieces of waterproof membrane together in the shoe to make it completely waterproof.

Check out Merrell’s Waterproof Hiking Products.

Insulated Linings – A must have for winter weather. When the temperatures drop and snow is falling, it’s important to have proper insulation to keep you warm. The materials and fibers capture body heat and reflect it back. This creates a thermal microclimate inside of your shoe.



Check out Merrell’s Insulated Hiking Products.

The Midsole

This is where the comfort and stability of the shoe live. It’s below the footbed and above the outsole. The area below highlighted in orange is the midsole.

Air Cushion

Air cushion is found exclusively in Merrell footwear. This part of the shoe absorbs shock and adds stability. The orange disc shown belowis the air cushion.


The type of trail and hike you want to take will determine the type of outsole you need. Most hiking outsoles are made from rubber and are classified by the level of stiffness. We recommend using the FIST scale above to determine which type of outsole you need.

Lug Pattern – The lug pattern and depth on the outsole helps your foot move through the dirt, trail and ground. The deeper the lugs, the greater the traction will be.

Heel Brake – A “heel brake” is a raised heel zone that reduces your chance of sliding & falling on steep descents. Not all hiking footwear has this, encouraging the use of your foot and toes’ natural strength to prevent sliding or slipping on the trail.

Vibram® is the world leader in high performance rubber soles and compounds for outdoor footwear. It is used in many of Merrell hiking products. See Merrell Footwear with Vibram® Outsoles. Look for this yellow logo.


The three parts of the shoe – upper, midsole and upper – need to be joined together. There are two predominant forms of how this is done:

Strobel Construction – Currently the more popular type of construction, Strobel construction secures the upper and outsole by using heat to weld materials together, or with adhesives. This creates a very flexible boot or shoe, and often less bulk.

Norwegian Welting sews the upper directly onto the outsole. This creates a very sturdy, although sometimes very stiff, boot. Merrell’s first hiking boot – the Wilderness – use Norwegian Welt construction.

Joe's has a selection of Merrell footwear.  

Come on down and try a pair on!