Merrell Proterra Sport Low Profile Hiking Sneaker Review

Merrell Proterra Sport

The Merrell Proterra Sport shows off its good side.

The Merrell Proterra Sport is a unique shoe. It’s part of the M-Connect line of minimalist footwear from Merrell, but if you were to line up most of the shoes in a row with the Proterra, it would look like a game of “one of these things is not like the other.” Until you put it on, it doesn’t look much like a minimalist shoe. But when you start moving, you realize the beefy look on the outside is hiding a low profile hiking sneaker designed to give you a minimal feel while still protecting your feet. How does it work? Read on …

The Proterra isn’t quite as form-fitting in the midfoot as the other shoes in the M-Connect line that I tested. In some ways it isn’t necessary, since the Proterra has more material and a tougher, more supported upper than the others. There’s a plastic/rubbery material that frames the heel and midfoot. It doesn’t add major support, but it does give the shoe more structure. Merrell says they use the framework as a way to keep the upper supported without being heavy. The heel and toe cap also have thicker protection, but that makes sense since this shoe is designed for use on rough terrain. This also explains why the sole is thicker, with lugs and holes to add traction.

Merrell Proterra Sport

Note the Merrell Proterra Sport’s sole pattern for increased grip on uneven surfaces.

Despite the thicker sole, you don’t completely lose your connection to the ground. The shoe is stiff, but between the pattern on the sole and the fact that there is some flex and give, you do feel the texture of the terrain as you walk. There is some cushion to the shoe, but it isn’t particularly soft. The closest I can describe it is like an extra-extra firm memory foam mattress. It gives with pressure, but it isn’t what you would call soft. Even as someone who prefers a very minimal sole, I find the Proterra to be remarkably comfortable.

More importantly, I have found this to be a great shoe for rough areas. I haven’t had much time to hike, but I did take these shoes to Vermont and Maine, and used them during last weekend’s snowstorm. I headed out in snow and ice, took my dog for a walk on a steep dirt road, and even wore them snowshoeing. Even though these aren’t waterproof, I found that my feet stayed dry and warm in sloppy weather. Just be careful, because these are low-cut shoes, so you will get snow in your shoes if you get into ankle-deep snow without gaiters. The Proterra has a 4mm heel to toe drop, but it wasn’t noticeable to me at all.

I have a pair of zero drop hiking sneakers, and compared to the Proterra they feel like a slab of wood on your feet. It is really hard to make a shoe that is comfortable, minimal, and protective, but Merrell manages to nail it with the Proterra. If you hate overbuilt hiking shoes with stiff soles, take a look at the Proterra. It brings the ground to you while still offering some protection from the pointy spots!

Here’s a quick video look at the Proterra Sport:

MSRP: $100 from Merrell

What I Liked: Lightweight upper compared to regular hiking shoes; good traction on the soles; still allows for ground feel despite sole thickness.

What Needs Improvement: 4mm drop may bother some people.

Categories: Health and Fitness, Reviews


4 replies

  1. I’ve always been impressed by Merrell…..I just can’t afford them! :-) Same with the pair of Kuru shoes I reviewed a while back. Miss those shoes! I wore them til they wore out. Most comfortable shoes I’ve ever had,,,,comfy right out of the box.

    • Shoes are one of those things where expense is relative. A pair of cheap shoes will last a few months, but a well-made pair of shoes that lasts several years is worth the money. Merrell makes incredibly well-made shoes, and I see shoes like the Proterra as an investment in years of enjoyment and happy feet. :)

      • Hey Carly – LOVE these reviews, extremely informative!

        When I think of the cost of shoes I think of my attitude towards running shoes – for more than 20 years I would never pay more than $50 for a pair … but I was running ~15 miles per week and at a very slow pace. Now that I am ‘a runner’, I at first reluctantly paid $100 for a set of Nike Frees, but after putting more than 2000 miles on them … I gladly paid $100 again, and will happily do so again in a few months. It is an investment.

        I have heard great things about the Merrell lines, and these reviews pique my curiosity to go and try some!

  2. Thanks for the review! I’m definitely going to consider picking up a pair when I get the chance to try some on. The merrell barefoot line has been the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing (and usually finding a good fit is difficult for me). Now that they’re offering these slightly more supportive shoes I am excited to see how they work out for more rough conditions. I’m really interested in the Proterra Mid Sport since it offers a bit more protection from the elements for the ankle.