When I first encountered the Merrell AllOut Fuse, I was convinced they were the best sneakers I had worn in a long time. They are well constructed, comfortable, and attractive. Plus they can easily handle both pavement and trails. They were perfect … until I went for a run in them.
Before we get to why they’re not the running shoe for me, let’s look at the really good aspects of these shoes. For one, Merrell has an incredibly high build quality. I’ve torn through running shoes in under 300 miles, and Merrell sneakers seem to wear like iron. The AllOut Fuse is no exception. The stitching is excellent, the materials feel great, and if you happen to slip them on without socks there are no seams or irritants. Merrell even treats the shoes with odor control, so hopefully you won’t choke out your family when you kick your sweaty shoes off after a long run!
These are designed as trail shoes, and the tread on the bottom is quite grippy. I wore these on a few hikes and felt extremely sure-footed on multiple surfaces. One of the nicest aspects, by far, was that there’s enough thickness and cushion to protect your feet, but the sole is flexible enough that you get some ground feedback. If you’re not a shoe nerd, ground feedback is exactly how it sounds — it’s whether you get a sense of the ground underneath you or if you’re disconnected from it by layers of shoe and rubber. Everyone is different, but if you’re looking at the M-Connect line, you’re looking for shoes that let you feel close to the ground, and the AllOut Fuse walks a line between protection and feedback quite nicely. Merrell also did a nice job shaving a lot of weight off a shoe designed for trails, as these clock in at a svelte 6.5oz per shoe (compared to 8-10 ounces for comparable trail shoes from other companies).
The bottom of the AllOut Fuse is all rubber, which helps immensely with both durability and protection. There’s no rock plate or plastic inserted to protect you from exceptionally pointy surfaces, but the rubber seems quite tough and there are no gaps that could let in hard objects. This adds a touch more weight to the shoe compared to road shoes, but you need some protection on trails, even if you’re wearing minimal shoes. I haven’t taken these shoes on terribly technical trails, but we have walked along rocky pathways with no problem.
One thing that struck me from the moment I put the Merrell AllOut Fuse on was how very comfortable they felt; as I mentioned in my first impressions, the OmniFit laces are fantastic for my narrow feet. I’ve worn these for hours on my feet and felt great. I also love the general style of the shoes. Something about the zigzag design on the sides and the mesh upper gives them a very old school meets cutting edge vibe, like they’ve lifted the best designs from old-fashioned shoes and upgraded them with new technology. They are bright, but they look great with jeans as well as workout clothes, and I think the style is fantastic. (My 10-month old son agrees, by the way; he’s been known to hustle across the room to steal them from me while I’m putting them on!)
Unfortunately, the one place these shoes fell flat for me was while running in them. Before I get into why the Merrell AllOut Fuse bothered me so much, bear in mind that running shoe fits are extremely personal. What works for me may not work properly for you, so this section is even more subjective than a normal shoe review. Now, with running shoes I have one priority above all else – my left knee has to feel ok during the run. Several years ago I tore my ACL, and had surgery to replace it; ever since then, my left knee has been quite the Goldilocks. If a shoe isn’t “just right”, my knee lets me know very quickly. Plus, since running and walking are very different in terms of biomechanics, shoes that feel good while walking can cause me troubles while running.
Having said all that, I made a huge mistake with the Merrell AllOut Fuse. I went for runs in them on several occasions, and after a few runs my knee started to really bother me. Foolishly, and because the AllOut Fuse was just so comfortable, I attributed the pain to the fact that I’ve been a running slacker, and I kept pushing through in the shoes. It all culminated in a run a few weeks ago that turned so bad that I could barely walk home after about a mile and a half. I failed to listen to my body, all because I was dazzled by the shoes and really, desperately wanted them to be my perfect running shoes.
I am not sure what exactly made the shoes set my knee off, but I suspect it is because they aren’t perfectly flat; there’s a slight rise to the heel versus the toe, and I tend to do best with pancake flat shoes. As a result, I’m back to my trusty Merrell Road Gloves as my go-to shoe, and my knee is quite happy again. In fact, I used the Road Gloves during my leg of a relay last weekend, and my knee didn’t make a peep. Considering my relay leg distance was over twice what I’ve run in the last month or so thanks to my knee, it’s pretty clear the AllOut Fuse were just not the right running shoe for me. That doesn’t mean they won’t be for you though!
Despite my disappointment with running in the AllOut Fuse, I really do love them for walking and hiking. They are tough, grippy, stylish and breathable, all key features in a go-to adventure shoe. If you’re looking for a versatile trail shoe that’s lightweight and minimal-ish, these should be at the top of your list!
MSRP: $110 from Merrell
What I Liked: Very stylish; build quality is excellent; grippy soles; Omnifit makes lacing easier and more comfortable; lightweight; comfortable for standing and walking for long periods of time
What Needs Improvement: Heel to toe height was a touch too high for my running form
Source: The Merrell AllOut Fuse shoes were a manufacturer provided review sample