As trail running grows in popularity as well as the terrain that we run expands luckily so has the shoe technology. The Merrell MTL Cirrus is the result of the company testing new technology, listening to real world feedback from their ambassadors and building on 35 years of experience making great shoes for the outdoors. Lets take a look at the newest offering from Merrell in their fast and light trail running line and see what the excitement is all about.

It is amazing the places our human powered determination can take us

Merrell MTL Cirrus Gear Review

I look back at the last 6 years of really getting into the outdoors as a major part of my life it is interesting to see how my gear choices of changed. Big bulky rigid boots, heavy backpacks and way to much stuff. When it came to even moderate distance hikes I expected to take a full day to accomplish them. Then longer distances creeped into the picture and I would do overnight trips for some objectives.

Fast forward to today and I amaze myself with what I can accomplish. This past week I covered nearly 40km and tagged three summits in the process. I did that with a very light trail running pack and wearing the Merrell MTL Cirrus. The technology that is now in trail runners thanks to the growth of alpine ultra running, I was able to easily and comfortably tackle this feat in a day.

The MTL Cirrus is built to propel you to mountain summits

First Look at the MTL Cirrus

Each season in the alpine I look back at what worked for my feet and what didn’t. I look at the changing demands that are placed on the runners we choose and why it is important to pick the right tool for the job. You shouldn’t assume that you can put on your gym shoes and summit a mountain safely and expect your shoe to both perform and to last.

An alpine trail runner will be abrasion-resistant uppers and have a firm midsoles often with a rock plates or rigid section for the tough terrain. The runner will have a knobby soles to provide protection but also support, and grip on varied terrain.

With all that being said right out of the box it appeared Merrell hit all of these must haves square on the head. The shoe is extremely light weight and it is surprising that with being so minimal it can be jam packed with serious technical features.

The shoe has a completely breathable and mesh perforated upper but has a unique welded and abrasion resistant construction. Extra protection is built up around the front and sides of the shoe as well as front lugs and sole to avoid damage from sharp rocks and debris.

The sole is a Vibram design with good toe protection and a wide heel for stability. Your foot is locked in place by a unique internal lace connection that pulls the heel back tightly and anchors against the integral rear external reinforcement.

Putting the MTL Cirrus to the Test

Merrell has stayed consistent with their sizing on this shoe compared to my previous footwear from them and it appears to be true to size. The runner was immediately comfortable and after a few outings I had my preferred lacing adjustment dialed in.

The design of that internal heel strap that the upper laces connect into. I am able to leave the front of my shoe looser but then tighten the upper pulling my heel tightly against the back of the runner. My foot is rock solid around my ankle but allows the front of my foot to splay out and adapt to the terrain.

The shoe has stood up surprisingly well to mud, water, bushwacking through off trail terrain and very sharp rocks on alpine scramble sections. Going for a fully breathable shoe has been very enjoyable. My foot stays nice and cool avoiding blisters and fatigue but also dries out nice and fast if you happen to run into wet conditions like creek crossing or muddy terrain.

The Vibram sole has lasted very well and I am seeing minimal wear nearly half way through the season. It has lived up to the hype that Merrell marketed with being extremely grippy and superb traction while still providing protection on tough descents and sharp rocks.

Final Thoughts on Merrells Trail Runner

My only concern with this shoe is that I am going to wear it out fast. Not because the shoe is poorly built but because I am wearing it everywhere. Already this season I have well over 200km on them from local walks with the dog, long alpine trail runs and even as my approach shoe for multi day mountaineering trips.

If you are looking for a day hiker, trail runner or even an approach shoe consider the Merrell MTL Cirrus. While the price may be a bit higher than others it comes jam packed with technology and features that most shoes on the market just cant compete with. The shoe may be a bit too rigid for the minimal and high feedback feel trail running crowd but for those wanting to move from a hiking shoe or tackle trail running this is the go to choice.

The may be dirty and well worn but performance is still at 100%

Official Specs and Details from Merrell

• Mesh and TPU upper 
• Traditional lace closure 
• Hyperlock™ TPU film heel counter for security 
• M Select™ FRESH antimicrobial agents reduces shoe odor 
• Breathable mesh lining 
• PU removable insole for increased responsiveness and breathability 
• FLEXconnect™ dual-directional flex-groove EVA midsole for agility and stability 
• A more responsive compression molded EVA midsole for increased energy return and comfort 
• TrailProtect™ rock plate protects feet from underfoot debris 
• Vibram® MegaGrip® 
• Stack Height (heel/toe): 30/25mm; insole: 6.5mm; insole: 2mm; midsole: 15./10.8mm; sole: 1.2mm web, 4.5mm lug 
• Weight: 0lbs 11oz / 324g (1/2 pair)

Retails for $220.00 (Canadian) and is available at Merrell Canada  while other options based on your activity can be found in the Mens Merrell lineup at Altitude Sports. Learn a bit more on what went into building the MTL Cirrus and what goes into the design of a trail runner check out this page over at Merrell USA.

If you are looking for a more all around Merrell Trail shoe check out the MQM Flex and if you prefer an ankle height hiking shoe then check out the MQM Mid Ace.


I review and support companies that support my efforts to continue to bring you photos, stories and adventures here at Mindful Explorer. Altitude Sports and their partners recognizes my efforts and will occasionally provide me product to test out and provide honest feedback on. I however will not take inferior product that I do not believe in or would not normally choose to use myself.

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