Like BG! I have actively tried to avoid any footwear with the word 'trainers' in the description for the last 30 years. I am not so out of touch that I haven't noticed that things have moved on in design terms from the last pair that I owned (dreadful plasticky, black and yellow Gola trainers only bought because the school PE kit list demanded them), but having seen my children's feet suffer whenever I have foolishly bought them trainers that hadn't been fitted at Clarks - I was reluctant.
Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried these on. They felt firm and supportive but they were not crushing my E width-fitting feet. I will say that due to the curved footbed, if you are exactly a size 4 rather than just a bit longer than a 3 and a half like myself, I would probably go up a size. I have less room beyond my toes in these than I do in a normal size 4, but they are really comfortable.
As you can see from the picture, they may not make it into a Gok Wan top ten list of stylish footwear, but when I asked my highly critical 15 year old daughter if they looked OK with my jeans and shirt, she said they were OK and was more concerned about me not wearing a belt over the shirt.... Apparently it would have shown off my 'not-so-tiny' waist! Personally I think that they look good, so far I have worn them at the gym, shopping, on a country walk and on an evening out when the dress-code was smart casual and they haven't drawn any unwelcome attention in any of those situations. I am going to get a lot of wear out of these.
So, how do they perform technically? Well I wore them for an hour's work-out down the gym on a day so hot that they had almost all of the doors open and the fans going. I was sure of my footing through all of the lunges, step-ups etc and they didn't affect my unimpressive performances on the rowing machine or the cross-trainer. I'm not a naturally athletic person and I guess there must be footwear specifically designed for this type of indoor exercise, but these trainers either helped or did not impede my exercises. It was good that the grip did not make it difficult to do the stretching exercises at the end, in other footwear I have had to go barefoot. I foolishly did not wear any socks, but apart from some very slight soreness on the heels, my feet were fine - not bad seeing as they had only been out the box for 3 hours.
Later that day we went for a couple of hours walk around Croft Hill. This time socks were worn, and by the end of the walk the socks were damp, but the inside of the trainers were dry - they weren't joking about the ventilator bit, it is very efficient. They felt like a more protective version of my walking sandals, very light but much more support for my feet. Obviously on a slope there is no ankle protection so I had to be more careful about my footing, but in the dry the grip is secure. Now in very hot weather or when I am pregnant, my feet swell up at the end of the day so I had to remove the trainers in the evening after the walk as they were too tight on my little toes, but the good news was that nobody complained about the smell. The anti-odour treatment was doing it's job.
So in summary, these are good all-round trainers and will definitely be packed on my next summer business trip. I may even get round to using them in a hotel gym instead of just going for a evening walk and then "resting" in the hotel bar.
If you're interested in laying your hands on some Merrells, have a look at the sale items here.