A Troubling Pair of Shoes



Okay, Internet, I need help. I need help wrestling with a pair of shoes. Specifically with my Merrell Moab Adventure size 11s. They’re looking at me with Stoic indignation and tagging me for moral sloppiness.

So first of all, sorry: this isn’t a fabulous little report of something like our trip to Victoria or the start of the annual Race to Alaska. I meant to write those up, but didn’t get around to it. Didn’t get around to a lot of things.

But one thing I did get around to was pinging Merrell about my shoes. You see, on my way down to Antarctica a few years back, I bought a pair of Merrell Moabs, and they were the best freaking shoe/boot I’d ever had. It quickly got to the point that they were the only shoe I even bothered to bring south with me on the icebreaker. Or hiking. Or up to the farm. They were comfortable, handsome, waterproof and damned near bulletproof. They gave great traction and protected my feet while still being light enough to maneuver on a rock scramble.

After four or so years of constant service, though, they were close to worn through, so last November I figured I’d replace them with a new pair. The fine folks at Merrell helped me locate this year’s model and my new pair fit me like a pair of foot gloves.

Except. Except that last month I noticed the rubber on the toe peeling away from the leather. No problem: a dab of Shoe Goo, and it was good as new. Except. Except that last week I noticed a similar delamination by the heel – this one was big enough that I could slide my finger in under the rubber all the way around to the bottom of my foot. Still no problem: a bit more Shoe Goo would fix that, too.

Still,  the previous pair made it through four years of brutal service without this problem – I shouldn’t have to be repairing this one after six months, should I? So I emailed Merrell with pics and they told me that they’d be happy to send me a replacement pair.

I was assuming they’d ask me to send the old pair back, and was more than willing to do that. But their requirement was more efficient and clarifying than that: rather than returning the defective pair, I just had to send them a picture of the shoes with the tongues cut out.

And I can’t bring myself to do it.

Intellectually, I know that if I were to send them the defective pair, they might get glanced at, but would just get thrown away. So there’s no practical difference between me destroying the shoes and the folks at Merrell doing it, other than that their method saves the time, money, packaging and fuel of shipping a pair of derelict shoes across the country.

And I can’t fault them for wanting the old pair of shoes destroyed. They say it’s for “liability reasons,” but honestly, if they didn’t insist on the old pair being made unusable, they’d be opening themselves up to scammers trying to score free shoes around the clock.

But I look at these otherwise beautiful, sturdy shoes that can be fixed with a few dabs of glue, and I can’t bring myself to turn them into landfill.

It feels strangely hypocritical, laying bare a polite fiction that covers some moral laziness. It feels like the same thing that lets us be outraged by stories of feedlot conditions, but not think twice about picking up a drive-through burger. It’s that thing in our brain that allows us to enjoy the benefits of all sorts of objectionable behavior, just so long as it happens out of our sight.

Again, I can’t blame Merrell for their policy – they clearly make excellent shoes. Somehow something went wrong with this pair and they’re eager to make it right in the most efficient way possible. And if I were happy to send my defective pair back (presumably for them to destroy), shouldn’t I be equally happy to destroy them myself?

And still I can’t do it.

9 responses to “A Troubling Pair of Shoes

  1. Assuming that they ran into a little manufacturing or product quality flaw, and that they know what it is, perhaps best to do as they requested for the sake of the less well healed (no pun!) so that they don’t assume you are one of those possible scammers the other poster mentioned?

    Sorry to say it though, as I recently ran into a similar issue with a set of muck boots and felt similarly about junking someththbg otherwise so fine. Same issue too, delaminating soles.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I understand, my idea is find a way you can recycle parts of all. Cut the tongue out of them and make them water shoes. Or turn them into barn shoes. or flip flops. You can still use the laces. Good luck.


  3. I’ve had a similar issue with my Merrell MOAB Adventure shoes. The first pair I had was a low cut shoe, like yours. After my first hike ( approx 25km ) I noticed that the leather was starting to split where to sole joins the upper. I took these back and after a few weeks with re retailer I purchased them from they were approved for a replacement.

    I replaced them with the Mid cut boots and after a few months noticed some of the stitching coming undone on one of the boots, the other was fine. I ignored this, hoping that it would hold together until I needed to replace them / had worn through the soles, but they just got worse over the next few weeks.

    After emailing back and forth to Merrell support I’m at the same point as you were, they’ve finally agreed to replace them, but I need to send proof that I’ve destroyed my old pair first.

    I’m not sure if I’ll be going with Merrell for my next pair of hiking boots. So far 2/2 have been duds.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! Thank you so much for this post. I just got an email back from Merrell asking me to do the same to replace my Glove Trail 4’s and my heart just started beating so fast! You want me to what?! I’ve had these shoes for less than 2 months and the meshy fabric by my pinky toe is wearing off really fast.

    Now they are ready to send me a new pair but it’s going to be a different model as they don’t have the same one in my size. I’ve loved these shoes since I was living in Costa Rica and then Colombia but couldn’t get them there. And now that I finally have them I have to destroy them?! Not to mention that they are the only pair of shoes I have! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Soooo, what ever happened?
    🤣 I’m fighting with the same issue right now. I get this email saying they will process the replacement pair when they get a picture of me cutting the tongues off these boots I wear daily!
    I was also worried this wasn’t a ligitimate email. Did you ever commit to cutting the tongues out your Merrell’s and did they fulfill their warranty with a new pair for you?

    Ok. Just read your last comment, you kept your shoes. Great for you, but has anyone actually cut the tongues out, sent the picture and received new shoes??


  6. I also had problems with a pair of Moab II’s with Gore Tex. The right boot did not sit right after 200Km’s of hiking and the first rain storm left the boot flooded. Merrell offered to replace them with a cheaper pair… My boots cost $167.00 and they offered a $110.00 pair of boots that I would have had to pay shipping as well as destroy the more expensive pair. This is unacceptable for me as I would wind up paying more than $200.00 (loss and shipping) for a cheaper $110.00 boot. Merrell looks to be going down the tubes unfortunately as I have worn their boots for years, but no more.


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