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Trail Running Shoes • May 16, 2024

Merrell Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX Review: Coac-hell Yeah

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What You Need To Know

Weight

10.7 oz. (305 g) for a US M9,

9.2 oz. (260 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height / Drop

31 mm in heel, 25 mm in forefoot (6 mm drop)

Best For

Rugged trails in any weather

Key Features

Gore-Tex membrane, FloatPro midsole, FlexConnect grooves, Vibram MegaGrip outsole, BOA enclosure

On The Run
Great at blocking out debris Looks stylish as Hell... in white Heel lockdown isn't guaranteed
Price / Availability

Available now for $190

Introduction to the Merrell Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX

MELISSA: Merrell is a brand that I’ve associated with hiking and backpacking in the past, but it makes sense that they’d make trail running shoes, too. The Agility Peak 5 is Merrell’s long-haul option built for rugged trails. This version features a BOA enclosure for optimal lockdown, a Gore-Tex membrane to keep you dry, a FloatPro midsole with a rock plate, and 5 mm Vibram Megagrip lugs. Let’s see how it performed.

MATT: I’ve been all aboard the Merrell trail running train for the past few years. Like Melissa, I initially thought of them mainly as a hiking and camping brand and set low expectations for any kind of performance trail shoes to come from them, and boy, did they prove me to be naive. Today, I think Merrell is still likely the most under-the-radar big trail brand out there. The Skyfire and Long Sky MTL models are still two of my favorites, and previous versions of the Agility Peak also received positive remarks from our trail team here at BITR.

I was really interested in testing out the latest installment of the Agility Peak 5 in its GTX version. In the past, I knew that the Agility Peak was a great shoe for the long haul and blended a nice combination of comfort and security, but the addition of GORE-tex for all-weather protection and replacing the standard laces with a single BOA dial had me checking out the 10-day weather forecast to take this shoe out on the grossest day possible.

What we like about the Merrell Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX

MELISSA: I just love the overall aesthetic of the Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX, especially this all-white colorway. I found myself wanting to wear it out and about, and I’ll actually confess that I wore it to Coachella. First, because it looked really good, and second, because it kept me nice and comfortable through all the miles of walking I did over the three days. The upper features a breathable mesh with overlays that make it more durable, and there’s extra padding around the ankle and built into the tongue. This makes it a great potential option for longer races. The BOA enclosure provides the ultimate lockdown, as expected. The shoe is lined with Gore-Tex to keep water and moisture out.

The midsole is made of FloatPro foam, which has a built-in rock plate. It feels nice and comfortable, with a great balance of softness, flexibility, and responsiveness. The outsole is lined with Vibram Megagrip, a BITR favorite, and big 5 mm lugs for ultimate traction on technical trails.

Throughout the miles I tested the Agility Peak 5, I continued to enjoy the smoothness and overall ground feel that this shoe provided. The addition of BOA lacing is a great call, and I had zero lockdown issues. The outsole provided great grip on various terrains. I was also able to test the Agility Peak 5 on multiple stream crossings and was surprised to find that I stayed dry even despite some brief submersions. Overall, this is a promising ultra-distance shoe despite some minor flaws that I’ll discuss next.

MATT: A few jealous glances at Melissa’s all-white colorway would have me 100% agreeing with her statement above on the aesthetics of this shoe. It looks aggressive yet stylish… in white. My shoes arrived in the all-black colorway, and I will leave the rest of those thoughts for the section below (spoiler alert).

As in past versions, the Agility Peak excels at finding the right balance between all-day cruiser comfort and aggressive features that keep you stable, secure, and upright in the most technical conditions. The 30-plus mm of FloatPro midsole seems like just the right amount to feel cushioned for long runs but not too much to detract from the ground feel.

Merrell typically knocks it out of the park with its outsoles, and the Agility Peak 5 GTX is no different. A shoe built to tackle the elements and technical terrain should really have one easy choice for outsole rubber, and boy, do we get it here with Vibram Megagrip and aggressive 5 mm lugs to top things off.

As I mentioned above, I timed my first run in these shoes for a three-day stretch of rainy days and hit some of my favorite root- and rock-infested single tracks. Thanks to the rain, the water crossings were extra high, so I got to really test out not only the Gore-Tex upper but also the grip on the slick rocks. The GTX lived up to its name. It repelled most of the water, and anything it picked up was shed quickly.

The outsole was also tacky and secure and did a great job keeping me upright all run.

Aside from the Gore-Tex coating and the upper construction keeping things dry, the inner lining around the heel, tongue, and ankle is super plush and comfortable.

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What we don’t like about the Merrell Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX

MELISSA: I’m a bit of an odd case when it comes to shoe fit, so my wide forefoot did have issues with Agility Peak 5. However, the entire shoe also feels too narrow, and I’m not just referring to the upper. I think the outsole/base is too narrow as well. The narrow outsole and upper combined with the low and overly cushioned ankle collar makes the shoe slightly unstable for me and could potentially contribute to more ankle rolling.

Also, although the Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX seems to resist water, I’m a little concerned about what would happen in rainy, wet conditions. The padded upper material looks and feels like it could potentially hold onto water and moisture if it actually made its way in there.

MATT: Looks typically don’t impact performance, but there’s something to the whole “look good, feel good” mantra. This shoe’s all-black colorway sits firmly between orthopedic mall walkers and service industry footwear. In some shoe designs, all-black can look really slick; in others, not so much.

While I didn’t love the looks of the shoe, that was not my main gripe with the Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX. It seems that Melissa was fortunate not to have the exact issues I experienced with heel slippage, but I couldn’t get a secure lockdown no matter what I tried. The lack of a secure heel lock, especially in a shoe made to tackle the technical and messy, is just a no-go for me. I was more frustrated than anything because the overall construction of the shoe was so good that it just felt like a waste to be constantly focused on my heel moving around.

My theory is that the heel slippage is rooted in the BOA lacing. The design choice was made to use a single dial, and I am assuming this might have been for weight-saving purposes, but it might be more the location of the single dial that is the issue, more so than the lack of dual dials.

This is just my best guess, and I could be off base, but I have tested multiple BOA-equipped shoes and have seen shoes with a single dial provide solid heel lock (Adidas Terrex Agravic Pro) and models with dual BOA dials (Altra Mont Blanc BOA) fail to provide adequate lockdown.

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Final thoughts on the Merrell Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX

MELISSA: If you’re looking for a narrower trail shoe that can tear up the trails and has great lockdown, Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX is a great candidate — for the right foot. Although it has a slightly higher price point, it offers many cool features that will help you in the long run.

MATT: The heel slippage unfortunately overshadowed all of the really well-designed features in the Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX. This flaw when combined with the steeper price point would leave me pretty leary to recommend the shoe for technical terrain, however Melissa’s experience was a bit different, so there is a chance that depending on foot structure, you may have a more positive fit. If you are looking for a shoe that can withstand the elements, and navigate technical terrain while keeping your legs and feet feeling comfortable, this could be the shoe for you, I would just advise a fit test before hitting the trails.

You can pick up the Merrell Agility Peak 5 BOA GTX for $190 at Merrell using the buttons below.

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Authors

woman running
Melissa Guillen
West Coast Trail Reviewer
  • Instagram

East Coast raised and West Coast trained, Melissa truly enjoys running, especially ultra distances. She currently lives on the Southern California coast and can be found exploring Santa Barbara front country on the weekends.

All-time favorite shoes: HOKA Clifton, Nike Vaporfly NEXT %, Altra Lone Peak

More from Melissa
Shoe Size

6.5

Fav. Distance

100 Miles

PRs
  • 20:28

    100 Mile
  • 8:51

    50 Mile
  • 4:58

    50K
Matt Kucharski
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer
  • Strava
  • Instagram

Matt is a recovering triathlete who fell in love with running and left the dark side behind. Trail and ultra running are where he is most in his element, but he can still be found routinely running the streets in and around Baltimore with the Faster Bastards. Aside from running, he is a lover of coffee, mezcal, beer, and 90s country music.

More from Matt
Shoe Size

10

Fav. Distance

50K

PRs
  • 15:45

    100K
  • 9:19

    50M
  • 4:50

    50K
  • 3:07

    Marathon
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