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Trail Running Shoes • January 26, 2024

Merrell Morphlite Review: Mighty Morphin’ Trail Ranger

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What You Need To Know


8.4 oz. (246 g) for a US M9,

7.6 oz. (215 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height / Drop

26.5 mm in heel, 20 mm in forefoot (6.5 mm drop)

Best For

Roads to super, super light trails

Key Features

Cleansport NXT treated for odor control, FloatPro midsole, Jacquard upper, recycled laces, webbing, and footbed

On The Run
Delightfully breathable upper Smooth FloatPro ride Durability concerns abound


Introduction to the Merrell Morphlite

TAYLOR: Much like resolutions, a new theme arises in the shoe industry every time the calendar circles back to the start. They might be different from road to trail, but there’s typically a beat you can pick up on. Over the last couple of years, it’s been the mad dash to get carbon on the trails. This year’s focus concept is the road-to-trail option.

Basically every company is being intentional at bridging the gap between surfaces. Some have the goal of overall versatility, while others want to provide a familiar feeling that will transition well to light trails. There have been a lot of options that could be considered road-to-trail, even if they weren’t designed that way. I mean, any shoe could work if you forced it. What I’m finding is that the intentional design for the issue provides some subtle innovation that makes the experience that much better. Isn’t that why we purchase shoes anyway – for the experience?

I’m proud to say that Merrell is taking that step, too. I’m not sure how they’re still a low-key crusher, but in the grand scheme of things, they are. They haven’t failed us from the first time we stepped into the original Skyfire. The Long Sky 2 is one of my all-time favorite shoes, and the updated Agility Peak 5 can easily go toe-to-toe with the Speedgoat 5. So, when updates and new options roll out, I’m here for it.

The Merrell Morphlite is a brand-new offering to address road-to-trail needs. The idea of the Morphlite definitely fills a hole in what Merrell currently [insert cheeky ambiguous smirk] has available. It’s an intentionally designed trail shoe that gives a good taste of what Merrell has to offer. The Merrell Morphlite has a moderate stack (26.5/20 mm, 6.5 mm drop) of their proprietary FloatPro foam, a light jacquard mesh upper, and a knobby rubber outsole. For 100 bucks, the Merrell Morphlite is definitely worth inquiring about.

What we like about the Merrell Morphlite

TAYLOR: Ever since the Moab Flight, FloatPro foam has shown up in just about every trail shoe in Merrell’s lineup. It’s a good thing, too. Although it can take on slight variations, it’s generally a nice mix of protection, solid durability, light feeling, and subtly responsive. You get all of this in the Merrell Morphlite, too. Although, I do think it feels a lot airier this time around. There is a touch more of a bounce than most other models that contain Floatpro. For a road-to-trail option, that’s actually a very nice sensation when transitioning from pavement to gravel and even to light trails.

The 6.5-millimeter drop, light weight (for a road-to-trail shoe, anyway — 9.0oz for a men’s 10.5 ), and modest rocker shape made running at various paces on multiple surfaces feel pretty good. It’s not an overly peppy ride, but it is versatile.

The outsole complements the midsole nicely. Keep in mind this isn’t solely designated as a trail shoe. So, the minimal coverage is something that I didn’t mind one bit in this case. Again, the transition between surfaces was very smooth. Merrell’s two-to-three-millimeter knobby lugs grip well on light terrain and mildly inclement conditions.

The theme of “light” continues onward through the upper. Merrell’s jacquard mesh and thin integrated booty synchronize the overall feel of the shoe. It’s a breathable, accommodating, and stretchy option that promotes comfort over anything, with a moderately padded tongue to finish the package.

Because the package of the Merrell Morphlite is airy, it took some finagling to find the fit I wanted, but it was possible with a runner’s loop. I could get the security needed to make the change from surface to surface without needing to think twice about my lacing.

Price and constructive mindfulness are always a strong point for Merrell. They often utilize as much recycled material as possible. In this case, the laces, footbed, mesh liner, and 50% of the midsole work recycled materials into their construction. The process takes intentionality and even money per pair, so seeing the Merrell Morphlite come in at $100 is basically unheard of these days.

Shop Merrell Morphlite - Men Shop Merrell Morphlite - Women

What we don’t like about the Merrell Morphlite

TAYLOR: Light isn’t always the answer. Though I do like how delicate the upper feels on foot, it’s a bit loosey-goosey. Even the heel counter has trouble staying put. At first, it was hard to find a secure fit even for cruising around. Cinching tightly and using a runner’s loop helped immensely. When hitting any moderate or remotely technical terrain, my foot would still dance around inside the shoe because of the pliable upper. Light trails were really the comfortable limit of this shoe, and, to be fair, that’s what it is designed for.

Overall durability will be another issue. Yes, the Merrell Morphlite is ridiculously cheap for such a solid shoe, but both the midsole and outsole are wearing really quickly. The rubber outsole has a bunch of tiny knobby lugs. At between 2.5 and 3.5 mm, they get shaved down too quickly. As mentioned before, they do grip well when transitioning between surfaces and in mild conditions, but if the lugs depart from the equation quickly, the little bite they had is gone.

The midsole also started losing its initial feel quickly too. I really liked the ride throughout my test miles. The airy, semi-responsive feel that I started with is noticeably degrading. This formula is supposedly the same as other models, but I really don’t think that’s possible. Floatpro in the Agility Peak 5, Long Sky 2, and Skyfire 2 are all much more resilient than in the Merrell Morphlite. I would hope that a 300-mile lifespan in this shoe is possible, but the trajectory isn’t looking promising.

Shop Merrell Morphlite - Men Shop Merrell Morphlite - Women

Merrell Morphlite Conclusion

TAYLOR: As door-to-trail options are expanding, it’s really nice to have something like the Merrell Morphlite land on my doorstep. The idea, look, and feel of the shoe was initially wonderful. It has a light and versatile feel that fills a gap in Merrell’s lineup, and I’ve racked up a bunch of miles on this shoe that took me over pavement, gravel, and light trails. All of those miles were enjoyable.

There’s a little bit of work to do in the Merrell Morphlite recipe, though. The fit needs some tightening up, and durability needs to be bumped up. This shoe won’t be one that remains in your quiver for a long time. Even so, I think this shoe can be an enjoyable experience for many. For $100, it might be worth taking the chance on.

You can pick up the Merrell Morphlite for $100 directly from Merrell using the buttons below.

Shop The Shoe


Shop Merrell Morphlite Men
Shop Merrell Morphlite Women

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Taylor Bodin
Lead Trail Reviewer
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Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.

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