MATT: I received the Merrell MTL Long Sky to review at the same time as the new Merrell MTL Skyfire and found myself rotating through them over the past few weeks based on the route and distance of my runs.
I was anxious to put the Long Sky to the test on some longer distance runs. Where the Skyfire’s minimalist trail racer approach met its comfort threshold around 10-12 miles, the Long Sky had the potential to keep me rolling without issue on those 3+ hour runs.
The MTL Long Sky features an engineered TPU and mesh upper, Vibram MegaGrip outsole, it’s vegan-friendly, and has a drop of 8 mm (27.5 heel, 19.5 toe).
In a similar fashion to the Skyfire, I had the pleasure to receive the awesome “Exuberance” colorway. They had the look of a trail shoe that should be worn with a Starter jacket and Freestyle Shark watch. Considering both those 90’s fashion icons have made a comeback, this shoe’s look gets a big thumbs-up from me.
My first run in these out of the box was a hilly 16-miler. (Maybe not the wisest decision, but if you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough).
I was rattling off the first few miles, chatting with training partners, and almost totally forgot that I had these new shoes on my feet. I would say that’s a good sign that the fit was comfortable and the break-in period basically non-existent.
Did the love-fest continue? Read on to find out.
MATT: Let’s start with the upper. The traditional mesh and TPU upper combined with an internal bootie had the shoe feeling stable, secure and comfortable out of the gate and throughout. Running through some heavily rooty and rocky sections, I toe-kicked some objects a few times and the added protective material around the toe of the shoe held up great, leaving me with all my toenails intact post-run.
On a cold morning run (sub 20 degrees), I found myself navigating a lot of iced-over puddles. When I misjudged the depth of one and found my foot submerged in water up to my ankle, the breathable mesh and internal bootie performed excellently. Within a mile or it felt as if the water had drained and my foot remained warm.
The Vibram MegaGrip outsole is finished off with 5 mm lugs that provide a really sturdy and stable base of traction. I felt fully confident bombing down some steep hills, as well as traversing technical and icy switchbacks.Shop Merrell MTL Long Sky
MATT: Similar to my reaction to the Sky Fire, while the aggressive outsole and 5 mm lugs offer a ton of positives on the trails, the legs feel like they are taking a pounding when hitting any gravel, blacktop, or hard-packed segments. If your route avoids that type of terrain, then I’d be more than happy with the shoe. For me personally, I know I have a 50K coming up in March (since canceled) with some varying terrain which would likely make me hesitant to reach for these on race day.
For me, the very top lace eyelet may as well not exist when setting up a new pair of shoes. I found out very quickly with the Long Sky that if I wanted that locked-in feeling I desire, I would have to stop and thread those laces to the very top. I pulled over on my first run after about 4 miles and made the adjustment and it made a world of difference.
While positioned as a long-run race shoe, I have my reservations about just exactly how long the “Long Sky” should be used. I do think that these could be a very solid race shoe in events up to a 50K, but I would be concerned that the downside to the 10 oz. weight of these would start to wreak havoc on my legs if I tried to run in them for anything longer.Shop Merrell MTL Long Sky
MATT: All things considered, after testing out the Long Sky and the Skyfire I am impressed with Merrell’s latest entries into the trail running game. I expected much worse (if I am being honest) and found myself with many more positives to say when reflecting on my runs than I did negatives.
For the price point, if you are someone with an average foot and average needs when it comes to stability and cushion, you would be quite happy with these shoes for those mid-to-long training runs and 50K-or-below race days.
You can pick up the Merrell MTL Long Sky at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) for $100 by using the shop link below.Shop Merrell MTL Long Sky