Randy Merrell started making hiking boots in 1981 after failing to find a pair that kept his feet comfortable. He had no idea that that first model, cobbled together from leather and metal, would be the start of a footwear empire that now sells everything from burly hiking boots to fast and light trail runners.
This fall, 37 years after the original M1 Wilderness boot went on sale, the company Merrell founded came out with a modernized re-creation of the boot that celebrates the brand’s evolution. The new Wilderness Legend ($400) features the same durable Horween-leather upper as its predecessor but now features a soft sheepskin lining and a gusseted tongue to keep trail debris at bay. Plus, Merrell added a sturdy Vibram rubber outsole for grip on all manner of surfaces. Despite the hefty leather construction, the Wilderness Legend feels comfortable enough for a full day—or multiple days—on the trail. I have found them surprisingly light and flexible on my feet.
Certainly, hiking footwear has gotten lighter and more breathable in the last few decades; these days, you’re more likely to see people walking in trail-running shoes than leather boots. But we’re suckers for a good piece of throwback gear, especially one that’s as well-made and long-lasting as the Wilderness Legend.