I was recently packing for a summer hike that required some river crossings, and I assessed my footwear options: road-running shoes, strapped outdoor sandals, and the hiking boots I use for backpacking. Envisioning the trip ahead of me, I knew that I was in need of a different shoe: the road runners wouldn’t offer enough grip, the sandals wouldn’t protect my toes from rocks and boulders (not to mention the straps chafe my feet after a few miles), and the boots are clunky and would probably suffocate my feet in the summer heat. Disappointed, I grabbed the sandals and accepted the forthcoming blisters.
So when I got the chance to test out Merrell’s Choprock ($120), I was excited. It promised comfort on wet and dry ground, with protection from debris that can be a pain for you and your feet. After months of testing, it’s safe to say the Choprock is the first shoes I put on before heading out on a summer hike—especially if the trip calls for dips in the water.
What impresses me most about the Choprock is its ability to drain water incredibly fast. After a dozen submersions in varied depths—like waist-high streams to puddles that barely touched my ankles—my feet shook off most of the water after about five minutes of walking on dry path. Credit the synthetic mesh upper that allows a ton of airflow and stretches like a sock, which is why I often don’t wear socks with the Choprock. With socks it’s proven comfortable on dry trips, but during wetter excursions I feel the blisters coming. If you’re exploring river trails in dry environments like the Sonoran Desert, where I first tested the shoe, it’ll dry even faster. The sponge-like holes in the outsole allow water to pass through and certainly help this process. And for trips without water on the menu, I found that the mesh material allowed my feet to breathe and not soak in a pool of my own sweat. The aggressive five-millimeter lugs gripped slick rock under running water and felt like claws in loose riverbed. The toe guard actually wrapped up over my toes (unlike many models that come up short), so I wasn’t afraid of stubbing my toes on mysterious submerged rocks.
I also found the Choprock surprisingly efficient for travel. At 1 pound 11 ounces, these kicks are on the lighter side of the day hiker range (for comparison, a pair of Chaco Z/1 Classics weight 1 pound 13.8 ounces). When it was time to pack them up and throw on the flip flops, the upper mesh material collapsed with ease and they slid in the outer pouch of my overstuffed daypack.
There are some features of the Choprock I’d like to see Merrell improve. The Choprock is great at draining water, but fine grains of sand stuck in the insoles for longer than I wanted. So while it might not be the best option for the beach or a place with tons of small pebbles, it was quick and easy to pop ’em off, shake out the debris, and continue on the path. And although these are meant to be worn mostly without socks, the toe box can feel a bit large. I would recommend trying a half size smaller. (I normally wear a 10, and the 9.5 fits comfortably.)
When the weather starts to cool, I’ll most likely be switching to a boot with more insulation. But I don’t see why pairing the Choprock with some thick wool socks won’t do the trick. It would make that fall river crossing that much easier.