Merrell Morphlite Review: Best Road/Trail Running Shoes For $100

The Merrell Morphlite has a perfect balance of comfort, grip, and versatility, and is designed for seamless transitions between roads and light trails.


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Hey guys, welcome to Trail and Kale Running Co. – I’m Helen, and today, I’m sharing my experience running in the Merrell Morphlite trail running shoes – which are transition running shoes, meaning they should perform well on both trail and road surfaces. I’m going to start this review by listing the key features/specs, then I’ll share my performance review, and whether the modestly priced $100 Morphlite trail shoes are worth your money, because at such a low price, some of you may be wondering if they’re any good.

Key Features of the Merrell Morphlite

  1. Price: $100 at Merrell / £100 in the UK
  2. Weight: 7.5oz (213g) for a size US women’s 7.5, which is my size.
  3. Cushioning: Moderate cushioning
  4. Heel to Toe Drop: 6.5 mm
  5. Stack Height: 26.5mm off the ground at the heel, 20mm at the toe
  6. Upper: Soft jacquard woven mesh
  7. Outsole: Combination of shallow and deep lugs for varied terrain
  8. Fit: True to size with medium width; available in wide version too
  9. Extras: Elastic loop for laces, webbing to keep the tongue in place, attractive color options including bright pink laces

Merrell Morphlite Performance Review

The Merrell Morphlite trail running shoes are built for versatility, catering to runners who transition seamlessly from roads to trails. I’ve put these shoes through their paces on both surfaces around Northern California, and here’s my detailed breakdown of how they perform.

You can also watch my performance review by hitting that play button on the video below (don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more reviews just like this one):

Merrell Morphlite Video review on YouTube

Road Running Performance

The Merrell Morphlite holds up remarkably well on the road. For a shoe primarily designed for trail running, it manages to provide a smooth and comfortable ride on asphalt too. One of the key features contributing to this is the moderate cushioning in the midsole. It strikes a balance between providing enough padding to absorb impact and maintaining a level of responsiveness that keeps you connected to the ground.

The outsole’s shallow lugs towards the center of the outsole play a crucial role here (see photo below).

The outsole's shallow lugs towards the center of the outsole play a crucial role here

They are not too aggressive, and the true center has no lugs at all, which means they don’t cause excessive wear or discomfort when running on hard surfaces. The rubber compound used in the outsole also shows minimal signs of wear after a few runs on the pavement, which is a significant advantage for those who often start their runs from home and hit the trails later.

This durability ensures you get more mileage out of the shoes without worrying about quick degradation over time.

Trail Running Performance

When it comes to trails, the Merrell Morphlite shines brightest on light to moderate terrain. I tested these shoes on forest paths, gravel tracks, and buffed trails, and they performed very well on all of it. The combination of shallow and deep lugs on the outsole provides excellent grip and stability.

The shallower lugs in the center help with traction on hard-packed trails, while the deeper lugs on the edges offer better grip on loose or uneven surfaces.

On light trails, the shoe’s flexibility becomes apparent. The outsole’s design allows for natural foot movement, which is essential for maintaining balance and stability on uneven terrain. The 6.5 mm heel-to-toe drop also helps in maintaining a natural running gait, promoting a more efficient stride and a footfall around the mid to forefoot area.

However, it’s important to note that these shoes are not designed for technical trails. The upper is made from a soft jacquard woven mesh, which, while breathable and comfortable, lacks the structural support needed for more rugged terrain.

The Merrell Morphlite's upper is made from a soft jacquard woven mesh, which, while breathable and comfortable, lacks the structural support needed for more rugged terrain.

When testing on steeper, rockier trails, I found that my feet moved around a bit too much inside the shoe, compromising stability. Additionally, the lack of substantial toe protection means these shoes might not hold up well against sharp rocks or roots commonly found on more challenging trails.

Comfort and fit while running

Comfort is where the Merrell Morphlite excels in my opinion. Right out of the box, these shoes felt great on my feet. The upper is soft and breathable, eliminating the need for a break-in period. The fit is true to size, with a medium width that should accommodate most foot shapes.

The Morphlite toe box is spacious enough to allow for natural toe splay, which is particularly important during longer runs or when your feet swell.

The toe box is spacious enough to allow for natural toe splay, which is particularly important during longer runs or when your feet swell.

One of the features that I particularly like is the elasticity of the Jacquard mesh upper material. It provides a snug yet flexible fit, adapting well to the natural movement of the foot. This flexibility is crucial for trail running, as it allows the shoe to move with your foot rather than against it, reducing the risk of blisters and hotspots.

Midsole and outsole performance

The midsole features EVA foam, offering moderate cushioning that balances comfort and responsiveness.

The Merrell Morphlite midsole features EVA foam, offering moderate cushioning that balances comfort and responsiveness.

This medium cushioning level is perfect for those who prefer a bit of ground feel while still enjoying some shock absorption. The midsole’s responsiveness adds a spring to your step too, making runs feel more energetic and fun.

The outsole’s unique design deserves a special mention too; the combination of shallow and deep lugs works surprisingly well. On light trails, the deeper lugs on the edges dig into the softer ground, providing excellent grip, while the shallower center lugs handle hard-packed surfaces effectively. This smart design ensures stability and traction across various terrains, enhancing overall performance.

A closer look at their durability

In terms of durability, the Merrell Morphlite holds up well. The materials used in the construction, particularly the outsole rubber, show minimal wear after a good amount of use. The upper, despite being soft and flexible, is resilient enough to withstand regular trail use without significant degradation too.

Merrell Morphlite lacing system
Merrell Morphlite lacing system

The Merrell Morphlite trail running shoes are a versatile option for those who enjoy mixing up their running surfaces. They perform well on both roads and light trails, offering comfort, durability, and excellent grip. However, for more technical trails, you might want to consider a shoe with a more supportive upper and enhanced protection, like the Hoka Speedgoat 6, for example.

Are they worth the modest $100 price tag?

Wrapping up this review, I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the Merrell Morphlite. For $100, you get a versatile trail running shoe that’s lightweight, comfortable, and performs well on both roads and light trails making them an affordable option for those who just want one pair of running shoes to run on roads AND light trails like for park runs, for example.

The attractive design and thoughtful features, like the elastic loop for laces and the webbing to keep the tongue in place, add to the overall appeal.

If you’re looking for a running shoe that can handle a mix of surfaces without being too heavy or expensive, the Merrell Morphlite is a great choice. I love the bright pink laces; they pair so nicely with the matching Fractel running cap I wore for my video review, but if pink isn’t your thing, there are other color options available too.

Thanks for sticking around to the end of this review! If you enjoyed it, share it with a friend, and subscribe to our newsletter for more running shoe reviews. See you on the next one! -Helen

One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.


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