Merrell is back with the women’s Merrell Antora 3 ($125) in regular and Gore-Tex versions and has now expanded this line to include mid-height waterproof options and a sneaker boot. The focus of this review, however, is the Antora 3 women’s-specific trail running shoe.
Merrell has chosen to stay pretty true to the Antora legacy with a few changes here and there that mostly improve the shoe. You can read our Merrell Antora 2 review to learn more about the previous version.
At 10.5 ounces (297 grams) actual weight in a U.S. women’s size 9.5, and retaining the claimed 8-millimeter (29 millimeters at the heel/21 millimeters at the toe) drop, the Antora 3 is an excellent, relatively low-cost option — especially for entry-level or lower-mileage trail runners — who may also want a shoe that performs well across other outdoor activities such as hiking, disc golf, and mountain biking on flat pedals.
The Antora 3 may appeal to a broader audience with the relatively low-feeling profile and fair amount of ground feel — maybe too much for me over the long haul — while still offering ample structure and support.
Merrell offers regular and wide widths across the full size range, with eight colorways. Thus, there is always an option on sale, which further sweetens the deal.Shop the Merrell Antora 3
Merrell Antora 3 Upper
The Merrell Antora 3 upper is very similar to the prior model visually, but I find it more comfortable overall. I’m wearing the same size as in the Antora 2 and feel the toebox is a bit more roomy in length and height for toes three to five, and less rough in texture.
Highly breathable mesh through the forefoot has thin thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) overlays reinforcing the toe and forming a thin, continuous rand from the thickened bumper toward the heel. Dust and dirt do penetrate this mesh more easily, resulting in fairly dirty feet at times, but the breathability is excellent on hotter days.
Midfoot mesh has a tighter weave beneath the Merrell-specific TPU overlay pattern, which provides just the right amount of support and flexible structure medially and laterally.
These overlays integrate with each of the recycled webbing loops that secure the laces. The recycled laces are dense and flat but occasionally come undone despite double knots, so taking time to really lock them down and using the thin lace control strap over the mid-tongue is helpful.
The gusseted tongue is perfectly padded to protect the foot, yet dries quickly through the highly breathable mesh extending from the forefoot.
Anchoring gaiters is a breeze thanks to the small metal loop attached at the far end of the laces, and brilliantly, two types of gaiter attachments on the well-structured heel — an elastic band beneath the pull tab, and a Velcro flap below that with both sides of Velcro included. This may be my favorite bonus feature of the shoe; other companies should take note.
The heel is further stabilized by Merrell’s external rear sling, which further locks the heel in place. This makes for a pleasantly stable shoe for talus hopping, but feels occasionally clunky at running speeds if you hit a root or embedded rock wrong. The padded ankle color improves the overall comfort of the shoe at any speed, and the relatively low profile of the ankle bone cutouts and Achilles notch will keep most feet happy.
Merrell Antora 3 Midsole
In the grand scheme of trail running shoes, the Merrell Antora 3 is on the firm end of the spectrum, perhaps on the order of the Salomon Sense Ride 5, but features more overall comfort, especially at slower speeds or with powerhiking mixed in. The firmness coupled with the thin rock plate, however, relegates it to a sub-15-mile running shoe for me, as somehow my legs end up tiring more quickly in them after about 10 miles, even though my feet are relatively happy.
The tech specs include a 50% recycled EVA foam footbed with forefoot and heel air cushioning pods all designed to reduce impact and torque while creating a smooth transition through the midfoot.
In my experience, while the midsole does reduce impact and roll fairly smoothly, there’s not a lot of energy return, particularly after 150 to 200 total shoe miles at running speeds. It’s like I’m working harder to keep the shoe advancing quickly. Oddly enough, they’re still quite pleasant for powerhiking or the easy to moderate paced run/hike combination I often get in when the trails are just rugged enough.
Coupled with the structure of the upper and the dense foam removable insole, what this midsole continues to do well even as the responsiveness flattens is keep my higher arched feet rolling well from lateral heel through the first ray, without collapsing more medially or laterally as some aging EVA is wont to do. Though it doesn’t allow for as many total running miles, the use of the shoe is extended for less impact-oriented activities.
One last nice addition to highlight is the Cleansport NXT treatment on the recycled mesh footbed cover. These shoes have been in and out of some murky water — ahem, disc golf accuracy plus ravines — and smell better than a few of my more pristine shoes.
Merrell Antora 3 Outsole
Merrell made some subtle changes to the outsole of the Merrell Antora 3 as compared to the Antora 2. Vibram TC5+ is still the chosen compound, but the traction-enhancing pattern now utilizes 4-millimeter lugs (instead of 5 millimeters) in chevron, triangle, and rectangle lug patterns with greater spacing between them.
This makes the sole feel less heavy and roll from heel to toe with greater ease. It also means pointy rocks are more potent despite the thin rock plate.
Overall, this traction pattern is still an improvement because it sloughs off clay and mud more efficiently and is less skittery on the Colorado Front Range hardpack downhills, dusted with sand and rubble, where I run. While grip is still excellent on rocky slabs and softer singletrack, they do lack a bit of bite for the rubbly uphills, off-trail mountain excursions, and significant mud or snow.
Much like prior versions, this outsole is incredibly durable. With approximately 200 miles on the shoes, there’s very little wear and tear visible through the outsole. It’s been a very rocky and rubbly year running for me with some door-to-trail pavement involved as I linked to neighboring singletrack. These shoes have also seen plenty of hikes, disc golf, and dog walks. This outsole handles all of it with nary a scratch.
Merrell Antora 3 Overall Impressions
Based on my experience with all three versions of this shoe, the Merrell Antora 3 has evolved into a great entry-level trail shoe option for the lower-mileage trail runner with mostly mild to moderate terrain and conditions outside their door. It’s also a solid performer for the multisport individual who wants one shoe that can handle all of the day’s activities — early morning trail run followed by a hike with the family, mid-day yard work, and late afternoon flat-pedal mountain bike jaunt before kicking back at the friendly neighborhood backyard pizza and cornhole jam.
The overall durability will lend months of extra use once the optimal running comfort ebbs, and the relatively low cost makes them very easy to try. Not every shoe needs to be a high-performance racing shoe, and the Antora 3 is a great option for running and an active life outside of that.
Call for Comments
- Have you tried the Merrell Antora 3? How did you find it?
- If you’ve tried previous versions of the Antora, how does this third version compare for you?
- Do you appreciate a trail running shoe that is also useful for other activities?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]
Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes
Check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article to learn about our current favorite trail running shoes!