Meet Merrell Antora + Nova 2: Comfy, Technical Trail Runners Designed for Women and Men

Merrell is a shoe brand that nearly everyone has had experience with at some point. Their models are wildly popular, and range from burly hiking boots to water sandals to casual footwear. That said, trail running is perhaps the fastest growing niche of footwear, and Merrell has a deep line that may surprise you.

The newest additions to that line are the Merrell Antora 2 and Nova 2 — second-generation trail runners that have gender-specific builds and impressive versatility. Visually, the Antora 2 and Nova 2 blur the line between casual sneakers and your typical running shoe. The appealing form factor makes this an easy choice for the casual walker, but we were surprised at the seriousness of this unassuming trail shoe.

Merrell-Antora-Nova-2-mens-and-womens-together
The Merrell Antora 2 (left) and Nova 2 (right) are low-profile, technical trail runners designed for women and men.

The Antora 2 and Nova 2 feature aggressive Vibram outsoles, forefoot rock plates, and durable builds that can go the distance. The shoes weigh just over a pound total, making them very lightweight, and they have air pockets in the heels for shock absorption and stability. They have a moderate cushion (stack height) of 28.5 millimeters at their thickest, and a heel toe drop of 8 millimeters, making them ideal shoes for those who wear traditional footwear (as opposed to barefoot footwear).

Merrell-Antora-2-heel-and-front
A comfortable slip-in heel and breathable mesh upper make for a comfy hike.

The most surprising part? The Antora 2 and Nova 2 are comfortable right out of the box. They slip right on the foot, feel great, and are ready to walk, run, or hike without issue.

See the Women’s Merrell Antora 2

See the Men’s Merrell Nova 2

Unique Features of the Merrell Antora 2 + Nova 2

The callout feature of the Antora 2 and Nova 2 is actually the difference between them. See, men and women don’t typically have the same running physiology, and Merrell built these trail runners with that in mind.

The Antora 2 is the women’s model, and its midsole has two densities of foam. The Q-Form 2 is a softer foam, and it starts immediately under the arch and continues into the forefoot, encouraging stable, centered strikes. Merrell built the shoe this way because women often have a sideways motion when their feet strike the ground, and this helps to center the strike for maximum stability.

Merrell-Antora-Nova-2-mens-and-womens-midsoles
Note the differences in the midsole. Men’s Nova 2 on top, Women’s Antora 2 on bottom.

The Nova 2, by contrast, has a tougher, more flexible midsole that fits with common male foot strikes, which are naturally more centered. You can see the difference visually, and feel the difference in firmness immediately. The Antora 2 has a much softer midsole than the Nova 2.

This midsole area of any shoe has everything to do with comfort while running, and Merrell did a solid job of crafting what works best for the majority of runners.

Merrell-Antora-Nova-2-laced-up
A morning jog.

An Adaptive Outsole

Beyond the ability to carry your feet a serious distance, the second major feature of the Antora 2 and Nova 2 is the outsole. It’s made with Vibram TC5 rubber, and utilizes 5 millimeter, adaptive lugs. The height of the lug seems to be the exact right amount for excellent traction on dirt trails and wet rock, yet can also perform well on stretches of pavement.

1-1-Merrell-Nova-2-front-of-shoe-raised
The Nova 2 trail runner.

Again, a shoe that works well for generally active people — be they walkers, joggers, or light hikers — yet performs as a true trail runner when needed for those who want to trek miles on a wet, rough trail.

The outsole also uses arrow-shaped lugs throughout the middle, which to help stabilize and grip, and then square lugs just at the heel and forefoot to help with pushing off and landing. Each foot strike has extra support for your foot.

Merrell-Antora-Nova-2-outsole-pattern-1
Adaptive outsole with 5 millimeter lugs provides great traction on dirt, rock, and pavement.

The outsole and midsole come together with a moderate stack height, overall giving the experience of a moderately cushioned, extremely grippy run that gives you a bit of extra spring in the step.

Merrell-Nova-2-toe-bumper
A light toe bumper rounds out the durability of the Nova 2 and Antora 2.

This plus a breathable, durable upper, uncomplicated laces, and a protected toe make the Antora 2 and Nova 2 excellent choices for light, trail-ready footwear.

See the Women’s Merrell Antora 2

See the Men’s Merrell Nova 2

Who is Merrell?

Merrell is one of the most popular shoe brands in the outdoor world, and has long made footwear that works out of the box in a range of categories, including backpacking, hiking, water sports, and running. Their shoes typically have moderate cushion, a standard heel to toe drop, and fit average-width feet (with specific exceptions).

See the new Women’s Antora 2 and Men’s Nova 2 trail running shoes, and learn more about Merrell.


This article is sponsored by Merrell.

Backpackers.com Affiliate Policy: This guide contains affiliate links, which help fund our website. When you click on the links to purchase the gear we get a commission, and this goes a long way to creating guides, gear reviews, and other excellent content.

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