Merrell was established in 1981 when two executives for the Rossignol ski company, Clark Matis and John Schweizer, decided to launch a new maker of hiking boots,The pair decided to join forces with Randy J. Merrell (R.J. Merrell), a maker of highly praised custom boots which retailed for $500 a pair. Matis set to work designing a more affordable high-performance boot, which was developed in 1982. Plans were made for production of the new line in factories located in Italy, a leading exporter of footwear to the world market at the time.
In 1983, the new Merrell company delivered its first product to the market, making shipments to a pair of east coast retailers specializing in hiking gear.
In 1986, Randy J. Merrell sought to return to his previous life as a maker of custom boots and sold his share of the company bearing his name Merrell