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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Oboz Hardscrabble Trail Shoes > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Oboz Hardscrabble Trail-Running Shoes

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - May 19, 2010

Field Report July 13, 2010

Long Term Report September 30, 2010

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 56
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking background has primarily been in the Minnesota area where I have lived most of my adult life.  I recently moved to Tucson to take a new job, and am excitedly exploring the surrounding mountain ranges.  I prefer to hike in trail-running shoes for their light weight and comfort, though I still use boots when the terrain or weather calls for it.

Initial Report

Product Facts

Product Information
Oboz Footwear LLC
The Shoes
Manufacturer website
Year manufactured
Men's Hardscrabble
Color tested
Olive (only color currently available)
Size tested
US 13
Sizes available: 8-12, 13, 14
$110 US
Weight (specs)
14.6 oz (414 g)
Weight (measured)
35.3 oz (1000 g) The more than 2x discrepancy between the manufacturer's weight and my measurement is most likely due to the manufacturer listing only the weight of one shoe (the site was not specific about this), plus the large size I am testing

The Oboz Hardscrabble shoes are designed for challenging outdoor use.  Features from the manufacturer's website include:
  • Synthetic Leather and Fabric Upper (as can be seen the photo above, this is a mesh fabric)
  • 3-Dimensionally Molded Asymmetrical Heel Clip
  • 3 Part Midsole
    • Dual Density Posted EVA (cushioning)
    • Full Forefoot EVA SuperSkin Plate
    • Nylon Shank (should provide protection from stones)
  • High Friction, Non-Marking Outsole
  • Ignition Outsole
  • Strobel lasted
  • Radial Fit System (nylon straps that connect the lace points to the sole)
  • BFit Deluxe Insole

Initial Inspection

I removed one tag that was attached with a plastic cord and the cardboard shoe trees that kept them from collapsing during shipment, and the shoes were ready to use.

It was the aggressive lugging on the bottom outsoles that initially attracted me to the Hardscrabbles:

Bottom view of the outsoles

Many of the trails I hike on here in the Sonoran desert are strewn with loose gravel and small rocks which make traction difficult on descents.  I am hoping the Hardscrabbles will help me with my footing as I "rock surf" on canyon descents.

On close inspection I could find no evidence of manufacturing defects: no glue drips, frayed threads or molding problems with the outsoles.  This is the product of a high-quality manufacturing process.

I found the color attractive and pleasing.  It matches my hiking pants quite well, even with the orange accents.  I find the front toe of the shoes have a "stubby" appearance to them.  I will be testing shoes that are just slightly larger than my foot size to allow for my feet to spread during long hikes, and I'm hoping those stubby-looking toes will prevent a frequent problem I have with blisters on the top and outside of my two smallest toes.

Initial Experiences

I put on my midweight hiking socks and then the Hardscrabble shoes.  The very large heel loop visible in the first photo above made it easy to pull the shoes on my feet.  The supplied laces are nice and sturdy, and give the appearance of holding a knot well.  The laces tightened easily and uniformly through the lace loops without a lot of messing around.  The tongue is well-padded and prevented me from feeling the laces even with a lot of tightening.

Once I stood up my first impression is that I was not going to have enough arch support for my Plantar Fasciitis, despite the fact that the stock insoles are much more substantial than I typically see in a trail running shoe.  I removed the supplied insoles and replaced them with the OrthoSole inserts I am also testing.  That felt much better, though it must be said that with my fallen arches my experience my not be typical.  I walked around the house on our concrete floors to get a first impression of the shoes: comfy, roomy, yet with nice airy feel from what seemed to be pretty good ventilation.  These should work well in the hot Arizona climate.

I didn't get a lot of cushion feel from the Hardscrabbles.  They don't feel hard by any means, but neither are they squishy or bouncy.

When I feel the toe of the shoes with my thumb they seem extremely rigid.  They should provide excellent protection against toe stubs on roots, rocks and stumps on the trail.

First Impressions

I have a good feeling about these shoes.  I am really looking forward to experimenting with them on my hikes.  My initial thoughts include the following.


  • Good toe comfort with the stubby design, I hope it prevents the blisters I often get
  • Excellent apparent ventilation


  • Not enough arch support for me with the stock insoles, though they are more substantial than I often see in a trail runner shoe

Field Report

Field Use

Saturday May 1, 2010
Saturday May 8, 2010 to Saturday May 15, 2010 Sunday May 30, 2010 Monday May 31, 2010 Saturday June 12, 2010 Tuesday June 22, 2010
Saturday July 10 through Sunday July 11
Catalina State Park and Coronado National Forest just North of Tucson, Arizona
Streets and paths of various cities in Switzerland: Lucerne, Zug, Lugano & Bern Globe, Arizona Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona Tortolita Mountains near Tucson, Arizona Picacho Peak State Park northwest of Tucson, Arizona
Aravaipa Canyon wilderness north of Tucson Arizona
Sutherland: exceptionally rocky, as some segments are horse and/or ATV use
City streets and paths Round Mountain Trail, just north of the city Linda Vista Wild Burro Around south side of Picacho Peak
This was a canyoneering hike with a mostly unmarked trail
8.2 miles (13.2 km)
~15 miles (24 km) total for the week 3.3 miles (5.3 km) 3 miles (4.8 km) 5.5 miles (8.9 km) 4.3 miles (6.9 km)
10.6 miles (17.1 km) over 2 days
High desert
Cobblestone streets and paths, some flat (around lakes), some more steep (Lugano) High desert mountain Mountain foothills Desert wash, very sandy Mountain foothills
Canyon bottom with ankle to knee-height water, gravel, sand and rocks
70F (21 C) mostly sunny and breezy
50-60 F (10-16C) mostly cloudy & rain with a few patches of sun
70F (21 C), sunny 80 F (27 C), sunny 85 F (29 C), sunny 95 F (35 C)
85-100 F (29-38 C) with high humidity and a few raindrops
Altitude range
2700 ft to 4100 ft (820 m to 1250 m)
900-1400 ft
(275-425 m)
3600-4200 ft
(1100-1280 m)
2500-3150 ft
(760-960 m)
2700-3300 ft
(823-1006 m)
1850-2325 ft
(564-709 m)
2600-3000 ft
(792-914 m)

Usage Notes

Sutherland TrailSutherland Trail: this was a fairly gradual but steady climb of 1400 ft (425 m) on an exceptionally rocky trail as can be seen in the photo at right.  There were lots of opportunities to turn my ankle, which I did mildly a few times without injury.  I was very pleased at how the Hardscrabbles maintained traction and footing on the descent.  The lugs on the bottom of the soles are very effective.

The shoes felt like they had a lot of cushion on this hike, contrary to what I stated in the Initial Report.  I am not sure why my perception has changed, perhaps it is simply more noticeable out on a trail.

Sentiero di GandriaSwitzerland: this was very different hiking than Tucson.  It was cold, rainy, and most of my walking was on cobblestone streets and paths.  I did about a 1-hour walk every morning before heading into work, so the Hardscrabbles got some hard use on wet city streets.  They did surprisingly well in this environment, the traction was better than I thought it would be with the big lugs on the soles.

The picture at left shows us on one of our day hikes on the Sentiero di Gandria, the path from Lugano to the little smuggler's village of Gandria.  These cobblestones were not as rough and hard to hike on as some of the others I encountered on this trip.

Linda VistaLinda Vista Trail: this is a nice little walk up into Pusch Ridge in the Santa Catalina mountains just a few minutes from my home.  As can be seen in the photo at right, this is another typical Arizona high desert foothills trail: rocky, sandy, and a constant incline.  Once again the Hardscrabbles had great traction on both ascents and descents.  Foot protection and cushion was excellent.

Wild Burro TrailWild Burro Trail: another trail quite close to my house, this one in the Tortolita Mountains, though the mountains are not visible in the picture as the photo was taken looking down the canyon.  Most of the hike I took this day was in the dry wash in the canyon, and as can be seen in the photo this is a real test of the Hardscrabbles performance in sand.  The sand in Arizona washes (dry creek beds) is not like what I have encountered on beaches; it is combination of fine sand and small gravel.  It is quite loose in most spots, and can be quite taxing to walk in.

Once again, the shoes performed extremely well in these conditions.  I was able to make great time in the flat wash area, with the lugs digging in nicely to the sand.

A side note: one of the things I like about this trail is I always see wildlife there.  This time the Ironwood trees lining the wash were in bloom, and they were alive with thousands of killer bees.  As I walked by, I could hear the buzzing of the bees before I could see them.  These bees are actually less threatening than the media makes them out to be -- I don't bother them and they don't bother me.  That said, I did not shove my nose into the flowers to see what they smelled like...

Gila Monster
Gila Monster encounter on the Wild Burro Trail
Another example of the wildlife encountered on this hike is the Gila Monster above.  These lizards are highly poisonous.  I don't know if they could bite through the Hardscrabble shoes, but my guess is they could and I was wary of getting too close.  This situation, as well as the rattlesnakes I often encounter, are examples of hiking situations where I wish I had a little more foot protection than what the Hardscrabbles provide.

Aravaipa canyonAravaipa Canyon: this is a hike that has been on my to-do list for many months, and I finally got a weekend to get away and do some backpacking.  This was a canyoneering trip, though an easy one as there are no steep ascents or descents, just a lot of walking in the water and gravel.  Many people wear hiking sandals for these conditions, but my attitude is "wear what I test" so off I went with the Hardscrabbles.

The picture at right of my two hiking companions is fairly typical of the conditions the shoes were subjected to: constant in and out of the water, hiking in sand, gravel, and rocks.  The shoes got wet within 10 minutes of starting the hike and stayed that way for the entire two days I wore them.  They dried out overnight, but were wet again within minutes of starting out on day two.

This was not a particularly long hike, but it was quite slow going.  The weather was very hot and humid for southern Arizona, both due to the approaching monsoon rains and the humidity rising up from the water and wet ground.  It was exceptionally slow on day one as we were gaining altitude and going against the considerable current during the hottest time of the day.  Coming back on day two in the cooler morning hours was much faster and easier.

Oboz under waterOverall, the Hardscrabbles did a fabulous job, and I had far fewer footwear problems than my companions who were wearing sandals or water shoes.  They drained exceptionally well, to the extent one of my companions commented on how the water flowed out of them each time I emerged from the stream.  Traction was excellent in all conditions -- I never lost my footing once the entire trip.

The photo at left shows typical use of the Hardscrabbles during this trip.  Despite having wet feet for two solid days I developed no blisters of any kind.

The one issue I did have is lots of sand and gravel in the shoes.  I had to empty them several times per day.  Next time I will try wearing gaiters in the water and see if that keeps out the debris.

I also noted around this time that I am starting to get some fraying at the end of the laces.  The laces are quite long, and even when I double-knot them, the ends will still drag on the ground.  I have found that the laces hold quite well; I rarely have to retie them

Comfort: during this period I had no foot blisters, an unusual situation for me as I typically blister on to tops and outside of my smaller toes.  I did notice some fatigue in my feet after the hikes on the rockier trails from the stress of walking on small boulders.


I really like these trail running shoes.  They performed well for me in a wide variety of conditions.  In addition to the conclusions from my Initial Report:


  • Great traction in loose gravel and sand
  • No blisters
  • Excellent foot protection and cushion for hard conditions
  • Superb ventilation and drainage


  • Little protection from venomous critters
  • Do allow debris into the shoes under some conditions -- gaiters may be useful

Long Term Report

Field Use

Friday August 13 through Sunday August 15, 2010 Monday September 6, 2010
Sunday September 12, 2010 to Sunday September 19, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Pinaleno Mountains near Safford, Arizona Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of Tucson, Arizona
Beaverton, Oregon
Saddle Mountain, Oregon
Ash Creek: very steep canyon descent Romero Canyon trail in Catalina State Park
City streets
Saddle Mountain Trail
8.2 miles (13.2 km) over 2 days 5.2 miles (8.4 km)
7 x 3 miles = 21 miles
(7 x 5 km = 35 km)
Morning runs
5.2 (8.4 km)
Sky Island canyon: rocky trail, steep descent & ascent, some wet conditions High desert canyon, trail is sand and rocks
Suburban streets and sidewalks
Heavily wooded mountain trail, steep ascent/descent
50-75 F (10-24 C), rain during the evening, sunny during the day Sunny, 90F (32 C)
50-60 F (10-16 C)
Part cloudy
60 F (16 C)
Sunny on the ascent, light rain during the descent
Altitude range
9500-6900 ft
(2900-2100 m)
2700-3700 ft
(820- 1130m)
200 ft (60 m)
1650-3283 ft
(503-1001 m)

Usage Notes

Hardscrabbles on the Ash Creek trail

Ash Creek
: portions of this trail were some of the steepest I have ever been on and still call it a trail.  This was a good test for a shoe that calls itself a Hardscrabble.  Most trails that parallel a river or creek are reasonably gradual, but Ash Creek has some pretty good-sized waterfalls for Arizona, and where there are waterfalls there are steep trail sections to go with them.  Nonetheless, there was ample water to cool my sweaty brow, so I snapped the photo above of the left shoe on the trail by the creek.

Overall the Hardscrabbles performed well.  I was particularly pleased that I had no blood blisters or black toenails after the long descent, as I am susceptible to blistering, and descents push my toes against the shoe tips.  By this time these shoes have simply come to feel "natural" to me; I don't really think about them when I'm hiking because they don't cause me any problems.  That's how I like my hiking gear, I like it to disappear and let me enjoy my hike!

Romero Canyon

Romero Canyon Trail
: this trail, pictured above, is just a few minutes from my house and one of my favorite "go-to" hikes when I don't have a lot of spare time.  It has been a number of months since I've hiked it as it is a west-facing canyon, very open to the sun with little shade, and brutally hot on an Arizona summer afternoon.  With the weather cooling down a bit in early September I spent a pleasant morning hiking up to the Romero pools, a popular destination for local teenagers to jump off the rocks into the waterfall basins.  It is a punishing workout for trail shoes: the sharp granite rocks dig into the soles at every opportunity.  Once again the Hardscrabbles performed superlatively: no blisters, no turned ankles, no slips on the larger boulder faces.

Oregon: during the test period I spent just over a week in Beaverton, Oregon helping my daughter get settled into the house she bought there with her fiance.  I was trying to travel light, so I wore the Hardscrabbles on the plane and all week long as my only shoes for the trip.

I used them daily for my morning conditioning runs.  They are a bit heavier and clunkier than my normal street running shoes, but that's what I would expect from trail runners.  I was surprised at how quickly I became accustomed to running in them, and I have no complaints from the miles I put on the shoes jogging down the streets of Beaverton.

Saddle MtnI made it out for one hike while in Oregon.  I picked an ascent of Saddle Mountain in the Coastal range: it was a reasonable drive for a day hike, and supposedly had great views.  It was also reputed to be a bit of a lung buster.  It ascends about 1600 ft (490 m) in 2.6 miles (4.2 km).  As can be seen from the photo at right, the last stretch to the summit through the saddle is pretty steep.  Visible in the bottom of the photo is something I don't run into too often: the trail was covered in a wire grate to prevent the volcanic rocks from eroding in the constant Oregon coastal rains.  I particularly appreciated the nice lugs on the Hardscrabble soles; they latched on to the wire quite nicely and I never slipped at all despite the wet metal during the descent.

This was my first use of the Hardscrabbles on a wet trail with a lot of vertical (the Aravaipa Canyon hike was quite flat).  No complaints from me on their performance in these conditions.


Hardscrabble topsI have been a happy hiker in the Oboz Hardscrabble trail-running shoes.  They have done everything I could expect such a shoe to do during a hot Arizona summer, and a cool Oregon Autumn.  I am amazed that I hiked in these shoes all summer long and never developed a single blister on my toes, as this has been the bane of my hiking career.  Perhaps this is due to the slightly larger size I was wearing, perhaps from the generous shoe toe-box, I can't say for sure.

I took a couple of photos of the shoes at the end of the test period, which just happened to coincide with the peak of the barrel cactus bloom season so I couldn't resist posing the shoes with the flowers that were popping up in my back yard.

The shoes held up very well.  As can be seen in the photo at left the mesh uppers have resisted everything I've thrown at them.

Hardscrabble solesThe bottom soles of the shoes are pictured at right.  Despite the abrasive trails I have been on, they show little wear.  The tread is barely worn.

I had hopes of doing some real trail-running with the shoes during the test period, but it was just too hot outside.  I've been running regularly, but on the streets near my house very early in the morning just as the sky is getting light before the temperature starts to rise.  I've been wearing my street running shoes for this use.  I did use the Oboz Hardscrabbles for street running during my week in Oregon (see above).

I don't have much to add from my Field Report summary, other than my notes above on the durability.

Many thanks to Oboz Footwear and for the opportunity to test this product.

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