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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Oboz Hardscrabble Trail Shoes > Test Report by Ray Estrella

Oboz Footwear Hardscrabble Shoes
Test Series by Raymond Estrella

INITIAL REPORT - May 01, 2010
FIELD REPORT - July 09, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - September 07, 2010


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, plus many western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly UL, I try to be as near to it as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with brother-in-law Dave.


The Product

Manufacturer: Oboz Footwear
Web site:
Product: Hardscrabble shoes
Year manufactured: 2010
MSRP: US $110.00
Size: Men's 11 (US)
Sizes available: Men's 8 to 12 in half sizes, 13, 14
Weight listed per shoe: 14.6 oz (414 g)
Actual weight of test shoe: 16.4oz (465 g)
Color: Olive

Oboz Hardscrabble

Product Description

The Oboz Footwear Hardscrabble shoes (hereafter called the Hardscrabbles or the shoes) are rugged trail running shoes meant for rough terrain. While they are aimed at the trail-running crowd I plan to use them as my primary backpacking footwear over the next four months of the test period. This will include multi-day trips and day-hikes, both extreme and normal.

The Hardscrabble's uppers are made of synthetic leather and what they say is "high-abrasion" fabric. This fabric is woven in a mesh pattern, tighter on the top and tongue of the shoes and more open on the sides. The orange stripes visible through the mesh in the picture above are nylon straps that are connected to the lace points. Oboz calls this their "Radial Fit System" There is no waterproof liner in the Hardscrabbles and the mesh areas breathe very well.

The tongue is gusseted to help keep rocks and debris out of the shoes. It does not have a slide-control loop on it. The round nylon laces run through 17 nylon loops. At the top of the shoes they go through metal eyes, which have an optional lace position further in to allow the ankle to be cinched in tighter. At the back of the ankle is the strongest and biggest pull loop I have seen yet on any of my shoes and boots. Good job Oboz! I am so tired of tiny loops that I can't fit my big ol' fingers into. I can almost fit two in this one.

Is it coming or going?

The Hardscrabbles are made on a Strobel last. Strobel lasted shoes are constructed with a thin material acting like a sock liner stretched along its perimeter. It is suppose to give a good balance of stability and flexibility.

The soles on this one are the company's Ignition sole package. It has a high-friction outsole with multi-directional lugs. The midsole is dual EVA, with a higher density heel perimeter for stability and lower density elsewhere for cushioning. Above that they have what they call an EVA "SuperSkin Plate" which adds torsional stability and stone bruise protection. It is very cushioned feeling with almost a gel consistency. It can be seen below.

it's a gel, it's a foam, it's Superskin

Last but definitely not least, the insoles. I just about always replace my insoles when I get new shoes as the stock insoles are usually very thin offering little in the way of support and control. When I pulled the Hardscrabbles insoles out I got a pleasant surprise. Oboz actually spent some money on them. And a lot of thought it seems.

They are called the BFit Deluxe insole. Here is what Oboz has to say about it.

"The BFit Deluxe insole has a well defined arch that is positioned to support and relax the Transverse Arch. It also has a shaped heel pocket to keep the foot centered properly inside the shoe. The BFit Deluxe is composed of an EVA resin that will maintain shape over time. There are two pockets of softer EVA under the heel and forefoot for cushioning, and perforations that open into channels on the underside of the insole that allow for breathability and air flow."

Have a BFit, man

I have a weird foot. While my foot is not extra wide, my narrow heels and high arch make it seem that way. I have to say that these BFit insoles feel great with my first day of use. (I wore them to the gym where I ran on an elliptical trainer for 3.25 miles [5.25 km], then wore them to work the rest of the day. I am wearing one right now. The other is on the desk as I write about itů) My first impressions are that it is very comfortable. The heel pocket fits well, the arch is great, but the toes may be a bit tight. (I have this problem a lot.) I shall use thin socks with them to help with the fit. The question will be how much swelling I get in the field during long days.

Tomorrow I am going to start testing the Hardscrabbles by taking them on an 18 mi (29 km) day-hike. But as this is the end of my Initial Report you will need to come back in two months to see how they did on it and many more to come.


Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The Oboz Hardscrabble shoes have been a great hiking and backpacking shoe for me. Over the course of 12 days and 151 mi (242 km) of hiking in all kinds of conditions they have taken almost everything that nature could throw at it with aplomb and are barely worn. They did meet their match on a sticker filled trail though. Read on for the details.

Field Data

Heading for the hills

My first hiking use with the Oboz was for an 18 mi (29 km) section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) near Warner Springs, California (CA). It was very cold, with winds to 50 mph (81 km/h). I carried a 14 lb (6.3 kg) pack starting out.

Next was a day hike at Crystal Cove State Park. I carried no pack and went 5 mi (8 km), mostly on sand.

Then we made a day hike of a 24 mi (39 km) section of the PCT south of Tehachapi, CA. Winds blowing at 50 mph (81 km/h) and gusting to 70 mph (113 km/h).blew me off the trail many times. Again I carried a 14 lb (6.3 kg) pack to start. The picture above is from this hike.

Next was a trip to the Sespe Wilderness for an overnighter to visit the Willet Hot Springs. As the mileage was low I treated this as a luxury hike and started with 32 lb (14.5 kg) in my pack. The terrain was rocky/sandy with a total of 20 stream crossings over the two days. The temps ran from lows near freezing to 70 F (21 C). I ended up with 20.7 mi (33 km) and 3150 ft (960 m) of gain and loss.

Next was an overnighter in Minnesota (MN) at Itasca State Park. I did a total of 27 mi (43 km), most of it on the North Country Trail. This trip saw a lot of rain. My pack was at 17 lb (7.7 kg) starting out, and the terrain was mainly mud or very wet grass/brush.

I wore them for an overnighter to a campground called Upper Shake in the Angeles National Forest. As the road to it was closed and it is a dry campground I made two trips down the 2.5 mi (4 km) closed road, one to carry my gear and a second trip to bring water. Total of 10 mi (16 km) for the trip. Heaviest point with the pack was 25 lb (11.3 kg) with 11 L of water on board.

Next was an overnighter in Cleveland National Forest to Fisherman's camp starting from the Ortega Candy Store. I started with my pack weighing 19.4 lb (8.8 kg) in temps to 85 F (29 C). Total of 26 miles (42 km) on packed dirt, rock, and sand.

Went to the same location as a dayhike taking a shorter brutal route in temps to 90 F (32 C). Took 3 L water along and had a starting pack weight of 13 lb (5.9 kg). 20 mi (32 km) and 3740 ft (1140 m) of gain. The terrain consisted of packed dirt, loose and bare rock and lots and lots of stickers, burrs and cactus. Here is a shot from the start of the hike before I got into all the brush.

Cruising to ruin


The Hardscrabble shoes have been a very good shoe for me. They proved to be quite comfortable out of the box. I never did anything to break them in and started right off with an 18 mi (29 km) day hike. I had no problems whatsoever with blisters or hot spots. I did find that I needed to switch to a thin sock as they are a bit tight in the toe area after a day of pounding makes my duck feet swell.

As I started out with trips in the desert I really appreciated how well the shoes breathe with their see-through sides and ample mesh. I almost always used low desert gaiters with them to keep debris out of the shoes and my socks. I only forgot once.

Meandering in the marsh

In Minnesota I got to see how they handled a bit of water. Well, a lot of water. I tried to do a bushwhacking backpacking trip in May along the Mississippi River at Mississppi Headwaters State Park. The snow had just melted off and the river edge was a giant marsh, as may be seen in the picture above. Within a short distance I was soaked a foot (0.3 m) up my legs and after a mile I decided to head elsewhere for the weekend. Itasca State Park was close and a big section of the North Country Trail was plan B. Not 15 minutes after starting down the trail (again) it started raining. No big deal as I already had wet feet. And wet they stayed for the entire 20 miles (32 km) of hiking I did that day.

But the real water torture test of the Hardscrabbles came in the Sespe Wilderness. I brought water shoes for crossing the Sespe which we did 20 times over the course of the trip. The hike out I got tired of changing and decided to just wear the Hardscrabbles straight through the remaining eight crossings. They drained quickly after each crossing and were not that bad to walk in. I was able to see how well the shoes fit after these two trips because wet feet blister easily as my skin softens from the prolonged exposure. (They looked like a prune in MN.) Yet not a blister one did I get. Here is a shot of one of the Sespe crossings.

Splashing through the Sespe

One problem with the mesh and holes in the body is the way that it will let fox tails and such get into the shoe. I had a bit of a problem with this in the desert hikes but the off trail stuff in MN did not have any dried stickers so it was not a problem there.

Then I took a big day hike on a trail that I have not been on in 6 years. I named this hike Ruination Day as it just about ruined me and did ruin my shoes and socks. (Of course this is the one trip I forgot the low gaiters, although they would have only helped just a bit.) The trail looked like it had not been maintained since I had last been on it. It was so overgrown that my trekking poles kept being torn from my grasp as I fought my way along it. What made it worse was the unbelievable amount of dry fox tails, small burrs (that stay whole), large burrs like burdock (which explode apart on contact into many separate spines) and other pokey plant life was in the trail. There was no way to miss it as half the time I could not see where I was stepping due to the waist high chaparral I was pushing through.

When I got done with the hike my socks and liners (I had just got a pair of mini crew Injinji liners that were on their first hike that day) were stapled to the Hardscrabbles. Taking off the shoes sounded like I was pulling Velcro. I had fox tails and burr spines all the way inside the liners and poking holes in my skin. I threw away the socks. The liners I saved. The Hardscrabbles I spent about 20 minutes on each shoe pulling out all the spines and fox tails. The problem was that even though I got everything I could see, the foam inside has stuff buried in it that makes itself known as soon as I put them on and start walking. I had to take them back off the two times I tried to use them again, switching to a different trail runner.

As far as I can see this has to end the test for me, through no fault of Oboz. Maybe I can find some Kevlar socks to wear with them. ;-)

Which is really too bad as the Hardscrabbles are showing hardly any wear on the soles. I see a bit of wear at the front of the sole from all the climbing on rock, but otherwise they look great.

I still have two months of testing left and who knows, maybe I can salvage them. If so please check back later to see what happened. In the meantime I will leave with a picture of them in better days crossing Agua Caliente Creek.

Crossing the creek


Field Data

I used the (new) Hardscrabbles on just two trips totaling 5 days.

The first was a camping/hiking trip with my children to Horseshoe Meadows and the Cottonwood Lakes region of the eastern Sierra Nevada. Elevations around 9400 ft (2865 m) and temps from 43 to 78 F (6 to 26 C).

Last was an overnighter along the East Fork San Gabriel River in an area called the Narrows. I went around 13 or 14 miles (21 km) over trails that ranged from dirt road to landslide scree and finally the river itself. The high temp I saw was 103 F (39 C) at 3:30 PM in the shade of the canyon. It was most likely hotter as I was hiking but my thermometer is not accurate while hiking.


After destroying my first pair of Hardscrabbles (see Field Report above) I found that I just could not wear them any longer. There was no way to remove the sharp pokey stuff. I contacted Oboz's media person and told him what I had done and asked if they would be willing to sell me another pair at a Pro-Deal price. (Usually 40 to 50% off.) Oboz was great. They said they liked my review so far and said they would send me a new pair gratis but that it would have to wait as they had none in my size.

Well a pair showed up just in time for my trip with the kids so I did get to use them a few weeks before the test ended.

Again they were comfortable right out of the box. One thing I noticed was that they fit a bit tighter across the toes but that may have been my feet swelling from getting them badly sunburned while at the beach with the kids.

While I did not have enough time to put this new pair through the wringer I did give them a short hard work-out along, and in, the San Gabriel River. I hiked into the Narrows where there is no trail. I must have crossed the river about 50 times. The Hardscrabbles were great at providing traction on submerged rocks as at times I stayed on top of them so as not to go over my thighs in spots. Most was knee deep as seen here.

In San Gabriel River

I wore Injinji liner socks with thin SmartWool Adrenaline socks and the combo worked well with the Hardscrabbles. I made sure to bring low gaiters too!

I can't find anything to complain about the Hardscrabble shoes. I will be using them a bit longer but as winter is coming on it is time to switch to footwear for wet and snow. But next summer I will be rocking the Hardscrabbles again. My extreme thanks to Oboz Footwear for the replacements and to them and for letting me test them in the first place.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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