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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Oboz Switchback Trail Shoes > Test Report by Brian Hartman

OBOZ SWITCHBACK TRAIL SHOES
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
July 20, 2015

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid-weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1 Manufacturer: Oboz Footwear
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://obozfootwear.com/
MSRP: US $120
Listed Weight: 15.1 oz (428 g) for Size 9.5
Measured Weight: 15.8 oz (448 g)
Available Colors: Carbon
Available Sizes: 8-12, 13, 14
Size Tested: 10

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

By introduction, the Oboz Switchback trail shoes (hereafter called Oboz, Switchbacks, or simply shoes) are low cut trail shoes with breathable mesh uppers and aggressive outsoles for off-pavement use. Given their name and list of features, the Oboz's are clearly designed for long mountain trail ascents and long distance hiking excursions. However, given that they are very lightweight and have cushioned inner heals, they may also work well as trail running shoes (although not described as such on the manufacturer's website).

The shoes arrived in excellent condition with no visible imperfections whatsoever. The stitchings were flawless and there were no excess glue marks on the moldings or any other blemishes on the shoes. Obviously the manufacturer paid a lot of attention to detail during construction. Even though I had been to the website and seen photos of the Switchbacks, they still looked impressive in person. They have great styling and I really like Oboz's choice of colors, which should help hide trail dirt.

Construction
Regarding construction, the Switchbacks are solid inside and out. As previously mentioned the uppers are made of breathable mesh which is overlaid with synthetic leather for added support and durability. The tongue is gusseted to prevent debris from getting inside the shoes and the laces are secured by thick fabric to prevent them from breaking. Another nice feature of these shoes is the toe box which is surrounded by synthetic leather to protect it from rocks and tree roots. The leather extends to the top of the toe box, which is my preference, as it provides an extra measure of protection against falling objects or while scrambling up a steep hill.

The midsoles consist of Dual Density EVA foam with a TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane) chassis and nylon shank. The chassis and nylon shank prevent the shoe from twisting underfoot as well as protect it against rocks and other sharp objects. From my experience nylon shanks are a good compromise between plastic and steel shanks; they provide stiffness and protection on rough terrain but still allow the shoes to flex at the ball of the foot for comfort. Of course achieving the right balance between protection and comfort is as much an art as it is science. If done correctly my feet should feel fine after a long day on the trail rather than tired and bruised.

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Moving on, the Oboz Switchbacks feature a molded heal counter for a snug fit, which helps prevent blisters. In addition this design provides additional support when walking on uneven surfaces such as rocks or boulders. While researching these shoes several weeks ago, I read that Oboz offers eight different outsoles for their shoes, depending on terrain. The Switchbacks have what Oboz refers to as the Granite Peak outsoles. These outsoles feature an aggressive tread pattern that is perfect for hiking and backpacking. The tread consists of 4 mm (0.16 in) directional lugs that cover the sole of the shoes along with toothy side lugs that embrace off-camber trails.

The Switchbacks also come with high quality insoles called BFit Deluxe that, according to Oboz, are biomechanically engineered to be on par with premium aftermarket insoles. The insoles are made of triple-density EVA foam and include a large supportive arch and deep cushioned heal cup. In addition, there is a layer of urethane under the heel and toe areas for added protection. I'll evaluate the manufacturer's claims during field testing to see how well these insoles stabilize and support my feet.
IMAGE 5

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The Switchbacks arrived with no hang tags or instructions. On one side of the shoebox, however, was the slogan "Take a step. Plant a tree." Below the slogan were additional details which explained Oboz's commitment to protecting the environment and their pledge to plant a tree for every pair of shoes that are purchased. Way to go Oboz!

TRYING THEM OUT

I normally wear size 9.5 or 10 EE (US) shoes so when applying for this test I was a little concerned that the Switchbacks only came in standard width. Not wanting my toes to be cramped, I ordered a size 10 and waited patiently for them to arrive.

When they arrived a few days ago, I nervously put them on and walked around the house for a few minutes hoping they would loosen up. I knew the width would be iffy but was hoping for the best. What I've found is that the shoes are gradually stretching out as I wear them and I'm optimistic they will continue to loosen up over the next week or so. Several positive notes are that my feet do not slide around nor do I feel any pressure around my ankles or heels. I am excited to try them out on the trail and will continue to evaluate their fit and comfort during Field Testing.

SUMMARY

In summary I really like these shoes. They are well made and should provide great traction for trail hiking. I am looking forward to getting these shoes out on the trail and giving them a thorough workout.

This concludes my Initial Report for the Oboz Switchback Trail Shoes.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1 During the past two months I have had had the opportunity to test the Oboz Switchbacks in all kinds of weather conditions. I wore them on warm, dry days as well as in rainstorms when trails were wet and muddy. I also wore them on overcast days when temperatures were cold and windy. The terrain I hiked on included hard packed dirt, grass, gravel and pavement and involved numerous creek crossings, a few of which were eventful. For the most part I wore the Switchbacks with lightweight synthetic socks although I recently bought several pair of thin merino wool socks and tried them out with these shoes as well. My pack weight during these outings varied from 10 lb (4.5 kg) when I was day hiking to 28 lb (13 kg) when I was backpacking or through hiking.

I wore the Oboz Switchbacks on three backpacking trips and four day hikes for a total of 14 days and 60 mi (97 km) during Field Testing. I also wore these shoes around town on many evenings and weekends.

Hoosier National Forest, Indiana: This was a three-day backpacking trip of approximately 11 miles (18 km). The weather was warm and sunny with highs in the mid 60's F (18 C) and lows in the upper 40's F (9 C). The terrain was hilly and heavily forested. I hiked on and off trail during this trip.

Chuluota, Florida: Daytime temperatures during this five-day trip ranged from 78 F (26 C) to 90 F (32 C), with nighttime temperatures in the low 60's F (16 C). The first two days were hot and sunny but then things cooled down a bit as skies clouded over. It rained hard on days three and four and then day five was nice and sunny again. The trails were well maintained with minimal elevation changes. We hiked 26 mi (42 km) over the course of this trip.

Oldenburg, Indiana: This was a two-day backpacking trip that covered 7.5 mi (12 km). I hiked 4 mi (6.4 km) on the first day and 3.5 mi (5.6 km) on the second day. The weather was mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid to upper 60's (19 C).

Day hikes: Various community parks in Central Indiana

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD


IMAGE 2IMAGE 3 The break-in period for the Switchbacks was relatively quick. After finishing my Initial Report, I wore them around town for a few days in an effort to stretch them out before doing any serious hiking. They seemed to loosen up across the width of the shoes so that they weren't uncomfortable to wear, although I still felt pressure against the side of my feet near my little toe. Aside from the width issue, the Switchbacks seemed to run true to size and I didn't experience any other fit issues. They were comfortable to wear and I experienced no hot spots, blisters or pinch points. With their smooth interior lining and heel loop, the shoes were always easy to slip on and the laces were easy to snug up for a tight fit. They provided great arch support and a firm, stable base that made carrying my pack enjoyable. In fact on several outings I went without my arch supports and experienced no fatigue problems.
On my first long hike of this test period I felt the same pressure against the front sides of my feet as described above. It was a constant pressure with no rubbing so thankfully I didn't get any blisters. As for the rest of the shoes, I had sufficient room in the toe box to wiggle my toes up and down and my heels stayed firmly in place from the get-go. In addition, the insoles felt comfortable while backpacking on the hard ground and the nylon shank, while stiff, did allow the shoes to flex some when I hiked up steep hills. The mesh uppers were both a positive and a negative for me. They provided excellent ventilation and breathability when I was hiking in 90 F (32 C) weather in Florida so my feet hardly sweated. However, on days three and four when it rained my feet got completely soaked and my socks turned brown from all of the mud that came into the shoes through the mesh. Unfortunately, once the shoes were dirty it was not easy to get them clean as any water I sprayed them with simply went right through the mesh to the inside of the shoes.

During my trip to the Hoosier National Forest I carried a pack weighing approximately 28 lb (13 kg) and spent most of my time hiking up and down steep terrain, over logs, and thru thick brush. Overall the shoes provided great support and stability for my feet on the uneven ground thanks in large part to the shoes' solid chassis design and nylon shanks. The toe rands also did a great job of protecting my toes while sustaining only minor scratches and the outsoles provided excellent traction without collecting mud or debris. The lugs pretty much gripped everything they came into contact with and I was able to hike through mud and over slippery rocks with minimal sliding. As an added bonus, the Switchbacks are considerably lighter than my current mid hikers so I felt much less fatigued after a long day of backpacking.

On the downside, when temperatures dropped below 50 F (10 C), my feet got noticeably cold. The fact that I was wearing thin socks to maximize room in the shoes didn't help the situation as they provided no insulation at all.

Regarding construction, the Switchbacks proved to be well constructed and very durable. Despite wearing them on numerous rocky and muddy trails, they held up exceptionally well. Other than normal tread wear and staining from mud on the mesh uppers, they are still in good condition. All the stitching is intact and the rubber toe caps show no signs of peeling away from the front of the shoes. Of course as I write this the shoes are still a little spongy from all of the water that's gotten inside of them and only time will tell if this has any deteriorating effects on the materials.

What I've found when it comes to trail shoes is that my feet are in between sizes width wise. Consequently, medium width shoes are sometimes too narrow in the front while EE wide shoes tend to be too wide at the back, causing my heels to slip. I've also found that trail running shoes seem to stretch a tiny bit while waterproof trail shoes, especially those made of leather or heavy nylon, simply don't.

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SUMMARY

Overall, I am quite happy with the Oboz Switchback shoes aside from wishing they were slightly wider, about 1/8" (0.32 cm) up front. They are well-designed and lightweight which is a great plus. They also provide good support when carrying a heavy pack and I have not experienced any blisters or hot spots during this Field Testing period. Although they have not kept my feet warm or dry in cold weather they were not designed for that so I don't fault them at all in that regards. Finally, the soles have provided excellent traction in various terrains and weather conditions.

This concludes my Field Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I wore the Switchbacks on two more backpacking trips as well as on two trail runs during the Long Term Test period. In addition I wore these shoes almost every day around my house and neighborhood, as well as when going to town. In total I put approximately 32 miles (51 km) on the Oboz during the past two months.

Temperatures in the Midwest during this test period were cooler than normal with highs in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) while rainfall during the same period was much higher than normal. In fact, Indiana (IN) set a state record for rainfall for the month of June with an average of 9.1 in (23 cm) throughout the state. Needless to say the hiking trails in most parts of the state were quite muddy.

My two backpacking trips with the Oboz were to Southeastern Indiana, one was a two day event while the other was for three days over July 4th weekend. I packed fairly light on both trips, averaging 23 lb (10 kg) with food and water. When trail running I brought a small Camelbak day-pack which weighed approximately 7 lb (3 kg) including food, water and a few miscellaneous supplies such as a much needed rain jacket.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Durability: The Switchbacks held up very well to everything I put them through this test period. Despite being caked in dirt and mud I have no doubt they'll last another season or two with proper care. The soles still have lots of tread left and the uppers are fully intact although the mesh fabric is a shade or two darker due to mud stains. The laces are frayed from getting caught in briars but otherwise they're fine. My only concern is that the insoles are starting to wear thin and lose their cushion from being subjected to so much water, mud and debris. Overall, though the Switchbacks have displayed great durability.

Traction: I've had lots of opportunities to test the traction of the Switchbacks during the past two months thanks to soggy trails wherever I went. The shoes provided excellent grip in mud as well as on wet rocks and leaves. Some clay stuck to the outsoles, but the shoes never bogged down and they kept me sure-footed even while traveling with a full pack. When trail running I never felt in danger of slipping or falling and was even able to jump from one side of the trail to the other to avoid mud puddles without concern for losing my balance. After four months in the woods and countless miles on pavement, the treads show normal wear.

Performance: Even though the Switchbacks aren't touted as trail running shoes, I decided to try them out on a few local trails and they performed just fine. They certainly weren't the lightest weight trail runners and they were a little stiff for running but they had several things going for them. The midsoles provided excellent stability on rough and uneven terrain while still offering enough cushion to absorb the impact from sharp objects. The nylon shank kept the shoes from twisting as I ran over rocks and tree roots yet flexed enough so that the shoes weren't uncomfortable to run in. Also of note, the laces did a great job of keeping my feet from moving around in the shoes and the mesh uppers allowed my feet to breathe throughout my run.

After four months of backpacking and running several miles on muddy trails, the outsides of the Switchbacks were coated in mud and lots of dirt and debris was inside the shoes as well. So based on advice from a colleague on our forum I hosed the shoes off and then put them in my washer, on a day when my wife wasn't home, and it did a great job of cleaning them up. Now if I only I could fit myself in there as well.

SUMMARY

This concludes this test series for the Oboz Switchbacks. My thanks to Oboz and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these shoes.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

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