OBOZ SWITCHBACK TRAIL SHOES
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
July 20, 2015
HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
bhart1426ATyahooDOT com |
||5' 9" (1.75
||145 lb (65.80
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.
PRODUCT INFORMATION &
Manufacturer: Oboz Footwear
Year of Manufacture:
Manufacturer's Website: http://obozfootwear.com/
Listed Weight: 15.1 oz (428 g) for Size 9.5
Measured Weight: 15.8 oz
Available Colors: Carbon
Available Sizes: 8-12, 13, 14
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
This concludes my Initial Report for the Oboz
Switchback Trail Shoes.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
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.
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).
Various community parks in Central Indiana
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
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
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.
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
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.
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
This concludes my Field Report.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND
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.
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.
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
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.
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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