OBOZ SWITCHBACK TRAIL SHOES
TEST SERIES BY KATHLEEN WATERS
INITIAL REPORT - May 05, 2015
FIELD REPORT - June 19, 2015
LONG TERM REPORT - August 21, 2015
kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
Cañon City, Colorado, USA
5' 4" (1.60 m)
125 lb (56.70 kg)
Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado.
Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley.
My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Manufacturer: Oboz Footwear LLC|
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.obozfootwear.com
MSRP: US $120.00
Listed Weight: 13.3 oz (377 g) per shoe Women's size 7
Measured Weight: 13.5 oz (383 g) per shoe Women's size 8
Colors Available: Citron
Color Tested: Citron
Sizes Available: Women's 6-11 US
Size Tested: Women's 8 US/38.5 EU
Made in Vietnam
|Photo: © Oboz Footwear|
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS/TRYING THEM OUT
The first thing I noticed about the Oboz Switchback Trail Shoes is that they are prettier than the pictures on the website. The second thing I noticed about the Switchback Trail Shoes is that "pretty" is only skin deep and the soles of these shoes are definitely more "aggressive" than demure! Wow! The lugs on these things are deep, plentiful and very impressive! The graphics on the website don't do the Switchbacks' tread justice.
|Check out the Tread!|
I was initially a bit leery of the color scheme based on the website; I mean "citron" is a pale-yellow fruit that resembles a lemon. Not exactly the color I'm thinking of when I'm looking at backpacking/hiking footwear. But in the flesh, so to speak, "citron" is only used on minor accent points and the main body of the shoe is a nice neutral gray. Whew! I generally hate to call more attention to my clumsy footwork with neon bright footwear. The Switchbacks won't cause undue notice, at least, not because they are garish!
The uppers of the Switchbacks are interestingly patterned with a web of synthetic leather crisscrossing on top of a honeycombed textile material. There is a small toe rand and an interesting heel cup which on the Oboz website is touted as a "molded heel counter" to keep the shoes in shape. A fabric loop at the back of the heel makes the Switchbacks easy to pull on when the shoes are minimally unlaced.
Speaking of the lacing system, it is a normal one with fabric eyelets and very, very long laces. I mean seriously long laces! From the last top eyelet to the tip of each aglet, each side extends to 17 inches (43 cm). I have to triple-bow the laces to keep from almost tripping on them.
The stock insoles are Oboz's BFit Deluxe with a very supportive arch and lots of cushioning. The amount of "padding" was very noticeable as soon as I tried the shoes on. I felt like I was way taller! I even had my husband measure me with and without the Switchback Trail Shoes on and there was over an inch (2.5 cm) difference! Nice!
So far, I've followed my usual "break-in" routine for new hiking/backpacking footwear. I've worn them around the house a bit and once I was comfortable with the fit (immediately), I started to wear them on daily walks with the dog on hilly city sidewalks and walks with my neighbor down our hilly dirt road. My size 8 women's shoes are true-to-size and feel good so far. I'm estimating in the couple of weeks I've had them; I probably have about 25-30 miles (40-48 km).
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Wow! I rarely pay a whole lot of attention to care instructions for my footwear. After all, common sense should cover it, right? Brush off the dirt. Let wet boots dry out. What's the big deal? Well, the Oboz Footwear website has a whole section on care of their footwear, so I'm guessing, it is a big deal!
Things I learned:
1: My non-waterproofed leather boots/trail shoes should be treated with a leather conditioner once a season, but not with a waterproofing agent.
2. I need to avoid letting our infamous sticky mud dry hard on my footwear. Using lukewarm water and a brush to gently clean the whole boot is the most effective way to clean off mud and dust. Oboz Footwear recommends Nikwax products for more intense cleaning. I mustn't use "solvents, petroleum, detergents and soaps." And I should never put my trail shoes in the washer or dryer (uh-oh).
3. Drying my boots should be done at room temperature away from any direct heat source and sunlight. I can hasten the drying process by stuffing the shoes with wadded up newspaper and I should always remove my insoles after a day of hiking even in the desert conditions I'm most often backpacking in. (Something I've not done in the past but will now.)
4. And lastly, something I never thought about and am oh-so-guilty-of, I should not ever leave my shoes in the back of the car during the summer as the buildup of heat in a car can warp the shoes.
See? Reading care instructions taught me something new!
The Oboz Switchback Trail Shoes are not the first pair of Oboz Footwear brand I've owned. I love my pretty red Bridgers and have come to depend on them particularly when encountering wet, cold winter conditions. The Switchback Trail Shoes are quite different (lower cut and not waterproof) and I'll be wearing them in totally different types of weather, namely the upcoming hot, dry summer. I'm expecting the same great performance though!
First, I will see how the Switchback Trail Shoes handle the sticky, gooey mud I will be in this weekend on a Mother's Day hike after a week of on-an-off rain here in usually drought-like south central Colorado!
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Pretty much all my wearing of the Switchback Trail Shoes has been in the immediate vicinity of our home in Canon City, Colorado which is in the south central high desert environment of Colorado. The vegetation at the lower elevations (5400 ft/1600 km) is more like typical southwest desert - lots of scrubby pines, junipers, prairie grasses and cactus, especially cholla and prickly pear. The terrain itself is dusty and barren in dry conditions and sticky, gooey, clay-like mud in wet. At the higher elevations (7500 ft/2300 km) before tree line, there are bigger trees - aspens, white pines, ponderosa pines, etc. - and the surface tends to be less "dirt" and more rocks and boulders, including large "slabs" of granite. Locations day hiked were in the Wet, Fremont and Cooper Mountain ranges as well as in the Arkansas River Valley from east Canon City westward to Salida, Colorado.
We are considered "high desert" so we generally have less precipitation than other areas. However, this year, we are breaking records for moisture content of our snow and rain! I'm pretty much a newcomer (8 years) to the Southwest, so I can only go by what I've experienced and what I'm told, but 2015 has been wacky as to weather! It seemed to have rained every day for two weeks in early May. We had over 10.7 inches (27 cm) of rain in April and May and our average for those two months is only 2.9 inches (7.4 cm)! And I was wearing long-sleeved base layer tops with my rain gear - a lot! Average high temperatures were 10 F degrees (6 C degrees) lower than normal.
I did wear my Oboz Switchbacks on my recent trip to Florida, even though it was a pain to remove them for TSA inspections at the airport - I didn't pack them because of limited suitcase space. While I know I will encounter higher temperatures once summer fully develops in Colorado, I knew in Florida I would get the excessive humidity I don't experience at home. I was right, of course, with the average high temperature during my stay being 90 F (33 C), average humidity 60% and the dew point hovering around 71. Yikes! It was hot! With a lofty altitude of 0 to 26 ft (8 m), I was limited to mostly hard cement and blacktop trails. I did attempt one beach trek but that lasted only from the trail head to the waves! Boy that sand gets hot! Oh, and of course, I did encounter wet conditions in Florida as well, mostly in thle form of wet well-manicured grass!
Alas, with work, family "things" and out-of-state trips, I never got in more than day hikes with the Oboz Switchbacks these last two months. However, in addition to five all-day hiking outings lasting 6 hours or more, I wore the Switchbacks on over two dozen four-mile (6 km) daily walks to our mailbox with a fully loaded (25-30 lb/11-14 kg) backpack to get ready for an upcoming 5-day backpack in late June. So, in the great outdoors, I've tacked about 110 miles (180 km) on the Switchback Trail Shoes.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
These are not my first pair of Oboz shoes so I was certain I would be generally familiar with how the Switchback shoes would fit and function. However, since my previous Oboz footwear experience is with a mid-height boot and the Switchbacks are more like running shoes; I was able to see how Oboz would handle different aspects of footwear such as the cuff and ankle support, or lack thereof. I'm pretty much a klutzy person, so I need all the protection I can get from errant cactus and those evil loose rocks and protruding tree roots! I almost always hike with mid-height boots - year round - especially when backpacking with a decent weight pack.
Wearing the Switchbacks I found I was a bit more cautious on the trail, being conscious of things just lurking and eager to trip me up. Thankfully, I never did twist an ankle or commit any other dastardly deed, even when navigating icy trail conditions on one of last our hikes in the Wet Mountains where we encountered some unexpected snow/ice patches and didn't have crampons. We certainly didn't expect snow there in May!
Arch support is something I often have problems with so I'm usually prepared to switch out the stock insoles of my hiking shoes with an aftermarket product. My arches are not in exactly the same location on both feet and with some footwear, I'm uncomfortably aware of my irregularity. I didn't have any real problem with the Switchbacks but did find - for some unknown reason, my left foot didn't feel quite as cradled by the arch support as the right foot did. No worries! It wasn't that big a deal and after several weeks of using the stock insoles, I just changed to my favorite replacement insoles.
Happily, the toebox of the Switchbacks is nice and roomy without being too big and clunky. My toes are able to room around but not enough to rub and cause hot spots or bruising when going downhill. In fact, I never did have any hot spots or chafing anywhere from the Switchbacks, even from the cuffs.
Also, thanks to the construction of the mesh uppers, the Switchback shoes kept my feet fairly cool and less sweaty than some of my other trail shoes. This was particularly noticeable during my visit to the east coast of Florida where it was HOT and very humid. While I generally was drenched in sweat, my feet fared much better. That's not to say, I wasn't happy to let the piggies free after a day outdoors, I was, but they didn't feel like bacon (bakin')! That was bad, wasn't it?
As important as comfort is to me when backpacking and hiking, if my footwear isn't able to keep me from sliding down the trail by gripping whatever surface nature throws at me, then the boots/shoes aren't going to stay in my gear closet. I really need adequate tread and deep lugs on the soles of my footwear. The Switchbacks deliver that and I have been thankful to have them on my feet through some nasty scree fields, and rain-slicked granite rock climbs. They held on tight and keep me from falling on a couple of occasions, though my husband does have a few more gray hairs! I'm klutzy, remember?
Mud is inevitable after any amount of precipitation here and it's very, very slippery. It also clings and cakes up on the soles of my boots to the point of adding a lot of extra weight on each one. The Switchbacks are no exception but I found I am better able to "stomp" off the mud against a hard surface.
The Switchbacks are not waterproof or even water-resistant and are not advertised as such, so with all the excessive rain we have had this season, I've gotten wet feet. The same wonderful mesh uppers' material that keeps my feet cool also lets my feet get wet even if it's just dew-soaked grass. Not really a problem, just a fact to remember when planning. I will surely be leaving the Switchbacks to rest in the gear closet when I take that next trip on the Newlin Trail where there are 28 water crossings!
As for footwear maintenance, I have been diligent about brushing the mud off my Switchbacks. With our expansive soil this must be done immediately before the clay-like stuff dries to the consistency of newly-hardened cement! Even when wet, getting the gooey stuff out of the deep lugs on the Switchbacks' soles requires a sharp stick and some - no, a lot - of patience. I love Canon City, Colorado, but I hate the mud! Anyway, I'm taking care to keep my Oboz in the best shape possible and mostly remember to remove the insoles after each adventure. I do have to admit, these shoes seem to emit less of a sweaty shoe smell than most of my other trail shoes/boots. Even in hot, humid Florida, they are so much "fresher" than my tennis shoes which even the dog avoids! They don't look bad either after two months.
The Oboz Switchback Trail Shoes are really comfortable, supportive shoes. I particularly like how lightweight they seem yet they are sturdy enough to handle some of the roughest terrain, rock-wise, I have encountered over the last couple of months. I'm really looking forward to my next trip to attempt summiting Mt. Elbert in Twin Lakes, Colorado in two weeks. That will be a strenuous hike and I'm counting on the Switchbacks to take me the whole way up to the 14433 ft (4399 km) mountaintop on the 11 mile (18 km) trail with an elevation gain of 5300 ft (1600 km).
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
While a work emergency put the kibosh on my planned trip to Mt. Elbert, I have still managed to get outdoors a bit. Since my last report, I've logged a good amount of miles/kilometers on the Oboz Switchbacks, almost exclusively in Colorado with the exception of a trip to Utah's Wasatch mountain area in early August. While most of my backpacking and day hiking took place in the same south central Coloradan region as detailed in my Field Report, I also spent 2 nights/3 days in the Rocky Mountain National Park area on a backcountry flyfishing trip with my husband, son and daughter-in-law. This was a 5-mile (8 km) trek up to a high alpine lake over a rocky but well-marked trail (see picture below for example of the terrain). In Utah, I was pretty much on hard-packed dirt trails on one overnight trek. And I continued my almost daily hikes to my rural mailbox on our dirt road which rivals many mountain trails for ruts, rocks and inclines/declines. I swear the first 1/4 of my driveway is worse than most Coloradan Fourteeners! Altogether, I estimate I have logged an additional 200 - 220 miles (300-350 km) in these trail shoes.
|See my Switchbacks? Of course not, I'm taking the pix!|
Weather-wise, it's been hot, hot, and hot! The lowest temperature I experienced in the shoes was a balmy 62 F (16.7 C) on a few early, early morning hikes and the high temperature was a toasty 105 F (40.6 C) on a shadeless day hike in Utah. As wet as it was in my first 8 weeks of testing, that is how dry it was in the last 8 weeks of trekking! Which was not a bad thing since the Switchbacks are not waterproof. Only once, on the Estes Park flyfishing trip, did I encounter any rain and it was minimal. Hardly worth mentioning except to note that the shoes did not wet through.
Maximum pack weight including food and water while wearing the Oboz Switchback shoes was 35 lb (16 kg) on the overnight trips and as low as 10 lb (4.5 kg) on day hikes, including the daily hikes to my mailbox. The last couple of weeks, I have re-upped my daily pack weight to 25 lb (11 kg) in an effort to prepare for 10 days in Glacier National Park and Waterton National Park next week.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
As during the Field Report period, I found myself grabbing the Oboz Switchbacks whenever I was going to be outdoors and I knew I was not going to be in wet conditions which turned out to be almost the entire 8 weeks. The Switchbacks are just so comfortable, especially when it got really hot. The uppers of the trail shoes seemed to do a great job of letting some (when there was some) air flow in and letting some of the heat from my poor sweaty feet, out. And while the innards of the shoes were slightly damp from sweat after a moderate hike (5 mi/8 km), my feet didn't unduly suffer for it. After a few hours of airing out, the shoes were dry and ready to take on the next adventure.
I made it a point to remember to remove the insoles after each day and I'm sure that contributed to the lack of "stink" in the Switchbacks. That plus the construction of the shoes, that is. Had I been wearing the Switchback at the Outdoor Retailer Show in early August when a manufacturer of insoles had me remove my shoes, I would not have had to be so embarrassed by the rank "scent" wafting from the footbeds of the shoes I had on! Why I picked that day to switch off from my Switchbacks, I can't say, but I did "switch back" the very next day.
I'm happy to say the Switchback trail shoes continued to give me excellent support throughout the test period, even on the worst boulder-strewn trails. I never felt achy in the arch area nor did I experience and "black toes" from banging into rocks (which I do often) or from going down a particularly steep incline. The soles of the trail shoes gave me security on all surfaces I hiked on. And for a low-cut shoe, I felt pretty stable. No twisted ankles as I might have expected being rather klutzy. Still though, I prefer at least a mid-height boot for most of my backpacking.
The Switchbacks have held up nicely. There is no degradation in any of the various materials, no snags, broken shoelaces, etc. I have gotten them pretty dirty during this dry, dusty summer, but found that a quick bath is cool water with a soft shoe brush makes the shoes look almost new. From my inspection today of the tread, I can tell I'm going to be wearing these shoes for a long time to come!
Now that I have 16 solid weeks of wear under my belt - er - on my shoes (though my shoes ARE actually "under" my belt, more or less), I have ample experience to back up my "Oboz Makes Great Shoes" claim! As I indicated in my previous reports, I have other Oboz footwear, so the Switchbacks' comfort, stability and durability came as no surprise to me. My only niggling little complaint is the length of the shoelaces - way, way too long for my taste!
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
I will continue to wear the Switchback often in the future though I will be wearing my Oboz Bridger boots on my upcoming trip to Glacier and Waterton National Parks, ONLY because I want the additional support of the higher mid-boot for an extended 7-10 day backcountry trek. No doubt when I return home and am ready to head out again, I will be "switching back" to my Switchbacks!
Thank you to Oboz Footwear and for the opportunity to wear these great shoes!
Kathleen (Kathy) Waters
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