OBOZ SWITCHBACK TRAIL SHOES
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
July 15, 2015
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Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
130 lb (59.00 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with a canoeing/camping group which made a 10-day voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a few weeks long. Over the past few years I have lowered my pack weight to a lightweight base weight of 15 lb (6.8 kg) and use a tent, stove and quilt.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Oboz Footwear
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.obozfootwear.com
MSRP: $120 US
Listed Weight: 13.3 oz (377 g) per shoe
Measured Weight: 13.9 oz (394 g) per shoe
Color Tested: Citron
No other colors available
Size Tested: Women's 8.5 US
Sizes Available: Women's 6-11 US
Made in Vietnam
The Oboz Switchback are a low-height trail shoe. The upper is a combination of synthetic leather and abrasion-resistant textile tongue and collar. The heel counter is molded TPU for a snug fit. The midsole is made of dual-density EVA.
The outsole has a nylon shank and directional lugs on the sole and lugs up the side too. In the middle of the outsole is a TPU chassis for stability and to prevent bruises from stones while claiming to also be flexible. The construction of the shoe is board lasted meaning that the upper is stitched to a sole-shaped board. This type of construction usually makes for a more rigid shoe.
At the back of the shoe is a loop of webbing for pulling the shoe on and off. The ankle area is lightly padded. The round laces route through five sets of webbing for the lacing and through one strap in the center of the tongue to hold it in place. The insole is Oboz BFit Deluxe version which provides arch stability and protects high-impact areas.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING THEM OUT
My initial impression was that the shoes looked very much like what I expected based on the website information and photos. I immediately tried them on and found a slightly loose but good fit with the thin dress socks that I was wearing so I was a little concerned that my thicker hiking socks would make the fit tight. However, I put on my favorite hiking socks and the shoes fit just fine. I had to loosen the laces quite a bit since they were very tightly laced from the factory.
I then walked around the house a bit and noticed that although the shoes feel like running shoes at first, they are much stiffer and feel much more substantial. My first outing in the shoes was to an RV and Boat Show where we walked on pavement for approximately three hours. The shoes were comfortable even though the day heated into the mid-80s F (high 20s C). On the way to the car I noticed that my feet were tired which was a surprise. I'm not sure if it was from the pavement, the stiffness of the sole or some other factor. The next day I wore them for mountain biking and could feel the stiffness of the sole work quite well for transferring force to my pedals. Of course they aren't nearly as stiff as biking shoes but they worked better than I'd expected.
I'm surprised at how lightweight these shoes are. They are very slightly lighter than my lightest hiking shoes but feel much more substantial in terms of being able to protect my feet particularly the sole. I'm curious to see if I notice my feet being tired when hiking on dirt as opposed to the pavement that seemed to tire them.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The packaging notes that Oboz will plant a tree for every pair of shoes purchased. Cool.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I wore the Oboz Switchback on eleven day hikes, two mountain bike rides and a few walks. I also wore them for working in the yard and just around town. Overall, I've worn them for approximately 65 mi (105 km) over the test period.
Stevens Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 8.0 mi (13 km); 1,300 to 2,300 ft (400 to 700 m) elevation; 65 to 75 F (18 to 24 C); mostly packed dirt and rocks with some water crossing
Redwood Canyon Trail, Oakland, California: 7.5 mi (12 km); 580 to 1,205 ft (177 to 367 m) elevation; 60 to 70 F (15 to 21 C); some mud and stream crossings
El Dorado Trail, Sierra Nevada foothills, California: 4.0 mi (6 km); 1,816 to 1,931 ft (554 to 589 m) elevation; 60 F (15 C); hard packed
Hunters Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 5 mi (8 km); 3,500 to 5,000 ft (1,000 to 1,500 m) elevation; 70 F (21 C); completely burned area from wildfire with downed trees, charcoal, ash and some water crossing
Seven hikes in the Auburn Recreation Area, California: 2 mi to 4.5 mi (3 to 7 km); 500 to 1,500 ft (150 to 450 m) elevation; 55 to 75 F (13 to 24 C); rocks, dirt and some mud
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I've found the Switchback to be quite comfortable shoes. I keep them near the door and readily don them for just about any outing. The sole is a little stiff and not what I'm used to so it is quite noticeable to me. I find that wearing these shoes on a paved path does make my feet tired as noted in my Initial Report when I wore them on pavement for a day at an RV show. I like wearing these shoes for mountain biking for that same reason though. Bike shoes have a stiff sole for transmitting power to the pedals. I sometimes prefer street shoes when I know that I'll be pushing my bike or hiking during a bike ride. My bike shoes have cleats so they aren't the best for walking in. But the Oboz provide a great middle ground. They are stiff enough to work well for riding but are excellent trail shoes for when I want to hike mid-ride.
I haven't noticed the stiffer sole causing tired feet on any of my hikes. I'm supposing that this is because there is usually a lot of dirt which is softer than pavement. I haven't yet been hiking at elevations above tree-line which are mostly granite. I'll see at that time if I get the same tiredness as when walking on pavement. I tried running in these shoes but found the soles to be too stiff for that.
I have worn the shoes without gaiters during this entire testing period and with pants rather than shorts for most of the hikes. As things warm up, I'll be wearing shorts more often and the terrain will be drier and looser so I'll prefer to wear gaiters. I haven't had any issues at all with debris collecting in my shoes but again the trails have been wet and not as loose as they'll be later in summer.
The laces are a little bit long so I double-knot them which works out to be a good length. I'm a fan of double-knotting anyway so I'm happy to see the extra length provided.
On cooler days I can feel the wind coming through the shoes so it seems that they are very breathable. I haven't yet had the hottest weather to test them in, so I'm hoping that the breathability translates into a nice cooling effect on hot summer days.
I notice that when I wear thin running socks with these shoes that my feet can feel the roughness of the insole. It isn't uncomfortable but I much prefer thicker hiking socks with these shoes.
The durability of the shoes has been fantastic with absolutely no problems to date. The shoes are even looking quite clean despite having walked through filth for many miles.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I wore the Oboz Switchback on one 8-day backpacking trip, two day hikes and several walks. I also wore them for cutting firewood in the National Forest, yard work and just around town. Overall, I've worn them for approximately 115 mi (185 km) over the past two months and for 180 mi (290 km) in total.
Pacific Crest Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 89 mi (143 km); 2,310 to 7,380 ft (704 to 2250 m) elevation; 39 to 86 F (4 to 30 C); varied terrain from granite scree and talus to packed dirt and rocks with lots of downed trees, branches and forest litter. Weather conditions varied from cold rainy days to hot sunny days.
Sun Rocks Trail, Sierra Nevada, California: 8 mi (13 km); 6,080 to 6,200 ft (1,853 to 1,890 m) elevation; mainly dirt trail with lots of rocks and two stream crossings. Hiked off-trail for some portion looking for a downed airplane site.
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, Hodgenville, Kentucky: 2 mi (3 km); 728 ft (222 m) elevation; smooth pathways of dirt and wood.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I continued to like the combination of good comfort along with the sturdier nature of them for backpacking and off-trail scrambling. I didn't find them to cause any tiredness of my feet even on 15-mile (24 km) days and over an 8-day trip. While that trip had sections above treeline and into a lot of granite talus, it wasn't for extended distances.
I wore the shoes with gaiters for the last six days of the backpacking trip. On the first two days I didn't bother with gaiters since it was raining and my rain pants extend over my shoes a little. Then I realized that I had forgotten to put a small piece of hook-and-loop on the shoes to hold down my gaiters at the rear. So my husband duct-taped them to the heel portion and they stayed put for six days. The gaiters helped to keep small stones and debris out the shoes.
I noticed the padded collar dug into my ankle on steep terrain or when my foot was flexed to the maximum. It wasn't an issue since I hiked primarily on-trail but I'm not sure how often this would occur if my hike included a lot of steep off-trail scrambling.
It rained fairly steadily from a light rain to a heavy downpour for most of the first two days of our backpacking trip. So the shoes were soaking wet along with my socks after about the first hour of heavier rain. They stayed that way until the third day when the weather broke and I decided to wear dry socks with the wet shoes. The heat from my feet and the nice weather allowed the shoes to dry out quickly without making my socks wet.
The cold rainy days gave way to some hot sunny weather and by the end of the trip I was appreciating the non-waterproof nature of these shoes. The breathability was excellent on those hot days. As I mentioned in the Field Report, I prefer to wear medium-cushion hiking socks with these shoes. Even with the heavier sock, the cooling effect was adequate to keep my feet from overheating. I didn't carry any camp shoes just to see how the Oboz functioned in that regard as well. While I didn't like having wet camp shoes on the first few nights, they worked just fine as camp shoes. I simply loosened the laces in camp. The good breathability helped keep them comfortable after a long day of hiking.
I haven't had any issues with hot spots or blisters although my feet are pretty resilient and used to hiking so that rarely happens anyway. The fit is great and I like the streamlined cut so that I don't feel like I'm wearing clunky shoes.
I used the manufacturer-supplied insole for the entire testing period although I usually change these out for my favorite insole. In this case the quality of the insole seemed pretty good so I decided to try it. I was impressed that they performed so well that it never even crossed my mind over the test period that these were not my usual insoles.
The traction has been outstanding and I'm confident that I won't slip in these shoes. They have a good grip in wet conditions and on wet granite.
The durability has been very good considering what these shoes have been through. They are quite dirty but everything is intact. The tread appears to have many miles of life left. The insoles are in good shape. The toe rand has some gouges but is securely attached to the shoe. Even the laces are wearing well.
The Oboz Switchback trail shoes are a rugged pair of hikers that look and feel like trail runners but have a stiffer sole for a more substantial pair of footwear.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Not as great:
Make my feet tired on hard surfaces
Too stiff for running
This concludes my Long-Term report and this test series. Thanks to Oboz Footwear and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to walk a mile (or so) in their shoes.
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Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith