Gear Review: Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof Hiking Shoes
Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof
$140, 2 lbs. 4 oz. (men’s size 9)
Sizes: men’s 8-14, women’s 6-11
All through the second day of a five-day trek in northern Spain’s Picos de Europa Mountains, we hiked through steady rain and, higher up, wet snow that accumulated several inches deep on the ground. It felt more like Scotland’s Northern Highlands than mountains in the north of Spain. Throughout that day and the entire trip, these shoes mostly delivered the kind of support and performance I expect from much pricier boots—but did have a couple of minor shortcomings.
Support and stability are better than many low-cut shoes: I carried 25 pounds or more for several hours of hiking a day in a variety of terrain through the rugged Picos, from trails of packed dirt or loose scree to steep scrambling and slogging through wet snow, all without a complaint from my feet. A dual-density EVA midsole combines plenty of cushion with the solid torsional rigidity delivered by a nylon shank. As a bonus, all Oboz footwear come with the brand’s O Fit insole, which offers far more support and cushion than standard, flimsy insoles in most hiking shoes and backpacking boots.
The Sawtooth II’s were comfortable out of the box, requiring no break-in time before I took them on that hut trek. They have a wider toe box than many hiking shoes, enhancing comfort for many hikers—including people (like me) who don’t necessarily have wide feet. But the midfoot and heel still have a more-snug, medium-volume fit that prevents slipping, although the heel felt slightly roomier than I need (and my average-size feet fit many shoe and boot brands).
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My feet stayed largely dry in these shoes, thanks to Oboz’s proprietary BDry waterproof-breathable membrane: Although a little dampness penetrated the boots after long periods hiking and kicking steps in wet snow, that’s not unusual in waterproof-breathable boots in this category and price range, most of which are really made for hiking in rain and splashing through shallow water; many will allow some dampness through, and some will even get soaked after hours of hiking through wet snow. The Sawtooth II’s performed better than many low-cuts in that regard, letting only my socks get slightly damp.
They also dried out noticeably quickly afterward, thanks to the mesh vents in the leather uppers and the breathable mesh tongue, which enable the shoes to release moisture very effectively. The leather gives them substantial protection against hard use, as they demonstrated when I scrambled over very rocky terrain in the alpine zone of the Picos, and a rubber toe bumper protects your toes.
The only mediocre design feature of the Sawtooth II’s is the proprietary Oboz Sawtooth outsole: The fairly shallow, widely spaced lugs tended to hold mud and wet snow rather than shedding them, and slipped at times on steeper, muddier trails.
The Sawtooth II’s had one durability issue: The rubber toe bumper of one shoe began to delaminate slightly by the end of our five-day Picos trek—my first trip in them. When I asked Oboz about this, they responded. “We have seen this type of toe cap delamination before, but it’s quite rare. Since our shoes are assembled by hand there is a chance that there wasn’t enough glue applied to provide proper adhesion between the rubber toe cap and leather of the upper.” Oboz offers a one-year defect warranty on all of its products, and a problem like this one would fall under the warranty.
My take on the toe bumper delaminating: I’ve certainly seen this happen occasionally with other top brands. Defects occur in virtually any manufacturing process—that’s why companies offer warranties. Although it’s rarer with a handful of top brands and more-expensive, top-of-the-line hiking and backpacking footwear, it happens. I don’t see any reason to believe it happens more frequently with Oboz than many other footwear brands.
The Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof deliver good support, comfort, and breathability for dayhiking and light backpacking mostly on trails, at a very good price.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.
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Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof
The Verdict The Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof deliver good support, comfort, and breathability for dayhiking and light backpacking mostly on trails, at a very good price.