Gear Review: Oboz Switchback Hiking Shoes

Oboz Switchback
Oboz Switchback

Hiking Shoes
Oboz Switchback
$120, 2 lbs. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 8-14, women’s 6-11

What should you look for in shoes for dayhiking? The answer may be more complicated than you think, which might help explain why some hikers struggle to find the right footwear. For most dayhikes, no matter the distance, I want lightweight, low-cut shoes that deliver moderate support, plenty of forefoot flex to allow a natural stride, and as much breathability as possible—to keep my feet cool and comfortable and help prevent blisters. On long dayhikes, those attributes—especially the breathability—become even more critical. On a 25-mile, 11-hour, roughly 4,000-foot dayhike in the Grand Canyon in May, the Switchback came through for me on all of those counts.

On that long, strenuous hike from Hermits Rest to the Bright Angel Trailhead, the Switchback remained comfortable for the entire distance for several reasons that make a big difference no matter how far you hike. Perhaps most critical, the Switchback’s platform provides an unusual degree of support for a low-cut, two-pound shoe. Board-lasted, with a TPU chassis built into the dual-density EVA midsole for torsional stability, and a molded TPU heel counter that feels rock-solid underfoot, the Switchback supported and protected my feet descending nearly 4,000 feet over some seven miles of steep, often-rocky terrain on the Hermit Trail at our hike’s outset.

Oboz Switchback
Oboz Switchback

At the same time, the shoe has good forefoot flex, so I could walk miles along the nearly flat Tonto Trail at a fast pace without my feet starting to feel fatigued. And the perforated mesh uppers, with synthetic leather overlays for abrasion-resistance, ventilate well; my socks only got slightly damp on a long day that ranged from mostly overcast, mild, and breezy to periods of hot sun. The Switchback lacks a waterproof-breathable membrane, which means they breathe better than any shoe with a membrane, and dry faster, but are not designed for cold, wet hikes. Lastly, the deep outsole lugs bit securely into ground that varied from loose scree and rocks to sand and packed dirt, as well as on steep rocks, mud, and old leaves covering trails at Wachusett Mountain in central Massachusetts. The fit, snug in the heel and midfoot with good toe space, is best for high-volume feet. Bonus: Oboz footwear come with a BFit Deluxe Insole that compares to custom insoles, at no extra cost.

The Oboz Switchback is a high-performing shoe for most typical dayhikes in relatively dry weather, ultralight backpacking, or thru-hiking on trails, at a good price.

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See all of my reviews of hiking shoes and backpacking boots that I like, all of my reviews of hiking gear, and my “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots.” See also my stories “The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun” and “Buying Gear? Read This First.”

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza

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