With 7.4 billion people walking around planet Earth, and most of those people having two feet, there is a high demand for footwear. As such, there is a myriad of shoe, boot and sandal manufacturers vying for your dollars when you are shopping for a new pair of kicks. It can feel overwhelming. We search for style, fit, function, materials, waterproofness and warranty but now there seems to be a sea change when looking for hiking boots. People are demanding more from their suppliers of equipment. We are demanding that corporate values, social responsibility and social and environmental practice line up with our thoughts on the matters. For these reasons, and a few recommendations from friends, is how I found out about a grassroots company out of Bozeman Montana called Oboz Footwear.
Although active in the outdoors, hiking is not on the top of my list of go-to activities. I am more of a mountain bike, paddle, ski kind of guy. But the occasion does arise where I get invited out for a good tromp in the backcountry with some friends – or more recently, taking my two kids out exploring. So when it comes to selecting boots, I often go for a well-known, trusted brand. I buy my boots knowing that I will have a painful break-in period and then plan to keep them for a few years longer than the average hiker. When Oboz came across the screen during a late night research session, I read reviews about how they were ready to go out of the box and that they had a ground-up build process that included their important footbed design. Now, having been a professional ski boot fitter for a number of years in my youth I immediately thought this was an overstatement. After much deliberating and comparison I made the choice and clicked “Add to Cart” on a pair of Oboz Bridger Mid hiking boots.
For anyone who knows me, they know that I am a chronic procrastinator so I ordered these boots with days to spare before a hike with some out of town company. Sure enough, they arrived the day before and I had literally no break-in period. I prepped myself and dug out the moleskin from my last hiking boot purchase and slid into my fresh pair of boots.
What the Fit?
Flashback a few days earlier and I was stressing on what size to order. You see, I love gear shopping but I am growing increasingly impatient with going to the store. Don’t get me wrong, I love chatting gear at my friendly local VPO store, but for me it is about time. I have been trained that I can see everything at my fingertips. Now I am doing my own hiking boot sizing online for a hike in a couple of days! I have to say, the fit advice and guidance on the Oboz site is spot on. I have a narrow to regular foot that measures at an 11.5 (29 mondo point). These boots fit exactly right as soon as I laced them up.
So we are off on our hike, the first thing I notice is that the uppers of the boots are supple yet the boot in it’s entirety gives me tonnes of support. It was a strange feeling popping on new footwear and not feeling constricted or realizing what areas I would have to deal with a later moleskin treatment. They moved seamlessly with my feet as we headed up the loop.
As I mentioned, the uppers are soft and pliable out of the box. The hardware on the boots are metal which I respect Oboz for opting for. I have snapped many a plastic eyelet and was happy to see the metal there. The stitching is done in a way to maximize articulation of the foot and you will notice and almost over-built bumper on the toe and heel which is smart when it comes to scrambling applications.
These boots got Sole
The soles are supper grippy with an aggressive tread pattern, however, I didn’t notice and sole drag while hiking on varied terrain which was nice. I put the heel treads to the test as I had to carry my pack and my 60 lb son down loose gravel at the end of the hike. I experienced absolutely no slippage what so ever. A very confidence inspiring feeling. They’ve also got cute little topo map graphics intertwined among the sole which is fun 🙂
It is what’s inside that counts
Nearly every pair of boots, shoes and ski boots I have owned I pull out the stock insole and purchase an off-the-shelf trim to fit sole. But not in the Oboz Bridger boots. I had read on the site about their “O-Fit Insole” and thought I would give it a chance. I have to say, after 4 hikes in them, I see no reason to swap out the insole. It has plenty of support and cushion. As a matter of fact, you don’t even think about it which to me means it is doing it’s job.
I am very brand loyal. When I find a shoe that fits, I stick with the brand for everything. I am now that way with Oboz. This pair of boots surprised me. The build quality of the Oboz Bridger Mid and out-of-the-box fit had me at hello. They are light enough for short hikes but have all the guts to perform on longer, multi-day jaunts. This is my first pair of Oboz but it won’t be my last…I am already sizing up a new pair of their Camptser Sandals!
Available In Store and Online
Who is Oboz?
As I said, some of us look for more out of the brands we choose to support. And it is supporting them when we make a purchase. It gives them the profit to keep making gear and take their share of the over 7 billion pairs of feet wandering around out there. Lately I have been looking closer on a company’s values and what they do to effect change in the world. Oboz Footwear is using their company as a platform for change. Yes, they are building and selling footwear for profit but they do things with that profit. They plant a tree for every pair of shoes, boots or sandals they sell. They even plant one if you show up at a demo and try a pair on. Factory seconds are not shredded and tossed, they are donated to Project Sole for feet in need. They offset their carbon foot print and their head office is 100% wind powered. Now I know they aren’t solving the world’s problems and some of this stuff is just good marketing, but they are putting the right foot forward and taking steps it the right direction – see what I did there 😉