What happens after a winter of snowshoeing, and constantly facing the battle of blistering heels? Well, you get sick of it and start trying everything imaginable, from different thickness of socks, different fabrics of socks, different inserts, etc. This is the situation that both Stella and I were in. After a snowshoe trek up the Jim Creek Trail in mid-March, enough was enough. Our heels were raw, and we had exhausted every option we could think of to remedy the problem.
The following weekend Stella and I headed to Never Summer Mountain Products in Grand Lake. We met with Dan to discuss our issue with nonstop blistering throughout the snowshoeing season. With a weekend or two of snowshoeing left, left we wanted to get it right. Dan only had to take one look at our boots to determine the problem (he felt down inside of our boots). Neither of our boots possessed adequately deep enough of heel cups for snowshoe or hiking activities, which resulted in extreme heal slippage. Who would have thought? Stella and I had never taken the heel cup into consideration when picking out our respective boots. Stella had been snowshoeing in her Ahnu boots, which are extremely well-made boots. But, they do not have a pronounced heel cup for snowshoeing.
At Never Summer, I initially tried on a pair of Vasque hiking boots; the fit was very good. Next, I tried on the Oboz Bridger boots. The fit went from very good to amazing. The next step was to narrow down the size, which can be a bit difficult for me since one foot is almost half size bigger than the other. The 11.5’s provided a snug fit but not quite enough wiggle room in the toe box. The 12’s provided more room in the toe box, which is very beneficial after a long day on the trail.
Never Summer has a make-shift incline for customers to walk on. It helps to ensure that there’s no heal lift or sliding forward on a descent. Considering all of this, I decided that the Oboz Bridger Mid Waterproof was the best fit for the type of hiking and outdoor activities that we would be partaking in over the next year. However, the real evaluation truly begins once you hit the trail!
That afternoon we headed out to snowshoe down to the Colorado River from the Grand Lake Nordic Center about a 2 mile out and back. My heels were not completely healed from the Jim Creek trek the week prior. However, after completing our short trek that day, no new blisters had formed. So far so good. Stella just wore her Merrell hiking shoes, which was sufficient for the short trek that day.
I realize that two miles isn’t a true test of the boots’ fit, but with the snow melting fast in the mountains I decided to turn my attention toward hiking on a few trails closer to home. The first test was to hike the Plymouth Mountain Loop at Deer Creek Canyon Park. The loop is about 9 miles from the Meadowlark Trailhead with a fairly decent assent through a rock bed to the Plymouth Mountain Trail. Needless to say, the boots passed the test with flying colors. One complaint, however, is that the insole is very thin (lacks cushion). But at the same time, the insole also provides just enough arch support for my feet, which do not require a great deal of arch support. I tried a few different varieties of inserts, but my feet seem to prefer the ‘minimalist’ feel with a lightweight cushioned sock.
A few months later, Spring had arrived and we were back at Base Camp. We ventured into Rocky Mountain National Park to hike Granite Falls via the Green Mountain Trailhead. This would provide an opportunity to test the traction of the Granite Peak Outsole in wet conditions on slippery granite rock faces at the falls. Again, the boots passed the test. I never felt any uncertainty about the sole losing traction on the rock faces as I moved about to get in a few pictures of the water cascading over the falls.
Now to the present. After hiking over 200 miles in the Oboz Bridger, it is safe to say that I would highly recommend this hiking boot. In fact, this boot could pass for a four season boot, as I recently attempted to summit Grays Peak with temperatures well below 20 degrees. My feet were very dry and comfortable with a nice pair of wool socks. Another thing to mention is that there was little to no break in period for these boots. Additionally, even after 200 miles of hiking, the outsole still has very little wear, but this also could be due to the fact that I am careful to not walk any great distances on concrete surfaces with them. The only concern I’ve had is that sometimes my heel will roll when it catches on a rock. This could just be the way I am positioning myself on the rock, or it could also be related to the tread design.
Overall: Great Purchase
Price paid: $165
Place purchased: Never Summer Mountain Products, Grand Lake, CO
*Oboz plants a tree for every shoe sold, awesome.
Link to Oboz website: Oboz
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