This winter, Oboz Footwear unveiled the new Sawtooth II collection. The new Sawtooth was a reimagining of the old one, which, if you’re reading this, you probably know was an Oboz classic. I was eager to try out this new version, if only to see how Oboz continued the legacy of fit, performance, and durability.
My first hike was on a snowy winter day (trip report at the bottom of this post). Since then, the Sawtooth II low has been my go-to hiker on the steep, sometimes slick trails in the nearby Adirondacks (sure, the shoe is named after an Idaho mountain range, but, trust me, it’s good anywhere).
Here's my unvarnished review.
The first time I laced up the Sawtooth II Low, I had the same experience I’ve always had with Oboz (I was a longtime fan before I was an ambassador). They fit like I would expect a custom shoe to fit.
The Oboz OFit insole system hugs my heel and supports my arch, providing both cushion and stability.
The Sawtooth II held my heel in a way that prevented vertical or horizontal—which meant no hot spots or blisters. This is crucial, as anyone who enjoys these long sufferfests over roots and boulders understands all too well.
The sturdy toe box, reinforced by a leather casing and rubber lugs that climb partway up the sidewalls, is another great feature touch. Toe-banging during mountain descents is a well-known agony to backpackers. But the Sawtooth’s big toe box protects beautifully.
Likewise, on winter hikes where extra traction is needed, the tight front straps of a snowshoe or crampon can crimp a boot’s toe box, leading to loss of circulation and numbing.
This was absolutely not the case last winter with me Sawtooth II. Its sturdy toe box maintained its shape through 14 hours of snowshoe wearing.
Winter Trip Report Mount Skylight, Adirondacks, New York
I know, it’s summer. You’re planning your backpacking trips. Me too.
But I still want to tell you about one particular winter hike with the Sawtooth II, if only to illustrate WHY this shoe is a wonderful, all-season choice.
On this particular day, my wife and I were headed to Mount Skylight, New York’s fourth highest peak, located in the Adirondacks. We had a nine mile hike and arrived at the trailhead in minus nine degree weather.
We started hiking in the dark.
As an avid winter backpacker, I usually stick with mid-high insulated boots aided by knee-high gaiters, especially when in these mountains where snow levels reach high enough to engulf 8-foot trail signs.
I was a little skeptical if the Sawtooth II Low could perform well in these conditions?
Well, after putting them to the test in the coldest month of the year, I can offer a resounding YES. The Sawtooth II Lows checked all the boxes: adequate warmth, comfort, support, durability, and flexibility in the use of traction gear.
After the first three hours of climbing roughly 2,000 feet in elevation over 4.7 miles, my wife and I reached the Lake Arnold signpost, roughly halfway to Skylight. The winds were picking up, and the trail was no longer broken. I was worried about melting clumps of ice and snow seeping into the tops of my Sawtooth II Lows.
For a while, we followed the tracks of a snowshoe hare though a remote mountain pass. However, his attempts to break trail were not very helpful.
By mid-day we were approaching the base of Skylight, working our way to Lake Tear of the Clouds, known locally as the highest and most remote source of the mighty Hudson River that miles away flows past New York City and into the Atlantic.
We had just struggled through a 1.2 mile stretch of straight up steep ascent. In any other season, these trails are just downright nasty, filled with twisted roots, boot-sucking mud, blown-down tree limbs, and creek bed boulders that strike the hiker’s foot from all angles.
In fact, these trails are where good boots go to die.
But though it didn’t matter this day with all those obstacles buried under 6 feet of snow and ice, the Sawtooth II’s are made for such abuse. The thick rubber lugs of the boot sole climb an inch up either side of the boot while both the toe box and heel are reinforced with rubber casing, abrasion-resistant leather, and double stitching.
A Peak with a View
We had only a .5 icy scramble up to Skylight’s dome-shaped peak, and we were greeted with one of the most spectacular views in the Northeast. Skylight’s broad peak offers views of nearly all the park’s other High Peaks, along with the Green Mountains of Vermont, and on this bluebird sky day we could almost see Mount Washington.
We still had a long 8.5-mile hike back to the car and would not likely reach it before dark, but it was worth it.
At the end of the day, the Sawtooth II Low proved to be an apt, solid shoe that I highly recommend. Its mesh and leather top vents, while the Bdry technology keeps moisture out and warmth in. My feet were comfortable and pain-free over nearly 18 miles of cold, vertical climbing and descending in heavy snow.
AND it’s a terrific shoe for the spring, summer, and fall. Heel to toe it is a well-crafted boot able to handle most anything thrown its way.
Stephen Pierce, a career educator, is a life-long outdoor enthusiast and backpacker who resides in East Aurora, New York. He is dedicated to promoting the principles of Leave No Trace and a love of wild places. Follow him on Instagram @raider111