Cover image: The Bridger Mid takes a rest break in a patch of Arrowleaf Balsamroot during a spring break-in hike in central Washington. All images: Jesse Cunningham
I’ve never liked mid-cut hiking boots. There. Now I've said it. I understand how they can be the right choice for some people, but I haven't previously found a place for them in my hiking shoe arsenal. When I first started hiking and backpacking it was assumed that high cut leather boots gave you the best support and were necessary for hiking. Does that make me old? Maybe, but I prefer to focus on the wisdom I’ve gained over the years. After hiking the Appalachian Trail with heavy leather hiking boots, I began to gravitate toward lighter, low-cut hiking and trail running shoes, and these have become my preferred footwear for most of my hiking adventures. I still wear sturdier boots, but they are generally reserved for mountaineering and extended backcountry trips.
The Bridger Mid gave solid support on the chunky crumbled basalt hiking trails of central Washington.
For my recent trip to Alaska, I knew I was likely to encounter rain, water crossings, and spongy, wet tundra. I wanted a boot that was lightweight, leather, waterproof, and had a higher cut than my favorite low-cut shoes, but not as heavy and stiff as my mountaineering boots. The Bridger Mid Waterproof checked all of the boxes on my wish list and seemed like the perfect compromise, so I decided to give them a try.
The Fit: Oboz describes the fit as follows, “Length runs true to size. Form hugging heel cup, sculpted mid-foot, and a generous forefoot & toe box.” This is not just marketing mumbo jumbo. This is exactly what I look for in a hiking boot and it is exactly what the Bridger delivers. If you've read my previous entries on boot fitting (here and here), you will know why these features are so important. I wore these boots on some early season day hikes to test them out and break them in. As it turns out, they fit so well they didn't really need any breaking in. They were comfortable right out of the box and by the third hike they felt like lightweight slippers molded to my feet. For the first few hikes, I was still skeptical that I was going to like the mid-cut and was hyper-aware of where the top of the cuff contacted my ankle.
Construction: The upper is constructed of waterproof nubuck leather and reminds me fondly of the heavy leather hiking boots of my youth, without the weight penalty. The combination of low friction, sturdy metal lacing hardware and high-friction loops makes lacing the boots, and getting the desired tightness, a cinch. The sturdy outsole and TPU midsole provide good support and traction. The EVA foam midsole gives amazing cushioning and the Oboz O Fit insoles, as I've mentioned before, (link to boot fitting blog?), are the only stock insoles that are worth keeping in your boots.
I hiked for several hours in a cold drizzling rain in Kluane National Park, Yukon. My feet stayed warm and dry the whole time thanks to the waterproof leather and B-Dry waterproof membrane.
Performance: I have worn the boots for close to 30 days and they show virtually no signs of wear. The construction of the boots is solid and the quality of the components gives me confidence that these boots will have a long usable life. The waterproof leather and B-Dry membrane kept my feet dry and warm during many cool, rainy hikes in Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia. The mid-cut allowed me to pull my hiking pants or rain pants over the top of the boots and keep water and trail debris out. I was initially concerned with how hot my feet got on some of my spring break-in hikes in the warm, dry conditions of central Washington. Although the waterproof membranes used in footwear are breathable, they will always suffer from less breathability than non-waterproof boots.
If you plan to do most of your hiking in warm, dry climates you may want to opt for a non-waterproof boot.
As it turned out, a warmer boot was perfect for my trip to Alaska. After hiking a lot in cooler temperatures, I think this boot could also be used for light winter use, although the Bridger Insulated would be a better choice if you are looking for a dedicated winter boot.
The outsoles have a hard rubber compound that has worn really well and gave good traction in most conditions, however, I did note that there were certain trail conditions--smooth wet rocks, and a particular high clay soil that I hiked on--where the traction was noticeably reduced. A softer rubber compound may have helped in these conditions but at the expense of reduced outsole life. The side lugs on the outsole are more than just for show and came in handy for added traction a few times when I was traversing steep slopes.
My most pleasant surprise with the Bridger mid boots was the outstanding cushioning, provided primarily by the EVA midsole but likely enhanced by the cushioning pads in the O fit insoles. On one of my first hikes with the boots I charged down a long steep downhill and marveled at how well the boots absorbed my heel strikes, even when I intentionally emphasized striking hard with my heel. The combination of the boots light weight and springy midsole can give you the feeling of floating down the trail.
Summary: The Bridger Mids were the perfect boots for my summer trip to Alaska. They were light and comfortable enough to wear all day without fatigue. They kept my feet warm and dry on rainy hikes and allowed me to plow through stream crossings and mushy tundra with impunity. The fit, the support, and cushioning are all outstanding. And the cut, well, as much as I hate to admit it, these mid-cut boots have grown on me. They feel so good on my feet I may just forget that I am wearing a mid-cut boot. The best hiking boots are the ones you don't ever think about anyway, right?
Jesse Cunningham lives in Ellensburg, WA and is an Oboz ambassador, photographer, and father to two young adventurers. He enjoys motivating his children and others to get outside and chase their own adventures almost as much as he does plotting and pursuing his next big trip. Follow his adventures on Instagram.