Backcountry Skiing Canada - Top Honors
The first thing that struck me about the Oboz Firebrand II hiking shoes is that although they have a solid/rugged design they are still fairly lightweight. This has always been the challenge; how do you make a shoe light yet sturdy with a rigid feel. To achieve this combination, Oboz based the Firebrand II on their sturdy Sawtooth outsole but they eliminated the unneeded rubber to save on the weight. In addition, the two-part midsole includes dual-densities of EVA and a nylon shank with a 3D moulded external heel counter to provide stability. This all comes together to weigh in at only 525 grams per shoe - not bad, not bad at all.
Straight out of the box the shoes fit me like a glove and really cradled my feet to provide a solid ride with reasonable flex and torsional rigidity. The included "Oboz Bfit Deluxe Footbed" provided some nice arch support and a heel cradle to keep things comfy even on longer walks pounding the pavement. The Oboz Firebrand IIs really were at home on the trail though. The moulded rubber toe cap and uppers made from a combo of Nuebuck leather and high abrasion textiles kept nicks and gouges from rocks to a minimum. The aggressive tread pattern provided really good grip and friction on all surfaces and, overall, they felt like a shoe in 4-wheel drive.
If all this was not enough, the Firebrand II comes with a waterproof membrane called "B-Dry". I am always skeptical of these proprietary waterproof technologies as I find that my feet often still get wet from either the outside or the inside, but the B-Dry really does work: it kept water out while also letting inside moisture escape. I had the Firebrand IIs out in light rain, 2" deep puddles and even in some spring time corn snow and they kept my feet dry through it all. I found that since the B-Dry membrane is breathable my foot did not overheat too much either which was nice. Given the stability and snugness of the upper I was surprised that my feet were able to stay relatively cool.
The Firebrand II is a light yet rugged, waterproof hiker that fits incredibly well and works on trail and off. I would venture to say that this is the most comfortable and well designed hiking shoe I have ever worn. I went back to my old hiking shoes for a day and they felt like wishy-washy bags of oatmeal in comparison to the Firebrand lls and so they are relegated to garden shoes from here on out.
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