Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry - Women's Review
Cons: Upper absorbs water (but doesn't leak), a little heavy
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sawtooth II Low BDRY has held up incredibly well after a year of long hikes. There are no signs of sole compression, de-lamination, or loose stitching. It remains comfortable and supportive and is still a favorite for multi-day trips when carrying heavier packs and traversing rugged terrain. This is a really excellent hiking shoe that is our Top Pick for long distances and longevity.
Comfort and fit are two of the most important aspects to consider when choosing your next pair of hiking shoes, and the Sawtooth II is just as comfortable as its predecessor. While other shoes have more plush midsoles, Oboz knows they fit better than most brands, and the Sawtooth II is a close runner-up in the comfort category.
The heel is well-cushioned, and so is the forefoot. Why would you care about this? Hiking on flat surfaces, the heel strikes first and takes most of the impact, but the forefoot strikes first when you hike on an incline. If there is ample padding through the length of the shoe, you will most likely have happy feet, especially when you are hiking in technical terrain or carrying a pack. Other models that lacked much forefoot padding revealed this in such conditions.
Some testers feel that the new Sawtooth is narrower than the old version, so if you have a narrow foot and couldn't get the old Sawtooth to fit, it might be worth checking out the Sawtooth II and see if it is more to your liking.
When it comes to support, this shoe lacks the support of many rivals. Arch support, an effective lacing system, and lateral support are all there. The Sawtooth II comes with Oboz's "O Fit" insole, which is sturdy and provides excellent arch support. It is much more robust than the majority of the insoles that we saw in this test.
For a "low cut" shoe, the Sawtooth II comes up higher around the ankles than most other hiking shoes, adding to its support. The eyelets for the laces run up high on the upper, so locking down your ankle works with these shoes. And the cut of the shoe cradles the heel well, so we didn't feel like we had to crank on the laces to keep our heels in place. Even more, the stiff upper materials reinforce the support of the shoe. Few shoes provide a more dialed-in fit.
The Sawtooth's outsole has enough torsional rigidity to withstand rough terrain, boulder hopping, and scrambling. Among all contenders, these shoes are our top choice for backpacking with a heavier pack. It is a common piece of advice to wear a hiking boot rather than a shoe if your pack weighs more than 25-30 pounds. The higher-ankle models found in our review of top-ranked women's hiking boots will provide more ankle stability, but they can also create more pressure points and hot spots. If you've sworn off boots for good, we recommend these shoes as a great alternative. We would also recommend this shoe for someone who primarily hikes but may make one or two short backpacking trips per year and doesn't want to buy a pair of boots.
When scoring for traction, we consider how well the tread handles traveling up and down loose scree as well as rock slabs. Volcanic rubble is the ultimate test for lugs, while wet rocks reveal the strengths or weaknesses of the rubber. The Sawtooth II did well on both!
The lugs are chunky, zig-zag shaped, and deep, great for shedding mud and smaller rocks. There is ample rubber on the sides of the shoes for added grip in technical situations. We also appreciate the soft, sticky rubber, which easily grips bare rock. We felt secure underfoot on steep, loose trails and exposed rock and scrambled confidently around on rock bands and cave rims.
The Sawtooth also gets high marks for its downhill traction. A well-defined heel is useful to dig in with your heels when chugging down slopes.
All that sticky rubber that we love comes with a price, which is a heavier hiking shoe. And while there is no question that weight is an essential factor when it comes to hiking shoes, we believe that the stability, protection, and solid ride of the Sawtooth II are worth the extra weight. And the new version is, in fact, lighter than the original Sawtooth, bringing it closer to the rest in this metric.
Often, lightweight hiking shoes don't work well for longer or multi-day hikes or when carrying weight in a pack. The lightest shoes that we tested weigh about 4 ounces less per shoe, but they lack the traction, support, and durability of the Sawtooth II. If light and fast is your style, you might want to look at other options, but for max protection and durability, this shoe beats the rest.
As with most of the hiking shoes that advertise waterproofness, the Oboz Sawtooth II Low did not leak at all in our testing. It is made with Oboz's BDry waterproof membrane, which keeps the water out while also transporting foot sweat out. We were a little surprised by how much water the Sawtooth II absorbed in our bucket test — over an ounce per shoe! While it would be a rare hike that you are standing around in three-plus inches of water for ten minutes or more, it is possible that a downpour could soak the shoes, and you would be carrying around that extra weight. Leather can absorb water, but luckily it can also be treated with a bit of waterproofing wax for better repellency.
A feature that we appreciate in this shoe is that the upper comes up higher in the front and on the sides for added protection. An extra half-inch of coverage can make a difference when crossing mountain streams or navigating puddles. If you love hiking in the winter, Oboz also makes our the Bridger 7" Waterproof boot.
In its previous version, we had no durability concerns with this shoe, and we have no reason to think anything less of the Sawtooth II. Triple stitching on the upper will keep the leather attached to the mesh, and the rubber heel counter that functions to maintain the shoe's shape also provides extra durability. We've surveyed online user reviews and see no complaints about durability there, either.
One thing to note is that sticky rubber soles, like those on the Sawtooth II, will wear out faster if you wear them on concrete or asphalt surfaces, so stick to the trails to maximize their life. Of course, this is true for any shoe.
Should You Buy the Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry?
Multiple testers and our scoring metrics agree — the Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry is a fantastic shoe for all kinds of hiking objectives. They stand out in almost all of our testing metrics, but we especially appreciate their comfort, stability, waterproofness, and sticky rubber. Our feet are always happy at the end of an adventure in the Sawtooth II, and we think you will love them, too. The Sawtooth II is cheaper than a full hiking boot and costs less than many models in this review of top-ranked women's hiking shoes. Considering that it excels in so many conditions, comes with a well-built and supportive insole, and is durable enough to last for years, we think this shoe is a great value. Dig this shoe, but don't need the waterproofing? Oboz also produces a non-waterproof version of this shoe for about 30 bucks less.
What Other Hiking Shoes Should You Consider?
If durability is your top priority, it can be hard to find a better choice than the Sawtooth. However, if you want the best across test metrics, the La Sportiva Spire GTX provides better traction and offers more water resistance, and is lighter weight than the Oboz.
— Laurel Hunter
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