Oboz Firebrand II Bdry Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable, supportive
Cons: Clunky, average performance, heavy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We tested these shoes in a range of conditions, including desert hikes, mountain scrambles, and both on and off-trail use. We find that the Firebrand II Bdry is a good, basic hiking shoe that does everything reasonably well but does not excel in any one category other than in support and durability.
The Firebrand II Bdry is a pretty beefy hiking shoe, and it is one of only a few models that we would actually need to break in to make them comfortable in the long-term. This is not necessarily a big deal, but they are in a different class than the shoes that more closely resemble a trail runner.
They are reasonably comfortable once broken in a bit, thanks to the OFit insole which is one of the more quality insoles we tested. Oboz footwear tends to come with superior insoles. On warm hikes we found the extra leather to be quite warm and affected the shoe's ability to breathe and we ended up with pretty sweaty feet, something to be aware of if you hike in desert climates during the warmer months.
The Firebrand II Bdry shoes are not light. They weight a full half-pound per pair more than shoes that offer similar comfort and support and are the second heaviest pair that we tested. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Not when you consider their longevity, given the heavy-duty outsole and the mostly leather upper, which will resist wear for years given moderate use. But we do not want to put these on for long hikes nearly as much as a lighter pair, as they do not offer a lot of extra performance benefits for the weight penalty.
Support is one metric that the Firebrand II really excels in. As mentioned above, the insole is great and gives as much underfoot support as an aftermarket insole does. Below it, we find a chassis built by layer upon layer of robust, supportive material. There is a nylon shank that stiffens the sole making it more torsionally rigid, a helpful attribute when traversing across a slope or edging on a boulder, as well as a dual-layer EVA foam midsole that helps to deflect a lot of the impacts found on the trail. This support is a benefit to those who don't enjoy the lack of structure found in lighter shoes and who want the shoe to be more protective of the foot.
The sole found on the Firebrand II Bdry is called Sawtooth, and we find that it is effective in light-duty trail hiking, though it did not give much more than average performance in more demanding situations. The rubber compound is relatively hard, and so it kicks well into loose sediment, but the lugs are quite shallow and wide, so there is not much "bite" when dealing with this kind of terrain, despite the large oversized outer lugs. We find ourselves slipping when on rock slabs as the sole does not smear well, so in these more specialized conditions consider a more capable shoe, though for most applications this shoe will do reasonably well.
The Firebrand II is a solid, well-made hiking shoe, but it does not do much beyond hiking. It can double as a supportive work shoe, and as a daily driver (especially if you live in a wet region where a waterproof lining is helpful), but it has limited capacity as a mountain scrambling shoe, a trail runner or a fastpacking shoe, applications where other models are capable of succeeding.
These hiking shoes use a proprietary waterproof/breathable liner called BDry (the Firebrand II is also sold in a non-waterproof version). We put these shoes on and waded through a shallow stream, and thanks to their 4.5-inch flood height, they did not allow any water in. Aided by the leather outer, which should be reconditioned every so often so that it retains its water repellency, these shoes are good at keeping water out but don't breathe as well given the heavy outer material.
We gave the Oboz Firebrand II good marks for durability, as it has a rugged sole that will hold up to seasons worth of use, as well as a hefty nubuck leather upper in addition to a thin strip of mesh, which will be able to resist wear and tear much more easily than the lighter less durable fabrics usually seen in hiking shoes. With care and treatment, we have heard of these shoes lasting upwards of two years of consistent use.
These shoes are a reasonable value if you want to buy a hiking shoe that, while not being the best at any one thing, is a good all-around shoe that will last for longer than the average hiking shoe.
The Oboz Firebrand II Bdry is a good hiking shoe for those who want great support, seek long-term durability, and do not mind a little extra weight. They are great day hiking shoes and given that Oboz will plant a tree for every pair sold, they also contribute to long-term sustainability.
— Ryan Huetter