These boots saved one of our editor’s lives. And we’re only kind of kidding. Here’s Clare Menzel’s honest review of the Oboz Sawtooth Low Waterproof Boot.

Montana-based shoe brand Oboz gets its name from a slick linguistic equation: “Outdoors” plus “Bozeman” equals “Oboz.” The company came in to being just over a decade ago and made waves with their environmental activism. As for their shoes, I was asked to put the Oboz Sawtooth Low Waterproof Boot through hell and high water, which I did, literally. It’s a lighter, waterproof and more versatile version of their classic, best-selling Sawtooth, and is billed as a one-size-fits-all quiver-killer. I set out to discover if this was true.

Oboz Sawtooth Low Waterproof Boot
The author’s Oboz Sawtooth Low Waterproof boots are still in good condition other than a few stains after fleeing a flash flood in Utah.

Snapshot: Oboz Sawtooth Low Waterproof Boot

    1. Pros: The sturdy soles feel durable—as in, hand-me-down-to-the-grandkids durable. Also they have good breathability (especially for a waterproof boot), tough toe, an intense tread & clean lacing system.
    2. Cons: They’re nearly 50 percent heavier than my trail runners (my usual go-to foot buddies) and their vibe is less athletic and more “get the job done.” Which is to say: the Sawtooth just won’t do double-duty (for me) as around-town footwear.
    3. Price: $190 Cdn
    4. Who Should Buy: Anyone in the market for a versatile boot that’ll take them nearly anywhere in the wilderness. Though spendy for a recreationalist, it’s worth it to be so well-heeled.
    5. Who Shouldn’t Buy: A hiker who likes ankle support. Or an urban sidewalk/boardwalk “hiker.” These would be overkill.
    6. Helpful Hack: Mud can ruin any boot if left on too long. After every muddy hike, run your Oboz under a hose, scrub gently with a vegetable brush, then dry in a warm room.
    7. Author’s overall rating: 8/10

The Test

Endless April rain had made Whitefish, Montana, where I live, gloomy. So one morning, a friend and I packed the car to the brim and drove 1,500 km to get reacquainted with the sun in the American Southwest. We stopped at the San Rafael Swell in south-central Utah, 48-km stretch of rippling sandstone that’s a geological freak show in the middle of the desert. It’s so weird, Hollywood filmmakers use it to shoot alien space-scapes. But everyone is advised to stay clear during the region’s infrequent but violent rains that cause flash flooding in the several slot canyons. The day we chose seemed to be perfect weather-wise so we drove down a dry wash to the trailhead of the Ding and Dang Canyons, laced our shoes and headed in.

The author’s testing ground: Ding and Dang Canyons, Utah. Photo by Jackson George.

The Verdict

I bounded up the trail. The Oboz Sawtooth Low Waterproof boots I was wearing were comfortable at first blush and they powered through trenches of sand, across rock, through low brush and down steep slopes. Ding Canyon is full of boulder chokes and uneven terrain but the boots were light enough to play and stable enough that I didn’t worry much about finding careful footing. Soon I was so captured by the undulating, brick-red formations I forgot about checking the sky, which was blue with occasional puffball clouds when we started.

Suddenly, as we neared the end of the first canyon, my hiking partner froze. “Thunder?” he asked. “Big gust of wind?” I countered. We pressed on. The air rumbled again. On second thought, the clouds did seem darker. Then wet dots appeared on the rocks. The threat of a flash flood became very real and so we turned and sprinted. We hauled over boulders, through puddles, across precarious ledges and down the narrow corridors. A strike of lightning flashed, and we ran harder. I did not concentrate on my shoes because I was too busy thinking about not dying in the swift swirl of rushing water. But my heels sat snugly in the Oboz Sawtooth boots. The underfoot support kept me balanced. I didn’t roll an ankle. I didn’t get tripped up by heavy, cumbersome sole construction or unnecessary materials. The tread found easy purchase on the wet rocks. And even after splashing through growing puddles, my feet didn’t slip around inside the shoes.

Finally, we reached the car and collapsed in safety. The clouds soon cleared. I laid the shoes out to dry, then laced them back up and we continued on to our next adventure.

Oboz has partnered with Trees for the Future and so far has been responsible for planting 1,324,881 of ’em in places like Senecal, Africa. Find out more about their program here: One More Tree.”

Oboz’s aim is to make “footwear for every adventure,” as their motto goes, and I will definitely take the Sawtooth Low Waterproof boots on my next one. Bottom line: they performed well when it mattered. The intense tread doesn’t mess around. A tough toe lets a wearer recklessly step, run, and bash their feet into rocks. The lacing system is clean. Good breathability keeps hard-working feet cool. The Mineral Blue colour is cute, if you care about such things. Even if you don’t, the Sawtooth is (at least) not dorky, like so many other hiking boots. The proprietary, anatomically-designed O FIT insole, which has a supportive arch and a cushioning heel cup, sounds gimmicky—but I can’t deny that the boots are snug. Their solid support would help a wearer walk 500 miles, and then 500 more, if they ever needed to fall down at a faraway lover’s door.

I’m also proud of the environmentally minded company. “If a tree falls in the forest, can a shoe replace it?” their website asks. Oboz’s answer: The One More Tree program. In partnership with the non-profit Trees for the Future, Oboz sponsors the planting of one tree for every pair of footwear sold. So far, that’s more than than 1.3 million trees. In addition, Oboz carbon-offsets shoe shipments, as well as employee travel and commuting.

In absence of other sustainable business practices, offset efforts are little more than patronizing lip service. So Oboz’s Bozeman HQ is 100 percent wind-powered. Shoes that don’t sell are donated to the humanitarian organization Project Sole. And Oboz also only contracts with material suppliers that have been evaluated for environmental and social values. This isn’t a review of the company, but in 2017, I want to use my dollar to support brands that are pursuing a less wasteful, more mindful way. To boot: They also make a shoe that knocks my socks off.

Oboz Sawtooth Low Waterproof Boot 

The Deets

  • MSRP: $190 Cdn
  • Standard B width in heel and C in the forefoot
  • Weight: 13.8 oz/ 425 g
  • Flatlock seam construction is designed to eliminate chafing
  • Waterproof nubuck leather upper with waterproof/breathable membrane with proprietary B-DRY waterproofing
  • O Fit insole has a moisture wicking top layer, sculpted arch, and heel cup
  • Nylon shank between heel and forefoot for support
  • Molded heel counter
  • Colours: Violet, Mineral Blue
  • Available in Women’s US sizes 6 to 11