www.obozfootwear.com
It’s always been a personal quest to find a lightweight, low-cut hiking shoe that’s also rugged, has a grippy sole, and fits well. So far, several dozen shoes tried and several dozen were found wanting. Enter the new Oboz Traverse. More about it momentarily. First to the company itself. Oboz is a new name to me, and, according to their website, a labor of love between a bunch of cool outdoor people who hang out around Bozeman, Montana. Great, however shoe companies and shoe designs are not casually put together by  people who know nothing about footwear except what they like. But with a bit of digging I found that a well-known “shoe dog” (that’s what longtime footwear designers and marketers call themselves) is involved in Oboz and that’s good.

Now to the Traverse. These shoes have a wonderful light weight to ruggedness ratio. The uppers feature a mesh that breathes nicely, yet proved surprisingly warm in colder conditions. The last is middle of the road, i.e. not too wide and not too narrow. This could be a problem with narrow feet like mine but thanks to a fast (and secure) lacing system, the shoes can be tightened down for a perfect fit. The shoe’s toes boxes are nice and roomy so your toes have plenty of room to wiggle.
The soles (Granite Peak) look massive (especially the heel) but don’t seem bulky in use. In fact, they provide a solid, torsionally rigid platform, and offer superb grip on any surface including ice.
Best of all, the Traverse are comfortable for short and long hikes and casual wear.
-Bob Woodward
The Traverse will be available in spring 2013

www.adidas.com/us
We confess to feeling some skepticism when we first saw the Adidas Terrex Swift Solo hiking shoes.  The mega-brand already makes award-winning shoes for practically every sport that requires footwear, and we worry that hiking might be their Achilles heel. Thankfully, these day hikers stride confidently into the market. After six months of testing, the shoes continue to excel.  The wear-resistant textile mesh uppers were durable and breathable during mid-summer hikes, but they offer enough warmth to work well in cooler autumn temps, especially when paired with a nice pair of merino wool hiking socks. The toe cage protects the feet from rocks and roots on the trail without adding too much stiffness, and the heel-to-toe cushioning offered out-of-the-box comfort.  We also like the molded tongue, which rested comfortably against the tendons and never slipped, even after a ten-hour slog through the trails of Shenandoah.  The tread is fairly modest compared to other day hikers, but the front outsole is climbing-specific and the proprietary Traxion grippy rubber held up well in easy rock scrambles. You won’t be doing any serious climbing in these shoes, mind you. But they may become your go-to approach shoe.
Note: we tested the early model, which had a slightly different look. But the difference between our tester and the new models are purely aesthetic.

www.obozfootwear.com, 2 pounds, 1 ounce
There are a million approach shoes out there (AKA: low-cut footwear with somewhat sticky soles).  The only problem is that are made for bouldering and short walks; they often lack underfoot padding and run too tight in the toes to allow for much mileage or loaded packs. At first, we thought these 2 lb. 1 oz. all-Nubuck leather shoes were more of the same, so we began wearing them as casuals for their hip bowling-shoe style.

The more we wore ‘em, the more we liked ‘em.  They shined on day hikes, and distributed pedal pressures when for mountain biking with standard toe clips. The modest but sufficient midsole padding was plenty for most uses, and testers soon noticed how sticky they were on slickrock slabs and wet, slot canyon boulders in Capitol Reef or granite boulder hopping in Colorado’s Elks Range.

Comfort was superior. The heel pockets didn’t cause blisters, and there was plenty of toe room for our most paddle-footed testers. Plastic midsole plates protected our feet from “baby-head” trail rocks, and offered enough torsional rigidity to let us edge on nubbins while climbing, yet they flexed longitudinally at the ball of the foot without pinching the tops of our toes. The Nubuck just keeps molding better the more they’re worn.

Plastic loops on the backstays are big enough to clip carabiners through, for those times when you need to hang them off a climbing harness. And, being cheapskates, we definitely like how durable they’ve proven. Despite crack-jamming and nasty talus plunges, they still look good enough to be respectable at weddings.
Available in men’s and women’s
-Steve Howe

This spring Merrell will take the ample lessons learned from their successful Barefoot Trail Glove shoe and apply them to a new line. Dubbed the M-Connect, this series will carry across four key collections (including the Barefoot) to provide minimalist, all-natural fit in fast, flexible designs that cater to the needs of outdoor exercise, from trail running to hiking to aquatic environs. We’re particularly interested in the new multi-hike Proterra line, whose designs originated from insights gleaned from the University of Virginia’s SPEED Performance Clinic and Motion Analysis Lab. Their studies indicate that greater surface contact with the ground improves overall performance. These fast, breathable hiking shoes and boots will have a modest 4mm drop, inverted lugs, a wider mid-foot, and will employ a new technology that infuses the foot cage and the mesh uppers to allow for lightweight, natural movement without sacrificing durability. Other shoes in the M-Connect line include Mix-Master 2, with 4mm drop and 12 to 8mm of cushion and the Bare Access (zero drop, 8mm of cushion).

Merrell will also introduce the Bazaar collection in spring 2013, a group of laid-back, go-anywhere shoes and sandals for men and women that incorporate vibrant fabrics akin to those found in the markets of the world. The evocative line should make for a solid pair of travel shoes, and will likely pair nicely with the continuation of their apparel line, which brings performance-oriented technology into urban, travel friendly designs.  We love the looks of the women’s Hawthorne, a poly, DWR-treated jacket with a pleated back for cycle-friendly application, and the Aquatia, a fully-seamed waterproof/breathable jacket with a femme-yet-functional cut and a heathered exterior.  The men’s line will mirror this form-function merge, including the commute-friendly Freewheel Short-Sleeved Shirt, the Lake Hood Short, and the streamlined, technical Charlton Shirt. These travel-friendly pieces will be part of the spring 2013 Urban Mobility line, which aim to marry athletic apparel with a touch of style and tech for trail running, hiking, and…pretty much any other active pursuit in which you wear clothes.

Bozeman, MT-based Oboz have been making some of our favorite multisport shoes for a few seasons now, and we’re really looking forward to the new women-specific Luna, slated to hit in the spring of 2013.  One of four models with synthetic uppers, this light and nimble shoe will have stitch-free, welded microfiber overlays that will anchor the lacing to help keep the midfoot in place.  Large-surface, deep lugs will offer traction on almost any trail, while toothy perimeter lugs will handle the really rough terrain—and the strategic placement of these treads also cuts down on the shoe’s weight. As with the other models in this line, the Luna will have a dual-density EVA midsole, complimented by a three-quarter-length TPU chassis and shank that spans the arch, heel, and ball of the foot for best-in-class stability. The perforated, synthetic uppers should provide some much-needed breathability for hot-weather hiking, while details like all-metal eye loops, a mud flap, and a rubberized toe cap speak to the shoe’s durability. As with all Oboz shoes, the Luna will include a triple-density “BFIT Deluxe” insole—one of the best insoles on the market. It weighs in at 12.6 ounces per (size 7).