Gear Review: Oboz Sundog Trailsport Shoe
It’s almost May and spring is finally in full swing! With the season comes a slew of new products from our favorite outdoor brands. Among the new releases is Oboz Footwear’s new men’s Sundog. Coupled with its sister shoe, the Emerald Peak, the Sundog lauchnes Oboz’s new “Trailsport” line. With the Trailsport line Oboz hopes to create lighter shoes for hiking and trail running without compromising support and traction.
Recently I was able to spend some quality time with a pair of Oboz Sundogs. My last set of shoes, the ever popular Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2‘s, have been my trusty steeds on trail since Vermont in 2013. They were the first trail runners I ever purchased. Though, I admit I only bought them because the store didn’t have the shoes I was replacing. That and so many other people on the trail seemed to praise them. That being said, my Salomon’s lived up to the hype. Needles to say the Oboz Sundogs had a tough act to follow.
Category: Trailsport (Lighter weight shoes suitable for hiking and trail running.)
Sex: Mens Only – (The women’s version of this shoe is the Emerald Peak. Construction of the shoe is nearly identical except for some minor differences in the design of the Upper.)
Weight: Oboz advertises that a Size 9 Sundog weighs in at 11 oz. per shoe for a combined total of 1.375 lbs for the pair. Yet, the Size 12 Sundogs I had tested weighed in at 14 oz per shoe for a combined total of 1.75 lbs. So based on this information using the Size 9 shoe as your basis it is safe enough to assume adding one ounce per size up is a safe estimate.
Upper: Single Piece Mesh, Minimally Seamed and Lined • Textile Mesh Lining in Heel • Supportive Synthetic Leather Mid-foot Overlay • Protective Synthetic Leather Heel and Toe Overlays
Insoles: BFit Essential
Midsoles: Dual Density EVA • EVA Super Skin (ESS) Forefoot Armoring • Nylon Shank
Sizes Available: 8 – 12, 13, 14
Water Proofing: None
Test Subject & Area
Size tested: Men’s 12
Testing Area: Southern California
The first thing I noticed was also one of the Sundog’s biggest selling points: the upper single-piece mesh design. The upper of the shoe is made entirely from a single piece of mesh with minimal stitching. This design removes much of the more rigid structuring common in other shoe models. I imagine the point of this design is to cut out unnecessary material from the shoe’s construction to save weight. This is also an attempt to provide a more comfortable fit. I’ve come to deem both of these efforts successful.
Yet, despite the benefits of this design it raised questions about the durability of the shoe. It gave me concerns over how well this mesh design would hold up to long-term abuse.
Comfort/Fit: The Sundog’s I tested were true-to-size. I typically wear a size 12 shoe and the size 12 Sundogs fit me perfectly. The upper mesh design was quite comfortable. I could feel the mesh material conforming to the shape of my foot providing a cozy fit. Once tied down I was happy to find my feet stayed set in place. I didn’t experience any slipping or sliding, such as the annoyance of my toes cramming into toe box when heading downhill. The toe box was large enough that my toes felt they had space to wiggle around without feeling too confined. I was also pleased that the Sundog provided a secure heel grip–a common problem I’ve had with other shoes.
In addition, the dual-density EVA midsole provided ample cushion for my needs on trail. Of course, this needs more extended testing to see how well midsoles holds up long term.
Weight: If you’re looking for the lightweight shoe but are not willing to go completely minimalist then the Sundog is one to look into. The pair of Sundog’s I tested weighed a third of a pound less than my pair of Salomon’s of the same size. (and that’s with 2 years and 700+ miles of wear and tear on them)
Grip: Oboz equipped Sundog with their branded Hyalite outsole. This outsole is a lighter design for the Trailsport shoes compared to outsoles on other Oboz options. The Sundogs always made me feel comfortable in my footing over various types of terrain. I felt sure footed climbing over rocks and boulders, hiking up and down sandy trails, or jogging along gravel-filled paths. I never had to question the quality of my traction, nor did I experience unexpected slips, slides, or glides during my hikes. While the Hyalite has shaved off rubber weight to lighten the shoe, I never felt like it compromised the traction or protection of the outsole.
Breathability: Another benefit of the Sundog’s mesh design is it’s effective breathability. Trudging around the arid Southern California environment my feet stayed a comfortable temperature. At times when the winds were strong enough I could even feel the breeze blowing through the mesh to my feet. This is a welcomed respite in hotter temperatures.
It should also go without saying that the Sundogs are less than waterproof. Of course for most AT thruhikers this is a desired quality. This makes the mesh design a huge benefit. Since more of the shoes surface area is unimpeded mesh the shoe allows more ventilation thereby providing more optimal conditions for evaporation. All this results in some faster drying footwear.
Laces: While the past two years made me a lover of the Salomon Quicklace design I am pleased with the Sundog laces. They gripped well and stayed and never once force me to retie them during my testing.
Value: For only $100 MSRP the Sundog’s are a fabulous deal for what you get. Less material means lower cost. You can easily expect to pay prices $20 – 70 more for other brands or models. Added into that price is the excellent customer service that Oboz provides. Oboz Footwear is a friend to hikers and has a history of providing excellent aid to hikers in need of assistance. Oboz even has a form available on their website specifically for helping thru-hikers out on the trail!
Ethics: If you buy a pair of Oboz shoes you can feel comfortable knowing that you’re helping support a respectable company. Oboz works with the Trees for the Future charity to plant a tree for every pair of shoes purchased. Oboz also donates unsellable, but still wearable, shoes to local nonprofits.
Insole: The Sundog comes stocked with BFit Essential insoles. This is essentially a lighter weight variant of Oboz’s standard BFit Deluxe insoles. I listed this as a con for myself but this will likely not be a con for everyone. The optimal fit for an insole is highly relative, so it will vary from person to person. The BFit Essential insoles just didn’t do it for me. While they were not uncomfortable I just don’t feel like I’m getting the arch support I need from these insoles. As a result I will likely replace the BFit Essentials with a pair of Superfeet insoles.
Durability: Unfortunately my testing did not do enough to abate my concerns over the durability of the Sundog. That being said, over the weeks of testing I did with these shoes I did not experience any problems or structural failures. In fact, they look as good as new (albeit quite a bit dirtier). Determining how long a shoe will last is tricky business. It’s something that could dependent on the specific shoe you pick out. Maybe you were unlucky enough to pick the one shoe with a faulty seam. Yet, your friend with an identical shoe picked the workhorse that’s lasted 1,000 miles. I suppose the real question is with this concern would I still take these shoes out on a thru-hike? At this point I would still say yes. I think the many positives I’ve found in the Sundog outweigh my concerns over this potential unknown.
Toe Protection: This somewhat goes hand in hand with the questions I have concerning durability. While the synthetic leather overlay on the toe provides some protection I dont’t feel it provides a durable toe cap. I have concerns over how well this protection will fair over long term abuse on the the trail. During my testing the Sundog provided adequate protection from the great number of rocks I rammed my toes into, but this overlay is designed to be light and minimal like the rest of the shoe. For typical day use this may end up being a non-issue, but for the extreme abuse a thru-hiker puts on their shoes this could possibly prove too much. Though, this is still very speculative and more describes an aspect of the shoe I would like to test further as opposed to being exemplative results. This does not deter me from wishing to use the shoe, as for me it is an acceptable part of the trade off in using a lighter weight shoe.
Based on my own experience, I have rated these shoes on a 1-5 scale, 5 being the best rating.
The Sundog easily scores a 5 for comfort thanks to the upper mesh design. The true-to-size fit and conforming shape of the mesh make the Sundog one of the more comfortable shoes I’ve had the pleasure of wearing.
Speed & Efficiency: 5
Though I’m not much of a trail runner this is a shoe I would feel comfortable running in. After all Oboz equipped the Sundog with a more efficient design. It shaves ounces by forgoing certain constructions without compromising the integrity of the shoe.
This is an excellent option for a lightweight shoe while still offering greater comfort and protection then more minimalist options.
Within the realms of my testing the Sundog provided fantastic traction. However, it is worth noting that while the Sundog performed well upon the various terrains of the arid Southern California environment I have not yet had the opportunity to test the shoe in damper trail. This is not helped by the fact we’re in the middle of an extended and severe drought. As a result this could affect the overall rating in future testing.
Partially due to the limitations of the testing period I can only give the Sundog a 3.5 in durability. The Sundog is a shoe designed for comfort and speed. The trade off in lighter material and less construction is that the shoe may provide less protection than its more structured counterparts. It’s minimalist construction raises questions on the long term durability it will provide for the rigors of thru-hiking.
The quality of the outsole combined with the added nylon shank and forefoot armoring in the midsole gave me confidence in the shoes ability to mitigate stone bruising and other foot pains. Also the snug, contouring fit and excellent heel grip alleviated my fears of blisters. However, the minimal toe cap, while effective during my testing, left me with questions over how well it would hold up with the excessive abuse of thru-hiking. My concerns over the durability of the shoe translate here as well. If the durability of the shoe wanes too quickly so could the protection it provides.
With only $100 MSRP these shoes are definitely going be easier on your wallet than other options. This combined with customer support Oboz offers makes the Sundog top the charts on value.
OVERALL RATING : 4.6 / 5
Disclaimer: the preceding product was donated for the purposes of review.
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