If you’re spending any time outdoors, you want your gear to enhance the experience. Nowhere is that more important than in your footwear. The right pair of hiking boots can make the difference between a bad day and a good day. In the most dire of circumstances, they can even make the difference between life and death.
An ideal pair of hiking shoes will support your foot and keep your heel from slipping while still giving you room to wiggle your toes. They should have comfortable padding and support, especially if you plan to wear them on longer hikes. In addition, they should have soles strong enough to grip a variety of rough terrain. Good soles can prevent injuries.
Depending on where you’re hiking, you might also want shoes with extra warmth and insulation, waterproof coatings, or unique lacing systems. Oboz and Merrell are both companies known for creating innovative hiking footwear. When you’re choosing the right shoe for your next adventure, it helps to understand how each company crafts their products.
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#1. Oboz Hiking Shoes
Oboz is often praised for being one of the most comfortable manufacturers of hiking shoes in the industry. There’s a reason for that. The designers and engineers at the company prioritize getting the right fit and providing the right support. Comfort features are integrated into every aspect of the shoes, from the sole to the insole to the upper to the amount of room inside and the materials used.
One ideal feature is that all Oboz shoes are easy to slip onto your foot thanks to the pull tabs placed on the tongue and heel. Once your foot is inside, the tongue and heel offer a snug and padded fit that reduces pressure and chafing. Everyone’s feet are shaped differently, but Oboz shoes have a unique lacing system that allows the shoe to lock to the foot so it doesn’t slip.
When you get to the higher quality footwear options in the Oboz lines, you’ll find a cushioned insole crafted from EVA foam. This is one of the most popular foam materials to use in sneakers, hiking boots, and athletic shoes, because it conforms to the foot and provides support while reducing pressure points.
Hiking shoes are available for men and women, but Oboz doesn’t design for kids. Some of the shoes need to be broken in, but others are wearable immediately out of the box. The padding does reduce the break-in time and keep blisters or irritation from forming.
The number of difficult surfaces you’ll encounter will vary widely depending on the hike. Some state parks have highly trafficked trails that are level and easy to maneuver. But if you’re going through a dense forest or climbing a mountain, you’ll probably have to deal with rock, loose gravel, uneven paths, and roots in the way.
When you’re getting quality models, the midsole has dual-density EVA foam to provide both cushioning and support. It reduces the shock of impact, preventing injury and letting you hike for longer. There’s also a rigid chassis to prevent slippage.
#2. Merrell Hiking Shoes
The goal of Merrell hiking shoes is to increase your comfort levels, allowing you to reach hiking goals without pain. The company’s shoes tend to be less heavy-duty and rugged than Oboz’s, but that’s because their technology is used to make your hiking experience much more comfortable.
Every pair of Merrell shoes is designed with a midsole that’s uniquely engineered for comfort. This layer is pressed between the insole and the rougher outsole.
The materials used vary depending on the model, but the most common ones are EVA or PU foam. EVA foam is lightweight and flexible, good for those who want increased mobility on long hikes, and PU is durable and resilient enough to stand up to prolonged use.
Each of the hiking shoes is also designed with a breathable mesh lining, so every step you take causes fresh air to move around your foot. The supportive footbed and cushioned collar create a socklike fit. Another ideal aspect is how lightweight Merrell shoes are, closer to running gear than sturdy boots.
Merrell shoes use Vibram outsoles to provide traction. It’s not as strong as the Oboz system, but it can prevent sliding on typical terrain. Hikers are able to traverse mud, rocks, and dirt alike.
One big difference is that Merrell designs hiking shoes for children as well as women and men, while Oboz only serves adults. So if you’re looking for the best shoes for a child in your life, go with Merrell.
Oboz tends to make heavy-duty shoes designed to fit serious hikers through a wide range of adventures. Different shoes are specialized for different kinds of hikes, with specific ones being engineered for steep trails or exceptionally rough terrain. If you need tough shoes to protect you, that’s the best place to start.
Merrell’s shoes also offer a good deal of support and protection during a hike, but they’re more optimized for casual to serious hikers. They aren’t heavy-duty enough to provide lifesaving protection on a dangerous trek, but they will keep your feet cushioned for hours during strolls across any kind of trail.
For outdoor enthusiasts, Oboz and Merrell both create high-quality footwear that meets specific needs. They’re some of the top industry leaders for a reason. When deciding which is best for you, the biggest factor is your priorities. Oboz creates tough, supported, rigid footwear that can take you through the most uneven terrain. Merrell creates comfortable, supportive footwear with innovative technology.