Oboz Valhalla/Bridgedale Review
by Sara Lingafelter
Oboz Womens Valhalla
For the last few months, after wearing out another pair of my favorite sticky rubber outsole approach shoes, I've been wearing a pair of Oboz Womens Valhallas for my outdoor adventures. Billed as a “Mountain Sport” shoe, not technically an approach shoe, by Oboz, I thought these would offer some of the benefits of my old standby approach shoes -- a wider, foot-friendly toe-box and a sturdy, supportive sole – in a better ventilated package. In addition, my old approach shoes had marking outsoles, which true to their name, leave marks on flooring. The Valhallas have a nonmarking outsole, so I have less scrubbing to do on my hard surface flooring.
The Valhallas have outperformed their billing. I've found them to be a capable approach shoe on terrain from groomed trails to steep slabs. While their outsole isn't a super sticky rubber, the Gripster Rubber Teton Outsole is high enough friction that the shoe maintains traction on all but the dustiest of slabs (where, frankly, I wouldn't expect my sticky rubber shoes to do much better). Even after several trips including heavy use, the outsole looks brand new.
The fit is great. I have a hard time fitting approach shoes because my forefoot is wide. Like a lot of climbers, my metatarsal phalangeal joint requires extra TLC to avoid painful neuromas, and until I changed the way I fit my shoes, I was headed down the road toward bunions. Unlike some of the other brands on the market, this shoe is roomy in the toe box to fit climber feet. With that added room in the toe box, this shoe stays comfortable even after long days of climbing and foot-swelling temperatures, and the upper has some mesh areas, making them more breathable than my old approach shoes.
Finally, somehow Oboz has made these truly quick lacing. With one pull of the shoelaces, they tighten or loosen easily to accommodate changes in terrain or that end-of-the-day foot swell. They're easier on and off than my old approach shoes, so I'm finding myself wearing them all day for cragging days, when I used to pack approach shoes for the trail and sandals for the crag. They also have the critical-for-climbers feature of a nice big loop on the back for clipping them to your harness for descents.
The Valhallas are a very sturdy shoe, which have held up well to many hours on the trail over the last few months. I did swap out the standard insoles for my Superfeet insoles after the first couple of weekends (I've never met a shoe – runner, trail runner, approach shoe or hiker – that I didn't switch to Superfeet insoles with) and that reduced my foot fatigue even after very long days on my feet. They also are built a little bit higher around the ankle than my old approach shoes, which I've been surprised at how much I appreciate that little bit of ankle support.
I just assumed I'd wear these while I shopped the rest of the approach shoe market, then relegate these to my “dress approach shoe” (aka, the slightly cleaner ones I wear on dates) pile because of the lack of sticky rubber, but that's turned out to not be the case at all. I actually prefer these to my old sticky rubber shoes, partly because of the non-marking outsole, and partly because of the quick lacing system. Their traction is second only to my favorite old sticky rubber, but is far superior to other approach shoes (some of which are advertised as “sticky” but which I've found to have worse traction than a typical pair of running shoes). I've worn them on even very hot days with relative comfort – while I'd prefer Birkenstocks on those hottest of days, I have yet to find a resoler who will put sticky rubber on them, so they stay at home.
Overall, these “mountain sport” shoes have exceeded my expectations in use as approach shoes. If' you're crossing your fingers you don't slip down the Painted Bowl death slab descent at Red Rocks or making your way down the pebble-covered slabs of Outer Space at Leavenworth, you may want to stick with true sticky rubber shoes. But, for anything less than that type of outing, these are a well-built, designed for climbers alternative that won't leave you scrubbing your friend's tile floor after you forgot to take them off at the door.
Features & Technology: 3D Injection Molded External Heel Clip, Radial Fit System, Gripster Rubber Teton Outsole, BFIT Tri-Density Footbed, Nubuck Leather and High Abrasion Fabric Upper, 28.0 oz. per pair of women's size 7, MSRP: $100.00
More information: http://www.obozfootwear.com/site/oboz-womens-valhalla.html
And, a super short bonus review... Bridgedale heard about this review and tossed in a pair of Bridgedale Ventum Light Hiker socks for my gear test, and I'm sold. I can usually get two days of wear out of my wool socks, one day out of any other sock material on a climbing trip, before they're too funky they go in a sealed ziplock bag until they hit the laundry. I'll admit – I didn't read the Ventum hang tag when I pulled it off and threw on the socks for a dog walk (bad, bad gear reviewer!) so I didn't know that these are billed as highly ventilated, with anti-microbial yarns that ward off odor during long trips. Turns out, their billing is spot on. I've worn these suckers for days on trips, without feeling any crunch, funk or ick that you usually get in such ... um ... hygiene challenged environments. They machine wash and dry very well, are part wool with zero itch, and have a nice up-or-down ankle length that came in handy during tick season. I'm not usually one to get excited about socks, but these are what I reach for first for trips now.
For more information, visit http://www.bridgedale.com.
Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this item provided it free of charge to rockclimbing.com, who in turn provided it as compensation to the reviewer for her review.