43 mile jaunt: North Cascades
- Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
- Fit: True to size
- Size Bought: 10.5
Last summer, Ryan and I foolishly agreed to a run/climb combo of the fabulously remote volcano Glacier Peak in Washingtonâs Cascade Mountains. The day was 18 hours straight, 36 miles, and over 11,000 feet of elevation gain. My shoe game was off though, and my feet were destroyed. I learned a lesson that day. Be extremely careful what you put on your feet for extended periods of time, and bring several pairs of socks. My normal running shoes did not cut it.
Fast forward to fall 2019. We had been dreaming of this magical loop through the heart of the North Cascades. 2 days, 43 miles, somewhere around 9,000 feet of elevation gain and an overnight in a small settlement wedged between fjord-like Lake Chelan and the jagged easter slopes of the Cascades; Stehekin. I needed a shoe that could go the distance.
I knew a lot of the terrain would be in the alpine with rocky talus fields. My city and training running shoe is the New Balance Minimus but I had not yet found a great trail/mountain shoe. I needed something stiff, more akin to a hiking/trail running shoe. After several attempts at making a La Sportiva shoe work (they were all too tight or narrow for my feet) I found the Oboz Cirque Low alpine running shoe.
Training with them for several months prior to our trip, I knew they were the right fit. Right away you notice the stiffness without sacrificing the agility. They feel like a perfect combination of a light trail running shoe and a true hiking boot. Great absorption on the down hillâs, confidence inspiring on big and rocky terrain, and comfortable all day through a diverse and alpine environment. The A3 Chassis is a brilliant design that allows the shoe to remain stable on rocky and different angled terrain while remaining natural feeling and lightweight.
We started on the wet west side of the mountains, where douglas fir tower over the trail, and puddles of mud were at every switchback. On top of Cascade Pass, we stopped for some photos. As we turned the corner, a healthy black bear greeted us with his nose in the blueberry bushes and his back end to us. We graciously moved out of his way, luckily had the camera already in hand, and watched him glide over a sea of blueberries and rocks like a giant black wind.
Once over the pass, we had a solid 15+ miles of rocky, then bushy, then flat, then narrow trails until we reached the spectacular Stehekin Valley Ranch, where we were greeted with a buffet style Prime Rib dinner before crashing into a cozy bed.
The next day, we ran up the Pacfic Crest Trail, passing friendly hikers and arriving at our final destination of Rainy Pass on Washingtonâs North Cascade Highway. After 43 miles, a lot of sweat, and every imaginable type of mountain terrain, my feet were surprisingly NOT IN PAIN.
The Oboz Cirque allowed my feet to breath while remaining dry when we encountered rain (which we did) and puddles (they were countless). This is exactly what I am looking for in a long distance alpine running shoe. Stability, breathability, and comfort. The Oboz nails all three.
Final word, if you are looking for a comfortable low ankle hiking shoe, this one is perfect. If youâre looking for a trail running shoe for more extreme (read rocky) terrain, this one is perfect. If you want a lightweight and sturdy running shoe that can cover almost any kind of terrain and diverse geography all in one day, this is the shoe for you.
Summary of thoughts on the product: True to size. Slightly narrow toe box. Lots of cushion. Relatively stiff.
Pros: Both a sturdy hiking boot, and a lightweight running shoe. The perfect blend.
Cons: Toe Box could be wider, especially for the flat sections, but makes sense to be tight when encountering rocks/roots.
Friendliness to the Earth: 4
Dave Summers is an alpine photographer @davesummertimes and an outdoor enthusiast residing in the Pacific Nort