Softstar Shoes Switchback – Review

Softstar Shoes has a long tradition of making quality leather barefoot shoes. Despite many years of experience, their new model of hiking boots Switchback required a special effort from them. How to make a shoe that will be waterproof, durable, lightweight, with excellent grip and at the same time will meet barefoot criteria? Did they succeed? Definitely!

Softstar Shoes Switcback hiking boots are made of carefully selected and extremely resistant waterproof materials. Their extremely robust Vibram™Megagrip sole offers excellent grip even on more demanding, wet and slippery surfaces.

The Switchback is made from special, extremely durable Superfabric®Shell material that meets all the criteria they were looking for. The shoe also bears the special name “Switchback”, which means ‘a trail that cuts sharply from one direction to the other while going up a steep hill or mountainside’.

Disclaimer: I was sent these shoes as a gift to review, but as always, all opinions expressed here are my own.  I’m also proud to be a Softstar Shoes affiliate and I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through the links on my website at no additional cost to you. Thank you for all your support ♥

1. General

  • Brand: Softstar Shoes
  • Model: Switchback
  • Colour: Slate (dark grey)
  • Tested on: woman, medium-wide feet, 26.3 cm long and 10 cm wide, low instep, skinny ankles with narrow heel, fin-shaped foot (see my how to measure guide and foot type) – wearing size 10U, Primal wide width

| Made in USA | Adult | Leather | Ship worldwide |

2. Material characteristics

2.1 Upper

The Switchback model is available in two different colors – Sandstone (light tan) and Slate (dark gray). The color in this review is called Slate.

The upper part of the shoe is made of a combination of Superfabric®Shell material and leather edges and details. The entire thickness of the upper part is very thin.

According to Softstar Shoes, the Superfabric®Shell material is practically indestructible, which is achieved by configuring special tiny armored plates into a material that provides ‘resistance to variety of harsh materials’. Softstar Shoes describes this material as ‘waterproof, quick-drying, breathable, flexible, lightweight, antibacterial, abrasion resistant, puncture resistant, slash resistant, stain resistant and easy to clean’.

The laces are in a contrasting color and do not untie while walking, which is especially important to me with hiking boots. The top two eyelets are replaced with speed hooks. The laces also glide nicely through the eyelets, making them easy to loosen and re-tie.

The shoes have added leather details along the bottom edge of the shoe and on the heel. Leather is additionally protected for increased water resistance and wear. The water-resistance of the upper part is achieved by welding the seams, but the shoe is water-resitant only up to the height of the tongue because the tongue is not gusseted.

Pull loops are added to the top of the shoe, but they are not overly large. Thicker fingers can therefore have a problem when using them. I do not feel the need to use pull loops while putting on shoes, because the shoes open enough and are easy to put on even without them.

2.2 Lining

The boot is lined with a thin layer of merino wool. They also come with a merino insole, which can be replaced if necessary. An additional insole can be purchased separately. The insole has a thin layer of foam material added on the bottom, which offers additional cushioning while walking.

The tongue is not gusseted, so the shoe is water-resitant only up to the height of the tongue. The lower part of the shoe, without additional impregnation, retains the intrusion of water for a certain time (2 minutes when the lower part of the shoe is completely immersed in water).

2.3 Sole

The sole of the Softstar Shoes Switchback model was carefully chosen to achieve excellent grip on more demanding terrain. So, this sole is a little thicker than the soles you are used to seeing in barefoot shoes.

For the sole is used Vibram™Megagrip sole, which has excellent grip even on more demanding terrains – wet rocks, leaves, mud, walking on wet grass down a steep hill, etc. It’s the sole with the best grip I’ve ever tested.

The total thickness of the sole is slightly bigger (4mm tread + 2mm base + 6mm sole + insole approx. 6 mm). Due to its thickness, the sole is harder to roll into a roll. I can bend the shoe into a roll in the longitudinal direction, but not in the transverse direction.

The ground feeling is good, but of course less intense at such a thickness, but the sole moves well together with the foot. For example, you will feel it if you step on a sharp rock, but with added cushioning.

The sole may have a slightly sticky feel on the first try inside the house, but this is just a “problem” of a brand new sole.

Also check my video for the close-up and to see how they look on my feet.

3. Sizing information

3.1 Length

Softstar Shoes Switchback are available in unisex sizes for men and women in two different widths. When choosing your size, I recommend sticking to their size chart.

In their size chart, only the recommended foot lengths are given, but unfortunately not also the inside length of the shoe, which I would definitely like to see in the future.

After my experience with the Primal Merry Jane model, I opted for a bigger size with this model. My foot length is 26.3 cm, which is the upper limit for size 9U in their size chart. Size 9U fit me well in Fireside slippers for example, but in the Switchback model I chose the 10U size.

©Softstar Shoes

The measured inner length of the 10U shoe is 27.5 cm, which means that the shoes are 12 mm longer than my foot. This length suits me well with thinner socks when walking on a flat surfaces or uphill, but when walking down a hill I would prefer a few more mm because the foot slide to the front while walking.

See post How much space do we need in shoes if you want to know more about that.

In this model, I definitely recommend you to choose one size bigger than their size chart recommends, especially if you plan to wear the shoes with thicker socks and if your foot length is not exactly at the lower limit for your size. It should also be noted that the space above the toes towards the end of the shoe is not extremely generous, which further affects the feeling of spaciousness.

3.2. Toebox shape & width

Switchback are suitable for wide feet with a milder slope towards the little toes. These shoes will also be suitable for foot types with longer smaller toes and more square foot shapes that find a suitable shape for their feet harder. They will fit the the best for foot types 2-5, while the foot type 1 may have too much extra space in front of the smaller toes.

More about different foot types you can read in my post What is my Foot Type?

Switchback model is available in two different widths – the ‘regular’ width and the wide ‘Primal’ width, which also best mimics our natural foot shape.

Since the line at the thumb in ‘regular’ width is not completely straight (it tapers a little), I would recommend this width only for narrow-normal wide feet. Namely, such a tapering pushes the thumb inward, despite the fact that there may be enough width across the ball of the foot in the shoe.

The model in the picture is their ‘Primal’ width, which has a great foot-shaped toebox. The shoes are very generous and wide in the toebox part. The width is approx. 10.5-11 cm, but the maximum width can only be used by feet with less volume. The space above the toes is not huge and it is getting shallower towards the end of the shoe. That’s why it’s really important to choose shoes big enough for your feet.

3.3. Fit around the instep, heel and ankle

The shoes fit the best to the shallower feet in the midfoot. Feet that have a lot of volume in midfoot can find them too snug.

They are best suited for narrow and normal wide heels and ankles. They fit well to different heights of the instep, but they are not an ideal choice for feet that are high volume in general.

4. Comfort

The shoes are made of soft materials and did not cause me any discomfort during normal hiking. At first, I had a slightly unusual feeling because of a greater difference in the thickness and compactness of the materials – a soft and thin upper, and a more compact sole, but I quickly got used to this feeling while walking.

Due to the thin wool lining, the shoes are most suitable for hiking in spring and autumn. I tested them in the temperature range of 8°C-25°C (47°F-77°F) and my feet felt great while wearing them.

The upper material is soft and does not impede the movement of the ankle, while providing sufficient protection against sharp rocks when moving on scree, where ankle protection is recommended.

However, as I walked down the hill, my foot in the shoe did slid slightly forward. My toes began to press into the front part of the shoe. I successfully solved the problem with a tightening the laces even more, but after a 2-hour of downhill walking, I started to feel discomfort in my Achilles tendon (due to the greater pressure of the material on the back of the ankle). To avoid this problem it is necessary to choose enough space in front of your toes.

5. How and when to wear them?

Switchback are designed for hiking, so their design and choice of sole is adapted to the purpose of use. Due to the very good grip, they are also suitable for more demanding trails, but I recommend wearing barefoot shoes in the mountains, only if you have healthy and strong feet and you wear barefoot shoes in everyday life too. Only in this way will you ensure that the muscles of your feet are properly prepared for more demanding trails.

6. Price & where to buy

Softstar Shoes Switchback can be bought at the official Softstar Shoes website. The price is $240.

For the EU, tax, customs and the costs of the customs procedure need to be added to this price (this is usually cca. 35% – 40% to the price of the shoes).

7. Shipping info

Softstar Shoes ship worldwide. Free shipping is for the US, for Canada is free on orders above $100 and for the EU free for orders above $150 (125€) and $12 for anything less than this.

8. To sum up

Softstar Shoes Switchback are one of the highest quality hiking boots I have tried. Their extremely robust sole has excellent grip in a variety of different conditions, and the extremely generous toebox part will delight everyone with wide feet. A little more attention needs to be paid only to choosing the right size, which has been explained in detail in my review.

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