Gear Review: Backpacking Boots

Someone once told me leather boots are like a good relationship: They take a lotta work but they’re worth it so don’t give up on them easily.  Knowing this commitment, I went in with patience and a positive attitude.  Sadly, that wasn’t enough to hold onto these Danner’s Mountain Light Cascade Boots, and I ended up returning them.
Danner Boot.jpgLet me backtrack: There is a difference between hiking boots and backpacking boots.  I have a pair of hiking boots, meaning they are great for day hikes or an overnight trek.  However, with serious goals, such as thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I need more serious footwear and this is where backpacking boots come in.  “Backpacking boots” mean they can do the following:

  • Travel long distances.
  • Cross over multiple terrains.
  • Support a large amount of pack weight.
  • Thrive in various temperatures.

All my research lead me to Danner’s Mountain Light Cascade Boots.  One person said she has had her pair since 1990, another since since the early 90s, and still another since 1988.  This sold me.  I wanted boots that would last for a lifetime.  Unfortunately the opposite happened.  Months after owning them and testing them rigorously, they rendered so many problems that I had to return them.  Now, here is my review on these iconic Danner boots.


  • They have amazingly thick soles.  I feel I could walk on any terrain and never have sore feet, truly.  Other hiking boots have made me feel as if I was walking on sharp rocks barefoot; I was in so much pain I could hardly continue hiking.  These Danner boots — I’ve never had that problem.  In fact, they have so much support, I often wear them to work where I’m on my feet the entire day.
  • Amazing traction and grip: These boots will grip onto the most wet and slick rocks.  I almost feel invisible wearing them, not even joking.
  • Wonderful ankle support.  I have fallen into holes that come up to my thigh and I have twisted my ankle so that it was parallel to the ground; however, with the support in these boots, I am amazingly able to walk away unhurt.
  • There’s few stitches so water does not get in.  I’ve walked in a good amount of water and snow, and my feet have remained dry.
  • The boots have something called Dri-Lex, which allows them to breathe.  It also provides vapor transport so they dry quickly and resist odor and mildew.
  • They keep my feet warm but never to the point that my feet are hot and sweaty.
  • They can be recrafted, meaning they replace the outsole, rework the leather, and restitch the seams.  Because these should be able to be worn for decades, this is a great idea.
  • They’re a beautiful design.  Not that you’re going for looks when hiking, but people apparently find them so pretty that they buy them solely for fashion.
  • They’re made in the US — Portland, Oregon to be exact!
  • I’ve called Danner a couple times about their products and the people there are so nice — as in really really nice.



  • The tri-fold tongue creates more problems than solutions.  It was designed to decrease debris and water from getting into the boot, but I had these issues:
    • First problem: It created a significant fold at the bottom of the tongue/above the boot.  That crease cut into the top of my toes with each step.  I read this could be worn out but I put at least seventy-five miles on my boots and the crease only became more severe.
    • Second problem: It prevents the boot from being laced tightly.  Because of this, a large amount of debris does get in often.  Also, as the leather softens from wear, the boots become loose — If they are loose, it decreases ankle support AND feet slide.  (For instance, with a thirty-pound pack magnifying my feet sliding, my ankles, heels, balls of my feet, and toes were so sore — I felt like I had massive blisters and had to stop often.  I honestly debated taking off the boots and wearing my socks to avoid the pain.  It was that bad.)
  • They are super duper expensive. My fiance likes to joke that for this price, they should be able to hike themselves.
  • There’s no shock-absorption, as is with many other hiking boots on the market.
  • The boots are five-inches high and hit at an odd place on your ankle.  Not only this, but the leather takes awhile to break in.  It is thick, hard leather and your Achilles tendon will go through some severe pain before the leather softens.  As one person said, the boot doesn’t wear to your ankle; you will wear to the boot.  He was 100% right.  I have pretty significant callouses on my ankles to prove it.
  • These boots are not waterproof.  I get it: They are breathable . . . but a full-leather boot that isn’t waterproof?  Travesty.


Rating: IMG_2397IMG_2397 out of Five Vistas

I adored these boots and felt sad returning them.  They do have huge positives, which is why I scored them this way.  However, if more problems continue to be uncovered after about seventy-five miles, they are not the boots to own.


Tips when tracking down your own hiking or backpacking boots

  • If you buy leather boots, two words: Leather conditioner.  Buy it.  Use it habitually.  Don’t think you can handle this on your own.  Conditioner works miracles.
  • Sizing: People seemed pretty confused about what size to order and I recognize all feet are different.  However, here is what I’ve seen: First, some say the boot is too narrow.  The boot has a medium width so if you have a wide width, this is not for you.  Second, some recommended to size up from what you regularly wear, while others claimed to size down.  Don’t play the guessing game.  Look at what size your other boots are and get that size.  I am a size 6.5, my other hiking boots are a 6.5, I ordered a 6.5, and they fit.
  • Don’t hike Day One in your new boots — Break them in at home some first.  And remember when breaking in boots, wear them with good and thick socks.  If the boots bother you, take them off and give your feet a break.  Condition again then wear again.  Take them off if they hurt once more.  Repeat.  I promise the leather will soften.
  • For other tips and tricks, visit my other review on hiking boots!

Danner Boot2.jpg


Happy trails!

Author: L

Hi there! I am the impulsive do-er, the jumper, the one tugging to move past comfort zones to embrace a life of sheer surprise. I am a writer -- a pursuer of stories -- because I believe in the destination over the journey. I am a chaser of sunrises and sunsets and cherisher of the moments between. I have an overwhelming curiosity, an insatiable desire travel, and an obsessive yearn to turn dreams into realities. For all of these reasons, the word that best summarizes who I am is "seeker" -- I am forever a seeker.

6 thoughts

  1. I’m confused. In your Pros section, you say that water does not get in and then in the Cons section, you say that they are not waterproof.

    Have your feet gotten wet wearing these?

    I just bought a pair and I’m debating returning them because they rub my achilles. If they leak water, then it’s an easy decision to not try to break them in any longer. But if they’ll keep my feet dry, I’d ideally like to keep them.

    1. Hi Dave,
      Thanks for your feedback — I see how my writing is confusing, and I’ll look at editing it so I appreciate your feedback!

      To answer your question, my feet never got wet in my Danner boots. They were amazing in this regard — I stood in shallow water and hiked in snow, and water never got through. Saying that though, Danner is open about the boots not being waterproof — You can see from my snow picture that water does seep into the leather. Danner would say this only illustrates how the leather is breathable … but still keeps feet dry.

      Confusing, huh? There’s no easy “Yes” or “No” because of this.

      In the end, that rub on your achilles — I cannot agree more. That rub got worse and worse for me, and it is solely due to that tri-fold tongue, which prevented me from being able to lace my boots tighter.

      I don’t know how much hiking you do so take this advice with that understanding, but one major lesson I learned in going through multiple pairs of hiking boots is they should never hurt you — ever — and definitely not new boots. There should be no such thing as pain in breaking in hiking boots. I cannot suggest enough Zamberlan — I joke but if I could marry hiking boots, I would marry mine. I speak so highly of it that my husband bought a pair, and he adores his just as much (though he won’t confess to wanting to marry them haha. He is planning a boot review on his, too, so stay posted in the future). Not to put down Danner and with the awareness that everyone’s feet are different, we both find Zamberlan to be far superior — I got mine in 2019 and am (happily) still wearing them. (This comment section won’t let me add a link, but I did a review on my Zamberlan’s too).

      I hope this helps — Keep me posted on what you decide because I’d love to know!

  2. I changed out the standard laces with Rhino Laces that I bought at REI. That made all the difference. The para-aramid core made it feel like my laces were made of soft steel. I am now able to tighten the toes, and it holds while lacing up the rest of the boot. Not to mention the outer weave has reflective fibers that make me more visible at dusk and night to car lights and flashlights. I also give my stitching a good dose of Otter Wax boot wax every season, and a light Nikwax coating on the upper. I live in Switzerland and have worn my boots in wet conditions, snow, rocky terrain, the occasional cow flop in alpine meadows, and they have always kept my feet dry and still breathe. They are as comfortable as a favorite pair of tennis shoes. I have had my pair of Danner boots for four years now and expect to have them for many years to come, get them refurbished, and wear them for more years. The best boots money can buy.

    1. I’m so happy to hear you like them! They unfortunately did not work for me, and not for lack of trying. I’ve tried about four different backpacking boots and found I am totally and completely in love with Zamberlans — I don’t want to take them off. In the end though, I suppose it makes sense that some people love some boots and some not — Everyone’s feet are so different! Anyway, you definitely have hiking knowledge being that you live in Switzerland — I would love to find myself on the trails that you walk! Glad the Danners work for you and that’s super smart about the change in laces! Thank you for the tip!

  3. Morning Bezzy. Just read you Review about your boots. Again another unbiased assessment. well done. Have you tried lacing them differently regarding the “Tongue” problem ? Google “Lacing Walking Boots”, there are other ways to lace which may alleviate the problem.. Best wishes, Midad xx

    1. Thank you! I had heard of this but have not yet tried but I think I very well may! I appreciate it much! I’m hoping that or wearing them down more will solve the issue! Thank you, thank you!!!

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