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.
Let 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: 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!