After a frustrating experience with my Danner’s Mountain Light Cascade boots, I was in search of another pair of backpacking boots. However, the more I searched, the more I realized I missed one aspect in my Cascades: Their soles were top-notch. Because of this, I spoke with Danner representatives to determine if they had other boots with the same soles.
This lead me to the Danner’s Explorer Boots, which met all of my original backpacking requirements. The boots could:
- Travel long distances.
- Cross over multiple terrains.
- Support a large amount of pack weight.
- Thrive in various temperatures.
It sounded too good to be true . . . and unfortunately it was. I owned these boots for only two months before discovering major issues, which caused me to return them.
- They have amazingly thick soles that can handle any terrain with ease.
- Great traction that will grip onto the most wet and slick rocks.
- The boots hit higher than my previous Mountain Light Cascades, standing at six inches versus the five. This made them more comfortable.
- Advertised as waterproof, though I did not own them long enough to test this.
- They can be recrafted so the outsoles can be replaced, the leather reworked, and the seams restitch, which should mean they can be worn for decades.
- Once again I am beyond impressed with Danner’s representatives. They are extremely nice and helpful. They responded quickly to my concerns and stayed with me until the problem was solved.
- The reason I returned them: The boots have a hard plastic insert in the back of the heel. This insert rubbed so much that it created large blisters on both heels, popped the blisters, then further removed many layers of skin. I was miserable during the first trail I took them on and used dry sacks over my socks, which allowed my feet to slide rather than rub.
I was hoping my boots simply needed to be broken in so I took them on another trail, only to realize less than one mile in — and with a large amount of pain — they were not going to improve. I contacted Danner and the rep told me they had begun accepting warranty claims on pressure point issues and it was because of this I was able to return them.
- There is practically no support in the form of padding inside the boot, particularly around the ankle. What you see is what you get: Leather. (I’ve worn other full-leather boots that are the opposite so to think back to how little support is offered in these is flabbergasting.)
- The tongue is massive, causing way too much material to bunch up with an inability to lay flat.
- There is no toe box room. I did have the right size and my toes were not hitting the end but there was no breathing or stretching room for my toes. They felt tight and cramped.
- I have slender feet but the boots are super narrow, so narrow that I’ve read many people cannot even get their feet inside of them. According to Danner’s site, the boots should fit snugly at first because the leather will warm and stretch, but I cannot stress how snug these boots are.
- No ability to insert other insoles because their insoles are sewn into the boots. On the topic of insoles, keep in mind, thicker insoles wouldn’t be wise anyway because the boots are too snug.
- The insole material and stitching holds onto debris that gets inside of the boots. This frustrated me further because I could never get all debris out.
- The leather is not breathable so it can get hot inside of the boot. Many people think this is an overall leather characteristic but I’m here to tell you it is not.
- These boots seem to be ones Danner has forgotten. I say this because practically all of their boots come in various colors with various colored laces. (For instance, the Mountain Light Cascades have four beautiful and different leathers, ranging from light, medium, and dark brown to black. They also have different colored laces — red, yellow, green, and black. Further and even more impressive, one of the boots has flat laces while the others have round. It seems the possibilities are endless. However for the Explorers, there is one option: Dark brown leather with dark brown round laces. This was upsetting as I had fallen in love with the appearance of my Mountain Light Cascades, which is why I ordered the flat red laces [as shown above].)
- The fact that the boots are handcrafted should be a pro; however, the boots noticeably did not have consistent cuts. I know we are human but if a company prides itself on handcrafted products, there needs to be a higher level of care and attention — mainly when a pair of boots are priced so high.
- This brings me to my next point: They are super duper expensive. This is more than likely because you are paying for a handmade American product. In the end, I was fine paying for the most expensive boots on the market I could find; but the price needs to support the quality.
Rating: out of Five Vistas
Tips when tracking down your own hiking or backpacking boots
- Trust your gut: If you think your boots need to be broken in, take the time and effort to do so. On the other hand, if a voice tells you something is wrong with your boots, trust that voice. There are tons of hiking and backpacking boots out there; it just takes patience to find a pair that fits your feet.
- Don’t get tricked into thinking expensive boots are the best. I’ve talked to numerous people who bought unknown brand name boots because they were cheap but they ended up as their favorite pair. Clearly expensive does not equate to better.
- Lastly, people are starting to trade in backpacking boots and instead go towards sneakers, which they replace often on backpacks (picture the Appalachian Trail). I’m still not converted; however, I wanted to throw this out there for those considering backpacking. Sneakers are lightweight and have tons of shock absorption so they could be a great option, mainly if you have good ankle strength already.
- For other tips and tricks, visit my other review on backpacking boots!