Incredibly lightweight and very comfortable, the Danner Explorer 650 are great boots for easier hikes and trails. They’re good-looking enough for everyday wear and are perfect for taking along on winter trips.
Danner have a strong heritage when it comes to making footwear. And since the concept of heritage is such a strong theme in outdoor clothing and equipment right now, it’s unsurprising that the brand have crossed boundaries and become really popular outside of the traditional outdoor scene.
Based in Portland, Oregon Danner have been manufacturing boots in the US since the 1930s. Many of the boots in the current range look pretty similar to the originals. The Explorer 650 takes the classic Danner look and blends it with a more contemporary vibe. They are clearly a lightweight, performance orientated product, just without look of a boot from Salomon or The North Face.
The thing that initially stands out about the Explorer 650s is the weight. At just 460g per boot for a size UK 8 they are very, very light. The uppers consist of a mix of suede and synthetic. This is backed up with a Danner Dry waterproof breathable insert and the lining is a soft and smooth synthetic material. Much of the low weight of the boots will come from this basic, fairly stripped down construction.
I love the outsole on the Explorer 650s. The Vibram Megagrip rubber is so sticky it actually feels tacky on damp surfaces and has tremendous grip on rock. The lug pattern seems to strike a good balance between giving traction but not adding too much ‘clomp’ to the boots. On my local muddy forest trails they’ve been great yet they work ok wandering around on tarmac too.
The Vibram SPE midsole provides a massive amount of cushioning which took a bit of getting used to. I guess I’m used to boots with a firmer feel underfoot, they almost feel more like heavily cushioned trail running shoes. They do have a nice rolling action though which is helped along by plenty of flex in the forefoot.
Fit wise they seem pretty moderate all round. Wide-ish in the toe box and forefoot with a moderate amount of volume. They’re gonna fit a wide variety of foot shapes outside of the very wide or very narrow.
I reckon they are perfect for easy hikes and trails. I suspect they might feel a little out-of-place on serious mountain walks but for long distance paths, forest trails and easier hill walks they are spot on. The cushy feel and sharp aesthetics have also meant I’ve worn them as an every boot for work too, especially on cold, wet days. They’ve also been really nice to wear on snowy days when the super grippy sole and waterproof construction have been awesome. They’re ideal to take along on a snowboarding trip as they’re super practical but ok to wear to the pub or restaurant too.
Any downsides? Well the suede and synthetic uppers, whilst looking good and being great for weight saving and breathability, probably wouldn’t last long if the boots were used on rough terrain. They also have a fairly high cuff for such a lightweight boot and a particularly high tongue. This isn’t something I have a problem with, but after fitting hundreds of pairs of boots in my previous life working in an outdoor shop, I know some people definitely do.
Those two issues aside I’m sure the Danner Explorer 650s are going to suit many people looking for lightweight hiking boots that can also serve as everyday footwear. I’m looking forward to spending more time in mine on some trails in the French Alps this summer. I’ll update this review later in the year when I’ve had the chance to see how they do.