Natural leather hiking boots tend to all have two things in common; they look great and they cost a lot. The Men’s Explorer boot by Danner is pretty much the perfect example of this fact. They look fantastic but they also cost a whopping $200-300.
Curiosity recently got the better of me, however, and I decided to give them a try. I’ve never owned a pair of Danner boots before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. They look great, obviously. But how do they perform?
Out of the box, they actually feel pretty terrible. Thankfully, I had done my research before buying them and I knew enough to expect a long break in period. It’s not that they’re digging into your feet or anything, they just take a while to adjust.
After a few days wearing them around the house, I took them out on a single short hike. Then followed that up a few days later with ten miles. By then, they felt great. Personally, I don’t mind a break in period provided the end result is comfortable enough. And the Men’s Explore definitely delivers in this regard.
Each boot has both a Vibram out sole and a PU mid sole. This results in more than enough shock absorption and plenty of bounce. The only downside is that they are a little heavy. But I think this is pretty much guaranteed given the toughness of the materials used in their construction.
The Men’s Explorer don’t really look like hiking boots. Beneath the surface, however, they have pretty much all the features that you could want in one. The first is a fiberglass shank in the mid sole which provides more than enough stability for light terrain, with or without a, a backpack.
Traction on these boots is pretty solid too. Every second groove is extra wide and I found them gripping very well against both wet and dry surfaces.
Insulation is handled well by the leather upper. Waterproofing, on the other hand is provided by a Gore tex liner and this results in a boot that’s more breathable than I expected. I personally hiked quite a few times in less than dry conditions and my feet remained water free for the duration.
I’m not one for grand statements but these are easily the best looking pair of boots that I’ve ever owned. They might be designed primarily for hiking but they look great going out at night. The full grain leather is just the right shade of brown and even the laces appear to have been chosen with style in mind.
Another thing that I liked is that they are pretty much wipe clean. A full days hiking through mud can be wiped away within minutes. One thing worth noting however is that if you want them to stay new, you do need to look after them. Natural leather such as this requires the application of both conditioning and waterproofing every few months.
I’ve owned these boots less than a month so it’s too early for me to say. I will update this review at the six month mark. For now, all I can say is that they feel VERY well made and I’m not expecting any problems.
Reviews for the Men’s Explorer are generally positive. At the time of writing, they’ve been reviewed 90 times for an average rating of 4.4 stars out of 5. 70% of people gave them the full five stars which is always reassuring. The most popular features are comfort, durability and aesthetics. There were a few complaints regarding fit but they were very much in the minority.
For over $200, I was expecting a high quality pair of boots and the Men’s Explorer exceeded my expectations in almost all areas. For some, the price will be something of a deal breaker. If you can get past it however, you’ll be the proud owner of a solid piece of footwear that looks even better than it feels.