Tuesday, 23 January 2018 10:07

Danner Explorer 650 boots tested and reviewed

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We put the Danner Explorer 650 boots to the test with mixed results. It started well, went downhill, then with a little user intervention regained it's initial heights.

Danner are a relatively new brand to the UK market but have 85 years of history behind them in the USA. Designed to be worn on or off the hill, with a retro/workwear influence, the Explorer 650 combines full grain leather with nylon panels to keep the weight down to just 467g  (each) in a classic above the ankle cut. Priced at £154 the Explorer 650 is mid range for a leather/synthetic panel 3 season boot though lighter than many.

Danner explorer 5

What the manufacturers say:

The Explorer 650 combines Danner heritage with the latest performance features. The result is a lightweight, agile hiker. The Vibram® SPE midsole provides a durable, cushioning platform and the Vibram® Megagrip outsole technology offers best-in-class traction for multiple types of terrain.

Ensuring the Explorer 650 was light and comfortable for long days on the trail was a primary goal when we undertook its design. Taking a cue from the Explorer 650’s predecessor, the Danner Light, we strategically replaced sections of the leather upper with large durable nylon panels. This shaved off significant weight and improved breathability, with the added benefit of a shorter break-in time. After analyzing wear patterns and traction points on test boots, we made the boot even lighter by removing unnecessary rubber under the arch, which rarely needs traction. Light, comfortable, and breathable, the Explorer 650 leaves little excuse for not being fast on the trail.


  • Full-Grain Leather & Nylon Upper For a durably and highly abrasion resistant upper, we combine our premium full-grain leather with nylon panels.
  • Danner Dry 100% waterproof barrier allows moisture to escape without letting water in, keeping your feet dry and comfortable all day long.
  • Removable OrthoLite Footbed Three layers of varying density are combined for maximum cushioning and support. The entire footbed is made of open-cell polyurethane for better heat dissipation and air circulation.
  • Vibram® Escape Outsole Custom outsole for our Explorer 650 features self-adapting lugs and specially formulated Megagrip compound, this outsole provides incredible grip on both wet and dry surfaces.
  • How It Fits Designed for versatility, the DPDX has a low profile for everyday wear. Whether on the trail or urban exploring, this last was built to offer enough room for comfort while maintaining a sleek profile. Ortholite footbed included.


Danner Explore 650 on test:

The new Explorer 650 boots look and feel great - Weighing in at 900grams  a pair they are lighter than most leather boots; in comparison my Berghaus Hillmaster II GTX weigh nearly double this. For shorter walks and trips the Explorer 650 boots were fantastic as they were lighter and in the warmer conditions we had August/September were good for this hotter condition. Coupled with a good pair of hiking socks I had no issues with blisters, rubbing or smelly feet.

Danner explorer 1

The fitting and feel felt great as well (size 12) was a comfortable and fitted. The main construction of the boot is leather which feels solid and very tough, the side material is soft and yes wraps your ankle but it didn't feel the strongest or most supportive of material. I have weak ankles and do opt for the thicker padding in this area so personally I wished for more padding for added support. The rubber tread is good with plenty of grip and on wet rocks or undergrowth and mud I still had good balance and didn't feel like I was going to fall over. 

Danner claim the boot is good for 7 days wear and I can confirm they are comfy on day one and through to-day seven. As a boot for general walking and leisure they are great and are more stylish, making them perfect for everyday life, as well as the outdoors. They're as at home walking around cities as they are walking around forests or up mountains. Overall they have been very practical and tough.

Danner explorer 3 

Beyond countryside and forest walks these boots started off well until they met Wales and the long drive over to the Brecon Beacons. For the 3 day expedition I opted to use my waterproof socks having seen the weather it was looking very wet! Currently the Explorer 650 boots had held up in the wet conditions but this was going to be on a different level.

Danner explorer 6

On day 1 of expedition, climbing Sugarloaf and touring Crickhowell. General comfort and structure of the boots was holding and I was very happy to continue to wear them, this was the longest day from 4am to 11pm on our feet and as I mentioned comfort was still good, no issues and although a bit wet under foot we were very lucky with the weather with the sun making several appearances.

Day 2 was met with a bright start but again quickly changed. Throughout the day the boots were pushed through the wet undergrowth, for the better part of the day they remained dry and I experienced no problems remaining comfortable but by the end of the day I could feel the damp beginning to break through.

Day 3 began dry but overcast but the rain quickly came in and stayed in for the day. Covering just 4-5km the boots and socks were soaked through.

Danner explorer 2

Such a catastrophic failure was certainly not what I expected at identifying the cause of the failure was essential. Was it a one off, which can happen, or a design issue? Danner naturally felt it to be a one off and to be fair there I've not seen any other reports of similar failures despite the brand's boots being extensively reviewed.

The plan was to get a replacement pair of Explorer 650s from Danner but for various reasons this has been delayed, so in the meantime I've reproofed the boots and in doing so have solved the problem. They've now gone from an expensive pair of good weather boots to something I feel confident in whatever the weather. While it was disappointing to have the initial failure these things can happen and I'm happy that it was a one-off rather than a design flaw.

Danner explorer 4

With the waterproofing issue sorted I feel the boots are particularly good for multi-day hikes.  The fact they are very comfy and great for everyday use is largely down to the reduced weight and construction making them light on the feet. In the warmer weather the boots were great and as a result your feet didn’t smell or feel sticky. I must add a good pair of socks will help in this situation as well.