When it comes to hiking boots, Danner has been making some of the most hardwearing pieces of footwear since the early 1930s. And although a lot of its range is heavily focused on classic bestselling designs from the past 80+ years, they continue to produce a some of the most technically advanced pieces of kit on the market.
The debate over hiking boots or shoes has grown significantly over the past few years, the latter offering a lighter, smaller and cooler option for hikes and walks that don't need to stability or protection offered from a boot.
The Danner Trail 2650 GTX is the latest shoe from the company, inspired by the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail in the US. It's designed to work as a balance between support and stability across varied terrain as well as being a lightweight option for long, multi-day hikes. We tested it out over the past few weeks to see how good it really is.
Price: $170 | Weight: 382g/13.5oz (men) 297g/10.5oz (women) | Type: Hike/Trail | Waterproof: Gore-Tex | Alternatives: Salomon X Ultra 3 Low | Arc'teryx Konseal FL | HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat Mid WP
When you first set eyes on the Trail 2650 GTX it does appear a bit on the chunky side â although this is largely due to the inclusion of the Exo Heel System that sits rather massively at the back of the shoe. Once you've picked it up, however, you realize that it's actually surprisingly light.
There's still a reassuring density to the build though, which marks it as a hiking shoe as opposed to a lighter trail runner.
The external upper is made from a combination of leather and textile which gives the feel of suede, offering a flexible feel whilst still appearing relatively rigid and protective, adding a minimal toecap for protection. There's also a handy removable Ortholite Footbed which has three layers of varying density for cushioning as well as providing better heat dissipation and air circulation.
The Plyogo EVA midsole offers a soft level of comfort whilst the Vibram outsole is comprised of deep pointy lugs for grip as well as incorporating a hard plastic trail guard block to protect the midfoot.
Overall it looks and feels like a durable shoe whilst still retaining a high level of flexibility across the whole upper section. It's also a fairly attractive looking piece of kit that's a long way off the more classic designs you tend to see across a lot of Danner's range.
As is the case with all the Danner footwear we've tried in the past, comfort is a key focus. From the first wear, they feel great. No rubs or tightness and no need to wear in over a few days. There's plenty of space in the toes to allow movement and the lacing system gives a nice secure fit without any discomfort.
We didn't feel any noticeable difference from that bulbous Exo Heel System that's designed to help keep your heel securely in place, but it definitely didn't have any negative effects either. It may well be a design tool to make the shoe stand out or it may actually be doing some nice supportive work for the foot. Either way, it wasn't an issue whilst wearing it.
We used the Trail 2650 GTX across a number of walks an hikes around the UK and found it to great shoe for everything from weekend walks across country lanes to more technical hikes in the hills. For longer distances, it offers a comfort and mobility, especially in warmer conditions where it had a noticeable level of breathability.
For tougher hikes and scrambles the lack of ankle protection is always going to be an issue for shoes over boots and we did find that in colder conditions we were more likely to reach for something a bit more substantial.
The Gore-tex waterproofing did an impressive job of keeping the water out to a good level as long as you're wearing a suitably waterproof pair of trousers. The inner is fully connected to the tongue of the shoe, so as long as your trousers hang below this point then we found the protection to work really well.
In tougher conditions where moisture is at its worst, like heavy rain or snow-covered ground, you will, however, be pushing the shoes to its limits.
The Trail 2650 GTX is an exceptionally comfortable piece of kit that's by far one of the nicest designed hiking shoes we've seen out there. As is the case with hiking shoes, they're not going to replace a pair of technical boots designed for mountains but the Trail 2650 GTX offer a great option for people who want a durable pair of shoes that will tick the box for less technical walks, whether that's a weekend hike or whether you're planning to dabble in some thru-hiking.
For us, along with the midsole comfort, the most impressive part of the Trail 2650 GTX is the outsole performance across terrains. The level of grip is impressive to say the least and combined with the inclusion of Gore-tex lining, they're a great lightweight shoe to have in your armory for most occasions. Rating 4/5