You may instantly recognise these walking boots as being the same as those worn by Reese Witherspoon in the 2014 film ‘WILD’. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, WILD is an adaptation of a book by Cheryl Strayed that recounts her eventful, against-all-odds hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). In one memorable scene in the film, that’s true to life, Strayed hurls one of her Danner boots off a mountainside out of frustration and pain from blisters. Luckily for Danner, the issue with the boots was simply that they were too small, and Strayed was sent a new correctly-sized pair to finish the PCT in.
The Danner Mountain Light is the modern relaunch/update of that boot, bringing a style that was first released over 30 years ago back onto the trail.
I was intrigued to know how such a classic style felt in comparison to the modern, technical designs that are available today. Will I, like Strayed, be hurtling my boots off a mountainside in a matter of weeks?
Danner Mountain Light: Design
The Mountain Light features a one-piece leather upper with minimal seams, metal lace-loops and eyelets, a chunky sole and those distinctive red laces. Although the style is somewhat retro, the design features modern comforts, the main example being its Gore-Tex waterproof membrane and PU footbed.
"In terms of traction, I’ve had no problems on wet-rock or slippery ground and the lugs seemed to shed mud quite well."
The boot runs long in the toe so it’s recommended to get half a size or a full size smaller than usual. It’s also cut quite high on the ankle, so there’s plenty of sturdiness and support. The distinctive sole, a Vibram Kletterlift, is solid and durable and offers good traction on wet and dry surfaces. It also found that it was able to shed mud well. Weighing in at around 1.2kg for the pair, they can’t be described as lightweight; however they’re certainly designed to last the test of time and are even eligible for complete re-crafting by Danner, which arguably goes some way to justifying the £286 price tag.
Danner Mountain Light: Performance
The first time I wore the Danner Mountan Light I was wary of the risk of blisters and sore feet due to the stiff leather upper and sturdy sole but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the leather softened quickly and that within a couple of weeks I was able complete longer hill-walks without any rubbing. The thick outsole and fibreglass shank make the boot quite stiff underfoot but there's still a good deal of comfort and shock absorption thanks to the polyurethane midsole that runs from the heel to instep.
Inside, your feet will remain toasty warm thanks to the inner lining that feels like putting on a warm glove on an icy cold day and the Gore-Tex membrane, coupled with the minimal seams, meant my feet stayed dry when rambling through shallow streams or hiking through long grass in the rain. The only time water seeped in was when I fell down a shin-deep bog in North Wales.
Danner also have a non-waterproof version of the Mountain Light that should suit anyone hiking in warmer climes.
Danner Mountain Light: Conclusion
Danner describe the Mountain Light as being for the ‘modern explorer’; ideal for both urban-life and hillwalking. Personal experiences with the boots actually exceeded expectations, particularly in regards to comfort and durability, and I’ve certainly found myself wearing them both off and on the hill.
The leather is full grain, so it's of a high quality, but I would perhaps suggest applying a boot wax to avoid permanent damage to the leather from scuffs from rocks, which I noticed appearing after jumping around on Yorkshire gritstone rock.
While Strayed wore her Mountain Light’s for the full 2,659 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, I would say that if you’re conscious of weight on a long-distance hiking trip these boots might not be for you. However, for a day hike in the hills or a ramble to a country pub, you couldn’t ask for a more durable boot with all-round comfort and timeless style – this is the kind of shoe you’ll keep ‘till death do you part.