Are Trail Shoes the New Hiking Boots?: Danner Mountain 600 Low Review


The fact Danner, in all its wisdom, offers not just your typical choice of shoe length, but width, too, is a big plus. However, the Mountain 600 only comes in two width sizes—D (medium) and EE (wide). While this would surely suffice for most men of average to burly stature, those of us inflicted with narrow feet will have to suffer through yet another shoe with a tad too much wiggle room between our feet and the lining. Fortunately, this is nothing a thick pair of socks can't fix.

Despite the roomy toe box, my feet felt unbelievably solid and secure. The tongue remained in place, again thanks to Danner electing to web it together with the upper, and there was no sign of heel slippage. The shoe is also surprisingly flexible despite its rugged and sturdy looks that suggest a more rigid feel on the trails. This flexibility made a 10-mile hike to break them in a literal and figurative walk in the park.

My sole complaint (pun intended) would be the flimsy insole that lacks any semblance of arch support. However, this is a trait that plagues most hiking boots on the market, as there appears to be an assumption among manufacturers that all outdoorsmen are either flat-footed or enjoy a fair amount of foot pain. Bottom line: if you have high arches, buying separate insoles will almost always be a must.

The Walk

The only way to truly test the merits of a shoe loaded with new technology is to proverbially "take it for a spin" on the trails. I chose a trail with a mix of rocky and dirt terrain—much of which was now mud following a day of torrential rains—and the rocks were now dangerously slippery to the chap who, in poor judgment, donned a pair of normal sneakers. 

The Mountain 600's solid, seamless construction passed the water test with high marks. Despite walking through puddled water, mud and risen creek beds, my socks were as dry at the end of the hike as they were when I began.

So, if you’re hoping to gain some callouses or battle scars from your long hikes, these shoes aren’t for you.

More impressive is the grip on the thick red outsole. While its tread looks similar to that of any hiking shoe you may come across at an REI, the textured sole provides an amount of friction on wet surfaces that rivals any boots I've come across. Not once did I feel insecure while scrambling down or up wet, rocky terrain.

Ultimately, how your feet feel at the end of a hike is just as important as how your feet feel during a hike. For those thru-hiking, backpacking, or taking days-long breaks in the wilderness, this is of paramount concern. Well, two days and 24 miles later, the blister count is at zero and my feet feel as arid as when they began the trek. So, if you're hoping to gain some callouses or battle scars from your long hikes, these shoes aren't for you. 

If you're seeking reliable trail footwear that's as light as it is durable, the Mountain 600 Low fits that bill. Danner's response to the ever-increasing use of trail running shoes throughout the hiking community might be enough to convert them to trail shoes in favor of added support and protection.

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