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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Danner 453 GTX Boots > Owner Review by Tim Earley

Danner 453 GTX Hiking Boots
Owner Review
Tim Earley
December 30th, 2009

Tester Information:
Name: Tim Earley
Age: 26
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 0"/ 1.80 m
Weight: 185 lb/ 84 kg  
Email address: timothy.earley AT gmail.com
City, State, Country: Yonkers, New York, USA

Backpacking Background:
My first exposure to backpacking was about seven years ago in the Army where I learned everything I needed to learn about being comfortable in the wilderness with little to no “comfort gear.”  I primarily do day hikes now, with the occasional overnight jaunt thrown in whenever possible.  I consider myself a lightweight packer, though not a minimalist.  My favorite hikes are those that have significant elevation change as these provide the best views, most challenge and best reward.  I am most comfortable in cool to cold weather as I tend to overheat in other seasons. 

Product Information:
Manufacturer: Danner Boots
Model: 453 GTX
Sizes: 6-14 US; size 12 reviewed
Widths: D-EE; width D reviewed
Color: Tan/Grey
Year of Manufacture: 2008-2009
URL:www.danner.com
Listed weight: 48 oz (1360 g) per pair
Measured weight: 51 oz (1446 g) for size 12
Fabric Content: Nubuck Leather Fabric with GORE-TEX lining
MSRP: $160.00
Country of Manufacture: USA

Product Description:
The Danner 453 GTX hiking boots are GORE-TEX-lined leather hiking boots.  They come in either dark tan or light tan coloring.  The upper comes up about one inch (2.5 cm) past the ankle, providing good ankle support.  The laces are standard boot laces run through six pairs of eyelets.  The last eyelet is just about at the top of the boot, allowing the wearer to tighten down the top nicely.  The tongue is connected to the boot on either side except for the top one inch (2.5 cm), preventing water from seeping in.  The toe cap is a tough rubber material that not only prevents scuffing, but provides quite a bit of protection against rocks and other potential toe busters.  Danner put a TERRA FORCE sole on the boot which is supposed to be lightweight yet durable.  The tread on the heel is reversed to provide traction and prevent slipping while going downhill (as shown in the picture below).

View of the tread showing the reverse tread in the heel.
View of tread pattern.  Reverse tread can be seen on the underside of the heel.

Field Conditions:
I have used these boots in temperatures ranging from 10 F (-15 C) to 80 F (27 C).  I've worn them on about twenty separate trips totaling at least 150 miles (241 km). They have also seen everything from driving rain to deep sloppy mud to snow.  They have proven to be reliably weatherproof and provide surprisingly good traction in the snow and mud.  The breathability, however, is not what I had expected.  In weather above 60 F (16 C) my feet get quite warm and sweaty.  But in cooler weather, they are toasty warm.  While the boots are not insulated, they do seem to keep my feet pretty warm with a good pair of wool socks on. 

Initial Impressions:
I have lots of military experience with Danner products and have always been impressed.  I ordered these boots with confidence online after reading some great reviews.  When I first received them the first thing I noticed was how big the box was.  I mean this box was HUGE for a pair of size 12 boots.  I thought they were the wrong size but they were the size 12 that I ordered. 

I soon found out that the reason the box was so big is because these boots are not just average hiking boots.  In fact, I think they fall exclusively into the realm of backpacking boots.  They feature thick, tough ankle support and a toe box that should protect the wearer's feet from anything but a deliberate boulder punt.  There’s even some protective soft plastic to protect the heel from, say, a deliberate boulder back-kick?  There don’t seem to be any places where Danner sacrificed durability for weight, and I appreciate that in footwear.  I felt very confident that these boots would be appropriate for me, as I have a life long history of ankle injuries and require appropriate ankle support in my footwear.

When I put the boots on for the first time I noticed they were, as expected, quite stiff.  I was a little disappointed in the lacing system as it is sort of bulky and awkward, especially with the stock laces in.  The stock laces seemed to bind a bit whenever I tried to tighten them.  These laces were very low quality, basically glorified shoe laces.  I replaced them with lengths of parachute cord and couldn’t be happier.  Parachute cord has a way of gliding through eyelets a lot better than normal shoe or boot laces. 

I trudged around in the boots for a couple hours and went up and down some steps to test for fit and inevitable hot spots.  I didn’t find any hot spots although I did feel some slipping in the heel.  This really concerned me and I thought about returning them.  But I decided to give them a quick day hike to see if it was something that could be broken in as they were extremely stiff and I figured I could soften the material up.  The day hike ended with me being undecided.  They were supportive and durable for sure, but they were going to take a LONG time to break in.  And being the genius I am, I got them filthy on the first hike out.  So much for returning for a smaller size! 

To make a long story short, they broke in after a couple more hikes totaling an estimated 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 km) and they fit great now, although I have to say, the right boot still slips ever so slightly in the heel.  This is not nearly enough to cause a hot spot, just a sensation that the right boot is barely too big.  My right foot seems to be in between Danner's sizes.  I’m currently using the original footbeds and plan on trying an aftermarket footbed to alleviate this problem.

These are my default footwear rain or shine, summer or winter because of my ankles.  They have seen somewhere on the order of 150 (240 km) miles so far and have saved my ankles on several occasions.  Sometimes my fiancÚ and I will be in the woods and I’ll say “Yep, would have broken my ankle again if I didn’t have good boots!”  So I’m grateful for the support. 

These boots also feature a GORE-TEX laminate for waterproofing.  The boots are sealed right up to about the top of the tongue.  No water getting in the sides.  I stood in ankle deep water in a creek picking crawfish out from under rocks for about 45 minutes without a drop of water in my boots.  Unfortunately, the boots were not able to protect me from forgetting to take my pack off while leaning over rocks, losing my balance and falling into waist deep water only to find my fiancÚ laughing so hard she’s crying.  I’ve found that only time can heal that wound.

The soles at first had very poor traction on wet rocks but that went away once I seemed to wear through the surface of the sole.  There must have been some coating left over from the manufacturing process.  Beware, they aren’t just sort of slippery, they’re EXTREMELY slippery on wet rocks to start.  So much so that I could imagine hurting myself pretty badly.  Like I said this goes away, but be warned. 

Owner Review

Boot after 150 miles (240 km) of hiking (parachute cord shown in place of stock laces)
View of the boots after 150 miles (240 km) of hiking.  Parachute cord shown in place of stock boot laces.

Review:
Overall I have been pleased with the performance of these boots.  I prefer tougher, slightly heavier boots over some of the more “ultralight” boots available.  These fit that bill well.  They provide great ankle support for backpacking with up to a 40 lb (18 kg) pack.  They are reliably weatherproof and provide plenty of warmth while on the move on cold days.  The additional warmth disappears once I stop moving for more than a couple of minutes as I think it’s a function of the mediocre breathability more than anything else.

The soles strike a good balance between rigidity and flexibility.  They are rigid enough to provide good edging on rocks but flexible enough to be comfortable over a long day of hiking.  The soles also provide good traction (aside from the aforementioned slippery rocks), even going downhill. 

As I’ve said, the breathability is mediocre.  In cool enough weather (or slow enough activity, for that matter) they are very comfortable and breathe more than well enough.  However, if I up the tempo a bit (or go out on a warmer day) I do feel some dampness in the boots.  I wouldn’t attribute this to these particular boots as I’ve experienced the same with GORE-TEX jackets and pants.  It’s just part of the deal with GORE-TEX I suppose.  In any case, they breathe far better than a pair of rubber boots!

The boots seem to be holding up very well as I truly beat my boots up pretty badly.  There are nothing more than some aesthetic scars and maybe some staining of the leather from moisture.  The toecaps have provided ample protection for my toes and are no worse for the wear.

I have to comment on another unexpected aspect of these boots.  When wearing them recently on a snowy backpacking trip, I noticed they did a very good job of keep snow off my feet.  What I mean by that is that while snow will get in over the top, the boots seem to cinch down just above the ankles (almost like a draft collar on a sleeping bag), preventing any snow from actually getting to my feet.  Surely not a substitute for gaiters as I still had to wipe the snow out, but I was unprepared and it was nice to know I wasn't going to have chunks of snow under my feet all day.

Summary:
These boots have been exactly what I expected.  They are tough, durable and supportive.  They provide all the protection that my feet and ankles require and give me a good grip on all types of ground.  However, this amount of protection comes at the price of increased weight and mediocre breathability. 

I would recommend these boots to anyone with weak or injured ankles looking for a boot appropriate for year round use, as long as they don’t mind a bit of sweat in the warmer months.  I look forward to snowshoeing with these boots and will continue to use them until they fall apart.

The Good:
1. Ankle support is great
2. Completely weatherproof
3. Good multi-direction traction (after initial break in period)

The Bad:
1.  Incredibly slippery on wet rock to start.  Take some sandpaper to the soles to start.
2.  Breathability is barely adequate in warmer weather.
3.  The stock laces simply stink.  Replace them with parachute cord.



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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Danner 453 GTX Boots > Owner Review by Tim Earley



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