Top positive review
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An evolved classic
on February 25, 2007
Danners Mountain Light II is a hiking boot with a very long heritage, going back to 1957. Before then, hikers pretty much used work boots or very expensive European mountain climbing boots.
The Mountain Light II is constructed using what is often called the "stitchdown" method, otherwise known as Norwegian Welt. The upper leather flares out where it meets the midsole and the two parts are joined by stitching which is visible around the outside edge of the boot. This method has a couple of advantages: it makes the sole of the boot slightly wider than the uppers, which gives a broad base for stability. When the sole eventually wears out, it is easily replaced. Disadvantages are that boots constructed this way can be heavier than boots in which the soles are cemented on.
Uppers are constructed of one piece of leather, with a vertical seam at the Achilles tendon, covered by a reinforcing heel counter. The tongue is interesting in that it is covered by a leather debris guard which opens toward the outer side of the boot, and which serves to close the space between the tongue and the uppers.
Laces run through five impressively strong sets of D-rings, then around two speed hooks. All the hardware appears intended to last forever, in other words to outlast the soles and leather and then be reinstalled on a new pair of boots several decades from now.
Soles are dual-density Vibram "Kletterlift", with a very firm outsole for traction, and a slightly cushier middle layer to absorb some shock when walking.
The entire inside of the boot is lined with a Gore-Tex fabric, and so is waterproof until the water depth exceeds the level of the tongue gussets. The boot is about 5 inches high, so provides good freedom of motion when walking, while still covering and protecting the ankle bones. For some people, this translates as "does not provide good ankle support" and prefer a boot with more height. I feel that not having a tight fit around the ankle allows the muscles and tendons to work more smoothly.
Walking in these boots after wearing foam padded "sneaker boots" can be puzzling at first. Danners start out feeling very narrow and stiff, as if there is no flexibility at all. Additonally, there is no foam padding anywhere, just Gore-Tex in contact with your feet, surrounded by leather, with a very slight give in the footboard. The debris guard over the tongue feels very thick and pushes down on your instep. I really don't know how anyone ever liked these enough in the store to buy them and take them home, unless like me, they had read favorable reviews from previous owners and gave them a chance.
As one wears the boot for short walks, an interesting thing is observed to occur. The soles begin to flex where they need to under the ball of your foot. The footboard gradually conforms to the contours of the bottom of your foot. The leather over the instep, around the heel and the toes slowly begins to flex and stretch until it fits your foot like the boots were custom fitted for you. After a few weeks, you reach a point where the boot is ON your foot, but doesn't call attention to itself because the fit has become so good. Any perspiration from your feet is very efficiently wicked away from your socks by the Gore-Tex lining, so feet stay dry and comfortable.
With each pair of boots, Danner provides their well-known "Airthotic" insert, a flexible ventilated plastic heel and arch support, which allows the user to fine-tune the desired degree of arch support. I experimented with and without the Airthotic, and with various thicknesses of socks, finally settling on no insert and two pairs of medium-weight hiking socks. This combination gives a good fit with a lot of cushion surrounding the foot, as well as exposing the full surface of the Gore-Tex liner for moisture absorbtion.
In sum, the Danner Mountain Light II is a classic design with excellent workmanship, updated with some modern materials to make them waterproof, and therefore providing a good climate for the wearers feet under a wider range of conditions.
Although not particularly comfortable initially, they soon achieve a very high degree of comfort, surpassing in some ways the comfort of many other boots. I don't wear mine at work, because I have to wear steel toe boots. However, when I get home, I very often put them on to wear around the house. The fit is so good, I enjoy wearing them while eating supper or watching television. I also wear them casually, with jeans and khakis, sometimes even to church.
Durability appears to be very good, many users report years of wear before resoling, with multiple resolings possible if the leather is cared for properly,
Their appearance is enough unlike other hiking boots that people notice them, and offer spontaneous compliments.
I found these to run about 1/2 size smaller than most of my other shoes and boots.