I purchased a pair of Danner Vitals almost 2 years ago for an upcoming elk hunting trip. From doing my research, I knew Danner made a good boot at a fair price. I’ve been pleased with my boots so far and because of this worn them on many hunts and hikes besides the elk hunt this past October.
These boots have been worn in many types of terrains and if I had to guess I’m approaching 80 to 90 miles in them. They are performing great and besides some dirt and scuff marks are in great shape as well. I’ve been everywhere from high elevation trails in Montana, Canada, and Idaho to walking through creeks and marshes here in the Midwest while I chase whitetails, turkeys, and rabbits.
I am happy with my purchase and wanted to share my thoughts with you in this Danner Vital boots review.
This review will cover the following:
- Danner’s History
- Fit and Form
Danner’s History: Since 1932
The story behind Danner is one worth sharing. Charles Danner started the company in 1932 in Chippewa Falls, WI. At the time his finished boots sold for approx. $4 a pair! Around 1936, Charles saw an opportunity to supply calked boots to the loggers in the Pacific Northwest and moved his family and company to Portland, Oregon where the company still makes boots to this day.
As demand for boots grows so does Danner. By the 1940s they could produce 240 pairs a day and Danner started to break out into new markets. In the 1960s outdoor recreation started to take off as more people are getting out to hike, backpack and mountain climbing on a national level. By 1980 Danner is using GORE-TEX fabric as a way to waterproof their boots and expands into the hunting and uniformed service personnel markets. Today the company still makes boots in Portland as well as many other markets around the world.
And it all started with 12 employees back in 1932.
Fit and Form
The fit of these boots is well-thought-out. I like a wider type of fit and when I would try on a slimmer style type of boot my feet would feel pinched and I could tell right away this was not going to work out. Vitals give you enough width for a comfortable fit but still snug enough that support is not compromised. Danner also offers 2 types of width for this boot – D Medium and EE Wide fit. I took the EE route due to my statement above and I also new I would be wearing a thicker merino wool sock.
The boot is also designed to be sleeker in the back around your heel pocket for a tight fit and up front is a wide toe box that offers plenty of room. I like this design and the boot fits me very well. I’ve never felt my foot slide in the boot when I am walking on a ledge or incline as I go up the mountain. Also, the wider toe box is nice because I can wiggle my toes to get some blood flow when I need to warm them up and I feel that it helps the breathability of the boot as well.
Support and flexibility is well-balanced in this boot. During our elk hunt we hiked about 5 miles in before setting up our base camp. I had approx 55lbs on my back. In these boots I could be confident when we had to jump a small creek or keep my footing on a ledge, or walking over rocks. Ankle support is good as well. It’s an 8″ boot that provides plenty of support.
I would describe these boots as a hybrid between a leather boot and a synthetic as the leather is paired with 900 denier polyester. This makes them lighter as they feel like a good marriage between a lighter hiking boot and supportive hunting boot.
Boots fit true to size as I stuck with the same size as my normal shoe. Iv’e never worn a heavy sock with them. I purchased the uninsulated version so I don’t intend the wear them on a late season whitetail hunt. I do wear a mid-weight merino wool sock and have not had any issues.
Functionally, these boots have served we well no matter what type of terrain I wear them in. Anything from swamps, thickets and tall grass here in the Midwest to the rocky and steep mountain country. No signs of seams tearing or the sole detaching from the upper section of the boot after almost 2 years of service. Honestly, I’m very pleased on how durable these boots have been.
I did break these boots in before doing any strenuous hiking. After wearing them day after day on my elk hunt I did not get a single blister. I would say I have pretty tough feet as thankfully I’ve really not had any issues with blisters no matter what shoe or boot I wear.
A small feature about these boots that I really like are the lacing hooks that go up the top half of the boot. This makes it very easy to cinch down the string for a tight fit. You hear a “click” when it snaps into the hooks and holds the lace nice and tight.
Also the “ghilles” as Danner calls them across the top of your foot are a nice touch. See picture below as they are hard to explain but Danner placed small tubes of metal inside the shoe lace loops at the bottom of the boot. I liked this because it gives some strength and rigidity to the shoe lace loops when you tie your boots up tight.
A couple small features that goes a long way!
The Vitals do a good job in the breathability department. I feel they do much better than an all leather boot. For my elk hunt I wore a merino wool sock and don’t recall a time when my feet were real wet from sweat. Every morning,besides the morning after getting knee-deep in a creek which I will talk about below, my boots were dry and ready for a new day.
I will say due to the color of the boot I did notice my feet heat up during mid-day if my feet were in direct sunlight. During this time I would remove my boots and let them and my socks air dry as we were usually eating lunch and glassing looking for elk.
Unfortunately, we did cross a creek where the water was higher than my boots one night on our way back to camp so they did get wet inside. It was dark and couldn’t tell how deep the water was until it was too late. The next day we made a fire to dry out our boots, which if you can help it never do that to your boots especially leather boots but when your in a pinch I would rather have dry boots!
My cousin and uncle both had Danner Pronghorns which is a completely leather boot. My Vitals dried much quicker than their boots and I haven’t noticed any major shrinking or cracking. Due to the material and breathability of the Vitals I didn’t need to put my boots as close to the fire which saved them from damage.
My cousin was actually impressed enough with the Vitals that he bought a pair after we got back from our elk hunt. In our haste to dry his boots faster they were placed too close to the fire and ended up melting where the sole is attached to the boot. Due to this the sole started to detach from the boot.
As a quick fix we used mole skin and super glue. He was able to finish out the trip but the boots needed to be retired.
Besides my creek crossing story above, which I do not blame on the boot, I have not had my feet get wet from water seeping in while wearing these boots. Honestly, if I do have an easy route over rocks or can jump a creek I will but I have walked through plenty of creeks, swamps, and flooded areas without an issue. Actually, I’ve used my feet as rocks so my wife can get through a creek crossing a couple times.
Like you and everyone else I did my research before purchasing these boots. I’m sure you all have come across some reviews stating these boots aren’t waterproof or my feet were wet on the first hunt. As with any manufactured product there will be defects but also I think people are too quick to blame the boot.
Many of the reviews I read people stated that they were in tall, wet, grass. Every time I have walked through tall wet grass my pant legs get wet. What people don’t realize is their pants are wet and their socks are absorbing that water from their pants. It doesn’t happen immediately but over time your feet start to get real wet and people blame the boot for not being waterproof.
I myself fell into this way of thinking until I heard a representative of a boot company talk about this issue on a podcast. I feel a lot of people will deem their boots as not waterproof when in reality they are and work just fine.
Especially a western or mountainous type of hunt, your feet can make or break the hunt. A lot of times your feet are your only mode of transportation and you need them to be dry and comfortable. No matter what brand of boot you buy break them in before hitting the trail head. It’s not worth the risk of staying at camp the whole trip.
My Vitals have served me well and I am glad I pulled the trigger and bought a pair. Besides the boots heating up a bit in direct sunlight I have yet to run into an issue with them. For the money I think you will be hard-pressed to find a better boot.
If you have a pair of Vitals or have worn Danner’s before let me know what you think. I hope this Danner Vital boots review answered the questions you had. If not feel free to leave me a comment below and I will help out any way I can.
To Your Next Trail and Adventure!