I was a few moves up a light scramble in a remote Utah canyon when it occurred to me I might be wearing my favorite pair of shoes of all time. Here I was, depending on the shoes’ grippy Vibram soles as if my life depended on them, because it actually did. But also these were the shoes I wore on the plane to Utah because they’re the most comfortable shoes I own. I’ve had the shoes for a just about a year now, and I’ve probably worn them well over 320 days. Scrambling, hiking, backpacking, trail running, mountain biking, cruising down the street for a muffin—the Danner Trail 2650 is the most versatile shoe I’ve ever had. They’re right up there with my beloved Vans high tops for best shoe ever made.
Danner named these shoes after the Pacific Crest Trail, which is 2,650 miles long—hence, Trail 2650. They now make them with a GORE-TEX waterproof membrane, if you like, and a slightly taller mid-cut. I personally don’t like waterproof low-cut hikers at all, and a mid looks cool, but isn’t particularly useful for me, so I’ve stuck with the basic version of this shoe quite happily.
There aren’t any fancy tricks, really, to make this shoe work so well, except maybe one, but that’s probably lost on everybody but shoe geeks. You’ll notice the large bulb on the back of the heel. That’s the heel counter, a stabilizing cup that most shoes have to lock the heel in place, but which is almost always inside the shoe. Danner put it outside on this one, to aid comfort, and well, it’s an incredibly comfortable shoe. I have no idea whether the heel counter is responsible.
Everything else is just a great blend of Stuff You Want in a Hiker. The durable leather uppers breathe. The toe box is roomy. The laces give great, tight closure. The soles, Vibram’s Megagrip, are deeply lugged but also pretty darn flexible. There’s an 8mm heel drop, which adds a lovely cushy feel, but also a strong TPU shank so you don’t feel every pebble beneath your feet. The toe cap is nice and tough—the shoe clearly means business. Kick a rock with it! They laugh at rocks.
Plus, they’re about 1 pound, 8 ounces per pair. Light enough to really appreciate that while backpacking. I’ve worn these with a 30-pound pack, putting in 10 mile days, and they were ideal. Stable enough, and mercifully forgiving.
After year of very hard use, in heat, snow, pavement, granite, and pressed into mountain bike duty a dozen times when I’ve forgotten bike shoes, they’ve held up very well, with the only real evidence of wear being the rubber coating above the toe caps peeling away. But that’s great. A use patina.
• BUY $150
We also give these hikers the thumbs up
The Vasque Velocity ATs aren’t as burly as the Danners, but they’re light, comfy, a great trail shoe, and on sale for $90.
La Sportiva makes wonderful all-purpose mountain shoes, and the Kaptiva is our choice for a light, easy-wearing, but capable trail shoe. $139
Salomon’s X Ultra 3 Hiking Shoe are classics. Breathable, functional, stylish, depending on your taste for bling. $120.