Cheap shoes just don’t cut the mustard for some of us. If your feet find their bliss at Payless or Wal-Mart, God bless ’em: they’re saving you a ton of money. Some of us have oddly-sized hooves, or finicky feet that can detect a crooked shank or a lumpy last after just a few steps on the shoe store floor. Such feet are never truly happy without top-shelf footwear. If you didn’t know this already, you’ll hear it from me: Danner makes top-shelf footwear. I’m not much of a footwear journalist but there’s a first time for anything…
Back at September’s Bushnell Tactical Writer’s Conference, Danner Boots gave us each a pair of their ‘Melee‘ medium-height hot weather boots, in the always-seasonal color (in Afghanistan, anyway) of natural tan. I didn’t want to risk spoiling an awesome day of shooting by wearing unbroken and untested new boots, so I chickened out and left them in the box. I shouldn’t have.
Because these boots are insanely comfortable. The first day I wore them (flying home from Tennessee) they made sweet love to my feet all through a 14-hour day of TSA groping lines and contortionist airline seats. I realized that sitting still and strolling carpeted airport terminals was not the ultimate test of outdoor boot comfort and durability, so it was obvious that a longer-term test was needed. After two months, the Melees have held up extremely well, and they’ve become my go-to hiking and shooting shoes.
The medium-height Melees only weigh 2.5 pounds, which is about the same weight as a pair of generic hiking sneakers. They’re so light and flexible that they feel more like high-top sneakers than ‘boots,’ and I’m guessing that the $150 Melee are Danner’s answer to the Nike Special Field Boots that Wendy Cunningham scored at the Crimson Trace M3GI. They’re more rugged than cross-trainers, but lighter and more flexible (also less supportive and protective) than true backcountry/hiking boots or combat boots.
The Melee’s footbeds are low with very little heel lift, and the toe area is a little roomier than my other hiking shoes. The roominess and flexibility gives your feet a natural feel for the ground, and if you’re hunting it lets you move more quietly since you can feel out twigs and loose rocks before you put your full weight on them. I was concerned that my feet would slide around inside the Melees and blister up, but so far they’ve been like twin Tempur-Pedic mattresses with soles and laces.
The Melees so comfortable that you’ll be tempted to wear them everywhere, all the time. If you wear them to the auto-parts store, however, they’ll positively scream “National Guard Drill Weekend” or “OFWG Military Wanna-be.” Only one of these two fashion statements is acceptable.
I trust you know which one, and that you can’t pull it off unless you’re actually in uniform and on duty. 8″ Melees meet U.S. Army and USAF 670-1 footwear regs, but servicemen should run them past their C.O. prior to purchase just to make sure. The medium-height 6″ Melees probably aren’t up to code.
For the rest of us, these tan desert boots are a bit too military-looking to wear around town all the time with our jeans or Dockers, IHMO.
The Melees have given excellent traction on every surface I’ve worn them on so far, including sand, gravel, wet grass and pavement, and muddy footpaths. I haven’t worn them in heavy mud or snow so far (since we haven’t had any) so I can’t give an opinion about how they perform in the deep stuff. They’re not winter boots anyway: they’re not tall enough to handle much snow, and they’re neither insulated nor waterproof.
Danner advertises that the Melee is made with ‘Waterproof Leather Uppers.’ Since they didn’t say if the boots were waterproof, I decided to test them for myself.
The leather actually is waterproof; even after a couple of months of regular and vigorous use, water beads off it like quicksilver.
But when the water gets deep enough it infiltrates through the eyes and tongue. This is yet another reason to wear merino wool or polypropylene socks that wick moisture away from your foot. Cotton kills!
If you need waterproof boots, Danner has other Melee designs under $200 that fill the bill. My test boots, however, aren’t.
After lots of wear over the last two months (including, I confess, running errands and shopping in my OFWG costume) they’re a little scuffed and dirty but basically still brand-new. I can’t say they’re ‘just broken in’, since they were perfectly broken in the moment I first laced them up. This is a sign of true awesomeness in any shoe, BTW.
Danner also promises they’ll hold up exceptionally well for fast-roping out of helicopters, since they’ve got a proprietary rubber built into the arch that grips the rope but doesn’t abrade easily. Luckily I had no opportunity to test the Melees during this most hazardous of insertion methods.
I won’t even try to assign ‘star’ ratings to shoes, but these Danner Melees are highly recommended for hot or cool weather hiking and outdoors activities. They’re available in 3″, 6″and 8″ styles in black, tan, and multicam, with and without waterproof Gore-Tex liners.
Price: $120 to $190.
And one more thing: