Thinking about picking up some new hiking shoes? Here is the Danner Free Spirit hiking shoe review so you can learn about what to expect with these shoes.
Danner shoes have been around since 1932, and according to its website, ” You don’t put on a pair of Danner Boots to sit around the house. They’re made for adventure, exploration, and the hard work the men and women who wear them perform day in and day out”. Well, that sounds great, but are all of their shoes going to be good for hiking in Texas?
The Free Spirit style is a throwback only to the original concept. In the 1980s, hiking gear was no longer for the trail, and you started to see more casual use of footwear and clothing that was initially worn only on the trail.
Free Spirit shoes are available in three different colorways, Volcanic Glass, Monk’s Robe, and Dark Earth which is what this review features. They retail for $200 and can be purchased on the Danner site, or most places that carry the brand, like this affiliate link to REI.
The box that the shoes come in was solid green on top with the forest landscape around the bottom portion of the box. The top of the box features the Danner Logo, established in 1932. It opens from the side and the tissue paper that the shoes are wrapped in features some fun map designs.
The shoes come with an additional pair of laces if you prefer more of a flat lace instead of the round style. And also in the box was the warranty packet in case you have any issues with the shoes.
Free Spirit Design Elements
The tongue was wide and covers a good portion of the leg, and the laces can be tied securely with the metal loops that were mentioned. It helps the laces glide easier to get a snugger fit.
The front and rear of the shoe feature super rigid toe and heel caps, with some added rubber to the front of the shoe. This material feels really solid in hand, and more details on actual protection are down below.
The sole of the Free Spirit design is a Plyolite material that looks much softer than it really is, and the sole of the shoes features Vibram rubber soles with a triangular tread that is meant to give better traction.
Inside you’ll find an Ortholite footbed that is going to feel a little stiffer on the outer portion of your foot for added stability. It is also meant to help with better heat dissipation and air circulation.
On the back of the shoe, you won’t find a pull-on loop, but there is a small flap that will catch the back of your pant which is a nice touch.
Testing them on the trail
So how did they actually perform? Well… it’s been a bit of a mixed bag.
The first week of wearing them was on a solid, flat surface. The rigidity of the footbed was much different after wearing Merrell Moabs previously. The cushion is exactly where it says it’s going to be which is a bit in the heel and towards the center of the sole.
Not what was expected initially after looking at the outer portion of the sole.
Once worn on the trail these shoes really start to impress.
The Vibram stickiness will have to be tested later, but the tread pattern on the bottom performed amazingly well on a typical hill country trail. Plenty of tree roots and rocks sticking up from the ground gave a great opportunity to see how they would feel with the harder surfaces.
Very few tree knots and jagged rock edges could be felt, so the tread did a great job of absorbing the narrower parts that would normally push in between other shoe treads and into the bottom of the foot.
The main reason waterproof boots are hardly recommended on this site is because of breathability. And while the GoreTex mesh on these shoes boasts just that, unfortunately, these weren’t tested in Texas.
On a mild day with limited humidity, these shoes started to feel warm in only six miles of hiking. It was bearable, but not something that could be withstood on a summer day.
There is a bit of an issue
While the outer sole performed exceedingly well, the inner sole is where the perfection started to fall apart.
The outer portion of the footbed started to feel really stiff at about mile four, and the portion under the ball of the foot on both feet started to become really tough.
There were a few times the shoe needed to be kicked a bit on the heel to give the foot a bit more cushion and comfort. Just based on that these won’t be worn on any longer hikes. They feature a similar aesthetic on the bottom to a trail but are worlds apart in terms of comfort.
Should you buy the Danner Free Spirit Hiking Shoe?
Everyone’s feet are different, so if you like the look of these shoes then grab them. The colors they come in are really fun and nostalgic, and they are a great look with most outfits.
In terms of being a long-term hiking shoe, these shoes will need more testing, but for now, they won’t be worn on distances longer than five miles. There’s just not enough cushion in these shoes compared to other mid-height shoes on the market right now.
The durability and warranty of Danner outshine most, but maybe just not useful for this model.
Check out the initial reaction video on Youtube: