Gear Guide 2012: Danner Mt. Defiance GTX Boot

This boot offers serious protection and stability for a trustworthy support.

[best support]

Sprain an ankle or take a bad spill on a solo backpacking trip, especially in a remote, off-trail area, and you could suddenly find yourself stranded in a life-threatening situation. That’s why one tester deemed the Mt. Defiance her most trustworthy “solo hiking partner,” as it provided plenty of confidence-inspiring support without weighing her down. “I felt very stable when crossing creeks, walking across slippery logs, and climbing up rock piles,” she said after a solo trip in West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness.

Compared to other heavy-duty boots, the Mt. Defiance is exceptionally stable yet reasonably lightweight thanks to a unique hybrid sole design: It’s stitched to the upper in the front of the boot (to promote lateral stability when walking on uneven ground) and glued in the heel area (for easier flexing and responsiveness when striding).

Additional stability comes from a stiff, PU heel cup that steadies the foot during heel strike and a snug collar that rises two inches above the ankle to prevent rolling. With a full-length shank and stiff PU midsole, the Mt. Defiance offers rigid support for heavy loads and rocky terrain that’s more boardlike than pillowlike (and the sole is relatively compact; an inch thick under the forefoot and up to 1.5 inches under the heel).

Serious protection also comes from a hard plastic toecap that one tester likened to a steel-toed work boot. The nubuck upper and Cordura tongue, along with a Gore-Tex liner, endured rocky balds, a foot of snow, and swampy bogs with barely a scratch. Long-life design: The forefoot’s welted (sewn) construction means there’s no chance of sole delamination in that vulnerable spot. $170; 3 lbs. 5 oz. (m’s 10); m’s 7-15, w’s 5-11;