Danner Steel Yard Work Boot
By Chris Ermides
I bought my first pair of Danner boots about 25 years ago: the widely known Mountain Lights. I was a school teacher at the time so it was a particularly large purchase given my salary then. But I’d heard they were durable and comfortable, so I made the investment. And then I wore them every day in the classroom, on countless miles hiking in the Smoky, Pisgah, and Adirondack mountains, and in the early days of my construction career that included one long year in Wyoming. I even climbed the Grand Teton in them in the fall of 2001. I loved those boots.
MY FIRST PAIR – BULL RUNS
About five years ago I bought a pair of Bull Runs when I was working as a job site super. The wedge sole has been my go-to for a long time; I like that you’re less likely to track mud around and that they don’t mar up floor finishes when working on your knees. But they have their limitations – namely traction and grip – which is particularly noticeable in the winter months.
So when Danner offered me an opportunity to review one of the boots in their Steel Yard line, I looked for a pair better-suited for the winter months. I had two criteria: I wanted an insulated boot that had good traction on ice, and also on the job site. And, of course, they had to be waterproof. They sent me a pair of the 6” Brown Steel Toe 400G. They developed the Steel Yard line to offer tradesmen a solution who works in a variety of job site conditions. There a variety of models within the Steel Yard line from insulated to non-insulated, steel-toe to plain-toe, one model offers met guard protection, and a few are Electrical Hazard (EH) rated. Most of the models are lace-up; there are a couple of Wellington-style options available as well.
The Steel Yard consists of a full-grain leather upper which is thick and therefore very stiff out of the box. I was at first nervous at how stiff they were when I first put them on. They took a few days of wearing to begin to break in, and a couple of weeks for all stiffness to go away. Despite the initial stiffness, they were immediately comfortable and only got more so over time.
According to Danner these boots are made from their “most universal last” and so “can be worn by all foot shapes”. I have a normal arch and have never had any foot issues. I can attest to two things with respect to fit: they offer fantastic support of my foot without any additional arch support. The second thing is that they are extremely stable underfoot – meaning the design of the sole feels very solid and there’s no side-to-side movement. I feel like I couldn’t roll my foot if I tried.
In addition to being incredibly solid and offering great support underfoot, the upper shaft of the boot is supportive as well. It hugs the ankle comfortably and securely, maintaining side-to-side stability yet offering enough forward movement to keep gait and kneeling comfortable as well.
The outsole is made of rubber and is marketed as being oil-and-slip-resistant. In winter weather, including ice, they did well. I want a boot that allows a sure step when getting out of the truck and provides confidence underfoot when walking through a variety of conditions. These did not disappoint. In addition to offering good traction during snowy, icy days, they remained dry in the rain and mud, and are warm. My feet don’t sweat in these boots the way they do in my Sorels. They also provided excellent traction around the framing site, including walking a ZIP-sheathed roof at a 6/12 pitch.
I have a gripe about the Steel Yard in general: you can only get the insulated boot in a steel toe. Personally, I’m not a fan of steel toe boots; never have been and I don’t often need them. When I do, I prefer a composite toe because it’s lighter and doesn’t conduct cold temperature (though this wasn’t an issue with the ones I tried). Still, I would like to see an insulated option that isn’t steel toe.
One thing I do not like about these boots is their weight. At 72 oz per pair – that’s 2.25 lbs on each foot – they aren’t lightweight. You’ll drop ½ lb per pair by foregoing the steel toe, but 2 lbs on each foot is still something to get used to.
This boot has a welted outsole but is not “recraftable” – a service that Danner offers on many of its boots. In this instance, it means you can’t resole the boot. At $170 for the model I tested (the line offers boots in the $150-$180 range), the cost in in-line with other quality work boots. I think it would be money well spent as I expect these to last a good amount of time.
Chris Ermides is the Pro2Pro editor at This Old House. He lives in upstate New York.