Updated: Jul 22, 2020
It seems like almost weekly, I see a post in a social media group asking for hunting boot recommendations. Someone is planning an elk hunt in the fall and needs a new pair of boots they can break in beforehand. The list of recommendations is always long and usually covers almost every brand available...which honestly, is not helpful!
In my experience elk hunting in southeast Idaho, not only can the weather change at a moment’s notice but the terrain can go from flat and grassy to mountainous and rocky in just a few steps. Having boots that perform well in different elements and situations has been essential. Over the years, I've worn several brands and styles including Merrell trail hiking shoes, Columbia trail running shoes, Keen Oakridge hiking boots, Cabela’s boots, Lowa Tibet boots, and Danner Wayfinder boots; the Wayfinders have been my favorite by far.
I purchased the non-insulated Wayfinders because I wanted boots I could wear for early season elk hunting; we usually hunt in September when the temperatures can still be very hot. I also wanted to be able to wear them for hiking during the spring and summer months.
Features (from Danner.com)
35 oz per pair
8” high shaft
Suede and nylon upper
Polyurethane footbed for superior shock absorption
Plyolite® midsole for lightweight comfort and shock absorption
Danner® Dry 100% waterproof barrier
Size and Fit
Most of the customer reviews indicate the Wayfinder boots run slightly small and recommend ordering a half size up from your normal shoe size. I took this advice—I normally wear a size 9 but ordered 9-1/2.
Once they arrived, I tried them on with a pair of hiking socks and found that the fit was quite satisfactory; I was glad I ordered the half size up because they were a perfect fit. The shape of the footbed was comfortable; there wasn't any looseness or tightness anywhere and no pressure spots from the tongue or sides digging into my feet. One of my concerns before ordering was the 8” high shaft, since I had never worn hiking or hunting boots this tall. I wasn’t sure how they would feel around my calves or if they would fit too tight or feel bulky under my pants. I have larger calves and found the fit to be comfortable due to the ability to tie them as tight or loose as preferred.
The key features I wanted were ankle support, good tread for traction in various terrains, and waterproof. And of course, they had to be comfortable.
The 8” high shaft provides great ankle support. As I mentioned, I was concerned about this height initially but once I was able to try the boots on and wear them around for a short time, I didn't experience any issues or discomfort. I've found this height while hiking is extremely supportive and helped to provide additional stabilization, especially downhill and in rocky terrains.
The terrain I hunt consists of muddy creeks to dry and cracked flats, forest beds with brush and branches, steep hillsides, loose rocks, and everything in between. Having boots with good tread is an absolute must. The tread on the Wayfinders has provided good traction in all of these situations. I've had a couple of minor slips down steep, muddy hillsides, but that is to be expected regardless of the type of boot you're wearing. (Plus, I’m kind of a clumsy walker!) I've also worn them hunting in Florida where the ground is primarily sand, and they performed well in that also.
The picture below shows the tread on my original pair on the left (worn for over a year) compared to a brand new pair on the right. You can see there is very little wear and the tread is still in great condition.
Being waterproof is a primary feature when selecting boots because it's inevitable I will encounter water in some form while hiking or hunting. It’s not uncommon to have frost on the ground in the mornings, pop-up rain showers, or even a snow shower. Additionally, there are a lot of creeks, marshes, and springs in the mountains. During a hike out last fall, I had to cross a creek that was about 10-foot wide and 6 inches deep; once across, my feet were still dry.
After receiving my boots, I wore them on several hikes to check trail cameras and scout before hunting season started and didn't experience any soreness, blisters, rubbing, etc. But during the opening weekend of archery season, I put them to the real test. From sun up to sun down for three days straight, I wore these boots and walked approximately 30 to 35 miles through a variety of terrains and environments. At the end of the day, it was nice to take them off as it would be any boot, but I didn't experience any discomfort that made me not want to put them back on the next day.
Options and Price
Available sizes: Women’s 5-11, medium width
Color and Insulation Options:
Brown/Buff – Non-insulated
Mossy Oak® Break-Up Country ® – 400G Thinsulate Ultra
Realtree Edge™ – 800G Thinsulate Ultra
Mossy Oak® Break-Up Country® Snake Guard – Non-Insulated
Cost: $140 to $160, depending on the color and insulation option selected
As an added benefit, the Danner website offers free 2-day shipping and free returns. I recommend purchasing directly from Danner because of this, instead of purchasing through other retailers.
So far, the Wayfinder boots have exceeded my expectations. I've owned them for over a year, hiked quite a few miles in them, and put them through the wringer when it comes to weather and terrain conditions, they hardly show any signs of wear. And because I was so happy with their performance, I purchased a second pair to have as a backup in case they are discontinued in the future. The only negative I have is that they aren't made in the U.S.A; Danner offers many styles that are made in Portland, Oregon but the Wayfinders are not.
Yes! I would absolutely recommend these boots to other outdoorswomen who are looking for comfort, function, and style in a hiking or hunting boot.
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey, pronghorn and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras and Brand Ambassador for the GoWild app and BaseMap app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.