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When most folks look at me, I doubt they see a runner. At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, my body type more closely resembles competitive eater than say Usain Bolt. But I do run on pavement and trails more than 300 days a year, plus walking the woods and levees scouting in the summer and fall. So a good trail shoe is important to me. One of the difficulties for any runner that splits time between road running and the trail is finding a shoe that can do both, which, after years of searching, I finally have in Danner’s Trail 2650 Mesh.

This shoe will be a fit for many outdoorsmen, regardless of gender or how in shape you are (or aren’t). The 2650 excels in many areas, and also has some flaws. But overall, it’s one of the best trail and on-road runners I’ve tried. Here is why it may—or may not—work for you.

First, a Little History

I’m 40 years old and have been running on and off since I was 14. In that time I have worn out a lot of shoes quickly. I have extremely flat feet, and combined with a bunch of other factors I won’t bore you with, my running shoes just don’t last long.

A few years ago, I started hiking more, and then bought a squirrel dog that I needed to get into the woods every week in the offseason to keep him sharp. Running shoes just weren’t holding up very well in the woods, plus the soles were worthless if the trails became muddy. So, I started buying trail running shoes.

I’ve owned a lot of them, paying some damn high prices for Saucony, New Balance, Brooks, and Altra shoes. The only pair I found that was close to being worth its price tag was the Saucony Peregrine 11. It was extremely comfortable, but for a $120 shoe, I didn’t think the treads held up long enough. That’s not an indictment against any of these companies. I’m asking a lot of my shoes—I’m a heavy guy that punishes all kinds of footwear. They need to run on pavement and trails, and also hold up when I’m working at my parents farm or walking the woods looking for spring morels.

That’s why the 2650 is a good fit for me. It’s a versatile trail shoe that’s comfortable and has an aggressive tread that will last.

What I Like About the Danner 2650

The sole of Danner's 2650 trail runner.
The treads on the 2650s are almost too good. Joe Genzel

The first thing you will notice is the cushioning inside this shoe. I’ve worn plenty of Danner boots, but never tried any of their trail shoes. The boots are comfortable enough, but I didn’t expect to slip these on and get the kind of comfort I experienced. They are almost like wearing a pair of Air Jordans.

Danner inserted a removable ortho footbed that combines three layers of open cell polyurethane. It allows for better heat dispersion and air circulation, but above all, it makes walking and running in the 2650 enjoyable. You still have to physically exert yourself, but working out is far more tolerable—at least on your feet.

The soles of the Danners are what really sold me. Most trail running shoes don’t get overly aggressive with their treads. But the 2650s do, and it makes all the difference. It’s much like comparing a standard showroom truck tire to an aftermarket all-terrain tire—you’re going to get more performance from the latter. The same goes for the 2650. It can handle trails and hard surfaces equally well.

I have taken them out for a spin after heavy downpours on the trail I run my dog, and was more than pleased. Actually in a few mud holes, the tread on the Danners was almost too good. They were very tacky and nearly pulled the shoes off my feet. I re-tied them for a tighter fit, and was back at it. These shoes aren’t waterproof—there is a waterproof model that retails for $160— but my feet stayed reasonably dry running through puddles. Just don’t expect to walk through a shallow creek and not get your feet soaked.

What I Didn’t Like About the Danner 2650s

THe author wanted a better fit in the 2650s.
The fit of the 2650s was not ideal. Joe Genzel

While the comfort of the 2650s was superior to any shoe I can recall wearing—except those Air Jordans—the fit was not. My feet teetered inward slightly inside both shoes. The feeling is similar to when you’re walking downhill and your foot moves to the front of the shoe. It’s noticeable and annoying every time I put them on, but I do tend to forget about it once I start running or hiking. An insert will likely improve the fit, but good inserts can be pricey, and if you are already $150 deep in a pair of shoes you shouldn’t have to pay one cent more to mold them to your feet.

Danner’s sizing is notoriously inconsistent. I typically wear a size 13 EE (or wide) in most shoes and boots. This pair of 2650s were 13 Ds (a normal width) and were too wide. I’ve had other Danner boots that were listed in the same size and ran so narrow I couldn’t finish my first hike in the them because they rubbed my pinky toes raw. I doubt folks with smaller shoe sizes will experience this inconvenience as much, but if you have big feet be prepared to be frustrated by Danner sizing.

Should You Buy These Shoes?

Whether or not you should buy these shoes depends on your lifestyle. If you don’t exercise regularly and do all your scouting in the same boots you hunt in, then no, you don’t need a pair of 2650s. If you run trails, run pavement, and want a shoe that you can mow the lawn in, and perform a laundry list of other chores in, I’d recommend them.

Also, I have friends who simply don’t enjoy wearing hunting boots. They wear trail shoes instead because of their superior comfort, and pack multiple pairs in case they get wet. If you fall into this category the 2650s can handle early-season elk, pronghorn, and almost any kind of warm weather small-game hunting that doesn’t require you to cross deep water. Expect them to provide a similar grip of an average boot. You won’t get the same performance from them as a high-end boot, like Kenetrek or Crispi.

The Danners are more expensive than your average trail shoe, but not by much. And I think I will get more life out of these shoes than any other trail runner I have spent hard-earned money on. That’s a welcomed reprieve after more than two decades of wearing down running shoes in a matter of months, sometimes weeks.