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Quality Craftsmanship to Get You on the Trails

From factory to forest, Danner’s hiking boots are tried and true.

Presented by Danner By Ben McBee November 25, 2019

Image: Ben McBee

When you slide your feet into a pair of Danner hiking boots and experience that satisfying sense of comfort and durability, you probably won’t be thinking of the adept hands that make such quality craftsmanship possible. It’s much more likely that you’re planning the next outdoor adventure, preparing for craggy mountain peaks and rushing streams. The workers in Danner’s NE Portland factory wouldn’t blame you; their mission is to get you excited to hit the trails and explore the beautiful Pacific Northwest soil that has nourished the company’s roots since it relocated to Portland from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, in 1936. 

Still, it’s always worthwhile to appreciate superior handiwork, and the combination of trusted techniques and innovative technology is what sets Danner apart in the industry, and that difference starts with its people. The company grew from just five employees to its current facilities near the Columbia River, which opened in 2010 as the largest and most efficient in its history. Now, its staff comes from 20 different countries with 17 different languages spoken on the floor.

Roughly 40% of Danner’s styles are made in the Portland home factory, and while much of the design remains timeless, many of the methods have advanced with the times. In the temperature and humidity-controlled quality lab, automated machines run abrasion tests on laces and materials, while the Flex Tester bends boots back and forth for a hundred thousand reps to simulate extensive walking. 

Endurance originates in the caliber of the leather they utilize in each boot. Every hide is 100% inspected and many are returned to the tannery if they don’t meet the lofty expectations. Tools are used to measure tear strength, evenness, temper (softness or hardness) and finish color. These tenacious raw materials, mostly cowhide and some select buffalo, come in a variety of dyes and textures such as full grain or suede and are entirely sourced from the U.S.

With the ingredients at hand, the true expertise of the artisans is on display. Leather cutters utilize a station to scan each hide and determine the grade, before outlining pattern pieces with a digital pen, ensuring the greatest yield without sacrificing quality. From there, these markings act as a map for a laser cutter; although some leather is still cut by hand, this apparatus greatly minimizes waste. The resulting pattern pieces are embossed with the Danner logo and sent to the sewing stations. 

There you’ll find a living artifact, the “Puritan” sewing machine, patented in 1893 and the oldest equipment in the factory. Any time you see a boot with a parallel triple stitch, it went through this antiquity and its three aligned needles. Once the tops are assembled, the bottoming boot process begins. Danner is unique in the amount of lasts, or form blocks, they use, which determine the end size and functionality of a boot. This includes half sizes, and up to four times the width for military and work boots. They are used to mold the boot before Danner’s iconic stitchdown construction stitches the midsole all the way around the perimeter. A fiberglass shank arch support is also added. Finally, an outsole is adhered and sanded down to fit the boot - another job that requires a high degree of skill - and the boots are cleaned, laced and boxed up. Throughout the operation, a double pass quality process is initiated to uphold the Danner standards, checking that previous benchmarks have been met before each boot passes to the next stage.

No product epitomizes that premium level of fabrication better than the signature Danner Light boot, the very first to include GORE-TEX back in 1979. What better way to celebrate 40 years of this classic style than by hitting the trails with the new 2019 anniversary edition on your feet? Built for cushion and sturdiness, the Vibram Kletterlift outsole and removable OrthoLite footbed will provide many miles of comfortable exploring. Full-grain leather and 1000 Denier nylon provide protection against the elements as you chase waterfalls in the Gorge. The Mountain Light offers another vintage look and feel, with its one piece, retro leather silhouette seen on actress Reese Witherspoon in the blockbuster movie Wild; the diamond peaks and glacial lake of the Eagle Cap Wilderness are an ideal playground for this one. 

Danner is dedicated to creating footwear that lasts, and at its Portland recrafting center, experts can restitch, replace the sole or even recondition the leather on your well worn boots to ensure your adventures never miss a step. Wherever your compass points, Danner is dedicated to helping you Go There.

Danner Factory Store & Recrafting Center
12021 NE Airport Way, Portland, OR 97220

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