[Review] Danner Stalwart Boots: Traditional with a Twist

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Invoke the name of Danner Boots, and most will think of traditional, bomb-proof military, duty, and work boots. Boots that have endured the test of time, the rigor of the battlefield, the constant grind of police shift work, and long days on the job site. When I first joined the police force, there was really only one true option for a duty boot; the Danner Acadia 8”. The Acadia is Danner’s iconic boot; strong and durable with Gore-Tex lining, it took an excellent spit shine, and lent itself to a squared-away uniformed presence.

I wore Danner’s exclusively for about ten years. My trusty Acadia’s went through numerous foot pursuits, long hours in a patrol car, slogging and the Pacific Northwest weather. Many hours standing on details, through weeks of training, and spit shine after spin shine after spit shine. I had them resoled after six years. Finally, after 10 years of use, I had to retire them after the leather upper finally wore through.

Now that I work in more of a plainclothes capacity, I’m only in uniform maybe once or twice a week. So I bought a different brand of boots.  I was intrigued recently, however, when Danner reached out to send me a pair of Danner STALWARTS. Their newer offering for a traditionally-configured duty boot.

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Danner Stalwart

According to Danner, the STALWART is an update from the legacy Acadia’s, and I looked forward to receive my evaluation pair.

A few weeks later, the STALWARTS arrived, and I broke them out of the box. Hmm. They looked…like a pair of Acadia’s, and not too much really stood out to me about their construction.  Now, unless you’re a footwear aficionado, you probably don’t know too much about, or care too much about the difference between Stitchdown construction, Blake construction, or Goodyear construction when it comes to how footwear is assembled. It really doesn’t matter to me, as a generalist, other than all I really care about is that my boots hold together, and I would like to be able to have my boots re-solable.

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The STALWARTS are described as such, via Danner’s website:

“Challenging ourselves to create a lightweight and quick-to-comfort boot that honors the trust and tradition of our iconic Danner Acadia, we developed the Stalwart. Featuring a Bi-Fit board that integrates the midsole, lasting board and shank into a single form, we were able to reduce weight while maintaining the durability that is synonymous with Danner. Built on a more athletic last, the Stalwart relies on our hand-crafted, stitchdown construction to uphold its strength and stability while a full-length, removable footbed provides the comfort needed for long hours in service.”

I was heartened to read that description, as the only complaint I had with my old Acadia’s, was the weight.  Factory specs indicate that the original Acadia’s weigh in at 65oz per pair. Although not concrete boots, anyone who has engaged in a foot pursuit knows they’re definitely not the lightest boots. The STALWARTS on the other hand, are 52oz per pair, a significant weight savings when tromping around shift after shift.

Now specs are one thing, performance is another, so I wanted to give the STALWARTS a few months of use to get a good impression prior to putting pen to paper. I wore the STALWARTS through the late spring and summer; on shift, at the range, and through a five-day Centrifuge Training VCQB Instructor School.  During normal patrol use the STALWARTS performed as expected, and were just like…forgive me…putting on a pair of old shoes.

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Waterproof Gore-Tex Lining

During the Centrifuge Training class, however, I noted that I was starting to get hot spots on the top of my feet, especially where the upper folds when my foot was flexed.  Centrifuge Training courses are demanding; they require a lot of explosive movement, unorthodox positioning in, around, over, and under vehicles. This in turn was a good proving ground for many hours of constant, active use.

By day five of the course, I gave my feet a break and spent the last day of class in a pair of old more-broken-in Merrells.  This by no means is a condemnation of the STALWARTS as a whole. It’s more of a reflection of the work one will put into a VCQB class.  That being said, my mind immediately hearkened back to my old patrol days with my Acadia’s – my feet definitely felt it after long hours of strenuous use.

After another month or so of uniformed duty use, I came to the initial conclusion that there really wasn’t anything that terribly stood out to me performance-wise with the STALWARTS that would blow my proverbial socks off, and they subjectively felt pretty much like my well-loved Acadia’s of days past, but there are some subtle differences to note that make for a wiser purchasing decision.

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I had a follow-up conversation with Pamela Lo, Danner’s Military/Tactical Product Line Manager.  Pamela offered me some additional insight into the benefits of the STALWARTS that went beyond the general website description.

Construction-wise, the STALWARTS are built with a wider toe-box than the legacy Acadia’s. Therefore are more forgiving in fit for those with wider feet.  Additionally, Danner added an additional footbed for a little more padding/comfort over the Acadia’s.  According to Pamela, although the Acadia’s and STALWARTS both use Kletterlift outsoles, the STALWARTS use the Kletterlift LITES, which have shallower lugs.

The aforementioned BIFIT board is a little more flexible than the Acadia, allowing strong support of the foot, but a little more flex – again, improving comfort, flexibility, and weight-savings over the Acadia’s, all while still able to be recrafted.

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Vibram Kletterlift Light Outsole

The last bit from Pamela was the clincher, which is that the STALWARTS are manufactured overseas.  The materials are all sourced in the US and meet Danner’s stringent quality controls. However the boot assembly itself is outsourced, allowing Danner to offer a non-Berry compliant boot. A boot that possesses many of the desirable features of the legacy Acadia’s, with a $100 reduction in price.

In summation, if you’re in the market for a traditional-looking, solidly-performing duty boot, the STALWARTS are definitely worth the look.  They are not the lightest, most agile boots out there, and after four days of running and gunning at a VCQB class, my feet definitely felt it, but they are still holding up exceptionally well and look great.  The STALWARTS will satisfy most department requirements for looks and uniformity, take a good shine, and thankfully are still recraftable.  The fact that they come in at a reduced price point is also a welcome feature.

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