Danner Trail 2650 Mesh
$190, 1 lb. 7.5 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
Want one pair of hiking shoes that do it all? Join the club. And maybe also check out Danner’s Trail 2650. Having knocked off some trail miles in the mesh version of these very light hikers, from brutal desert heat (which can do terrible things to feet) to a trail strewn with wet, slippery, large rocks (which can demand terrible things of shoes), I’m convinced that many dayhikers and lightweight backpackers would find quite a lot to admire about these shoes.
I tested the Trail 2650 carrying a daypack weighing 10 to 12 pounds on a 10-mile, 3,600-vertical-foot October dayhike of 4,700-foot Mount Carrigain in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, on a trail strewn with wet, slippery rocks and occasional mud. I also wore them on summer hikes of up to 10 miles in my local foothills—including two laps up and down one very steep trail that rises more than 2,000 vertical feet in just 2.2 miles—and on hikes during a six-day, June rafting and kayaking trip on the Green River in southern Utah, on trails varying from packed dirt to rocky and sandy, in temps ranging from the 50s to 90s Fahrenheit.
Named for the length of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, the shoe represents Danner’s bid to create light, comfortable footwear that spans the performance spectrum from dayhiking to lightweight and long-distance backpacking.
While Danner offers the Trail 2650 in several versions, including waterproof-breathable and mid-cut, I deliberately chose the low-cut, more-breathable Trail 2650 Mesh for three-season dayhikes and multi-day trips in the dry climate of the West, where I do most of my hiking and where breathability often takes priority over waterproofing. Whether we’re talking about PCT thru-hikers or the many backpackers and dayhikers who generally hit the trail in dry conditions, the major source of wet feet (and blisters) is not rain but sweat. Plus, in the event of rain or a wet trail, the airy uppers allow the shoes to dry out very quickly.
These shoes passed that performance test. With mesh throughout the perforated uppers, lining, and tongue, they ventilated quite well and kept my feet dry even in the searing heat of June in the Southwest desert. Granted, all of those tiny holes in the uppers allow more dust inside than a model with textile or leather uppers would. But it’s not as bad as some shoes I’ve used and a small tradeoff for the amplified breathability.
The comfortably snug medium-volume fit kept my heel and midfoot from slipping, even on steeper ascents and descents, while providing a roomy toe box. The 2650 have a cushioning EVA midsole, a moderate 8mm toe-to-heel drop, and the forefoot flex of trail-running shoes combined with the lateral stability and torsional rigidity of high-quality hiking shoes, thanks in part to a TPU mid-foot shank.
Danner’s unique EXO heel counter moves the rigid heel piece that’s traditionally built inside the shoe’s upper to the shoe’s exterior, maintaining the protection and locked-in stability of a heel counter while softening the contact between heel and shoe.
I’m fully confident that I could carry a multi-day backpack weighing 30 pounds or more hiking in these shoes without a problem.
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The 2650’s Vibram 460 outsole with Megagrip compound and multi-directional lugs gripped well on dirt, sand, and rock, performing as well as the many low-cut, lightweight shoes that have a very similar outsole design.
An ample rubber bumper wraps around the shoe’s toe. The durability of the mesh won’t match that of leather or textile uppers; but on PCT-like trails where you generally encounter packed dirt more than a rocky treadway, the midsole and outsole will probably wear out before the uppers suffer terminal damage. Choose the leather-textile of the standard Trail 2650 or the Trail 2650 Full Grain model if you frequent rocky trails; but in all likelihood, as with many low-cut, lightweight hiking shoes, you’ll probably get 300 to 500 miles in the Trail 2650 before needing to replace them.
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As with many shoes in this category, the major weak point is likely the exposed strip of soft midsole foam on the sidewalls from the midfoot to the heel, which tends to get chewed up more easily on rocky trails. But on these shoes, the outsole platform projects outward very slightly wider than the midsole on each side, potentially offering that soft layer a bit more protection.
Besides the Trail 2650 Mesh, Danner offers the standard Trail 2650 with leather and textile uppers ($150), the Trail 2650 Campo for warm temps ($160), the Trail 2650 Campo GTX ($200), and the waterproof-breathable Trail 2650 GTX low-cut ($190) and Trail 2650 GTX Mid ($200).
At just a pound-and-a-half per pair (US men’s 9), the Danner Trail 2650 Mesh shoes keep feet cool and, like all versions of the Trail 2650, deliver very good comfort, support and traction for dayhikers and ultralight and lightweight backpackers—or thru-hikers.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking either of these affiliate links to purchase any version of the men’s or women’s Danner 2650 hiking shoes at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com.
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.