Yes, ridgeway is much better than danite for outdoor uses. The rubber is softer, the tread is deep, and designed for things like hiking. Commando soles are better than Danite, but worse than ridgeway. I find the rubber on commando soles to be too hard and the studs too short for hiking. I would think that lug soles would be fine too.
It's part of the DNA in the northeast and portions of the eastern seaboard, at least among certain circles. Part of the appeal is the notion that a pair of shell shoes are a good value because they last longer than calf.
Wow- that's pretty bad. They look like corrected grain. I had a pair a long, long time ago when they were made in Austraila. They were oiled leather, unlike your new pair. Do they sell this model with different leathers at different price points?