Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stuff I love #2: Keen boots

     Last October, my wife and I spent a lovely, if strenuous day hiking the length of the Glen Onoko Falls Trail, in Lehigh State Park, about 90 minutes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, we saw two signs that caught our attention, signs the likes of which we had never seen on a hiking trail before, in all our years of tromping around this beautiful country.
       One had a skull and crossbones, to drive home the danger of the trail, which was wet, and rocky, with stretches that paralleled fatal drops. 
Glen Onoko Falls Trail
     The other was the sign above, that told hikers without proper hiking boots to "turn back now."  I smiled, confidently to myself, because I was wearing my Keen boots, the best hiking boot I've ever put on my feet. 
     I bought them at REI in 2009, when my boys and I were preparing for our epic 7,000 mile, nine-National-Park odyssey across the country. They're size 10, but somehow fit my 8 1/2 EEE feet perfectly. They've carried me up mountainsides in the Rockies, through fern-canopied paths in the Redwood Forest, splashed in the Pacific and the Atlantic, trod the deserts of South Dakota, Nevada and Utah, scampered around Wyoming, been up to Canada, striding through the woods in Nova Scotia and across the canyons of New York City and London and Chicago. 
Keens doing their job in
Southern Utah.
     Keen is a relatively new brand; founded in 2003 by Martin Keen, an outdoors lover and sailor who was looking to make a better shoe for use on boats. The Portland, Oregon company—same hometown as Gerber knife, featured here yesterday; must be the water—amazed backers with its rapid growth, and why not? The shoes are comfortable, light, rugged, water resistant. Low cut, they're easy to get on and off. They don't slip.
     I've had a number of other brands of boots that fell far short. A pair of Timberlands that quickly split between the uppers and the sole come to mind, bringing a shudder every time they do. 
     Even the best boots will wear out after years of hard use, and Keens are no different. (My wife blames the snow: I'd wear them to shovel our driveway, a mistake). When the left boot developed a hole in the upper, I did something I've never done with hiking boots or any other footwear for that matter. I took them to the shoemaker and had them patched. The patches are obvious squares of brown, but I don't care. If I get another few seasons out of them, it's worth it. When they wore away at the heel, I reinforced them myself with REI ballistic tape. Then I started gluing the tape to the seams.
     "Buy new hiking boots!" my wife sensibly commanded. But I can't. Not yet. I'll never find a pair like this. They fit my ducklike feet. They've been with me all over. At some point they'll fall apart—in my heart I hope I fall apart first—and I'll grumble and get another pair of Keen boots. I'm hoping they're as good, being made by the same company and all. But they'll have very big shoes to fill. 


  1. My Keen winter boots are the best I've ever had, 6th season now with no problems. If you really need to get new hikers and the Keens aren't available, maybe try Merrills. The ones I have are as comfortable and grippy as Keens. Not sure about duck sizes though.

  2. Thought we would see your Wednesday newspaper column on Rahm up here.

    1. I thought I might save it for tomorrow. But you're right, I'd better post it.

  3. Even with Keen boots, that skull and crossbones sign would likely have prompted me to a quick u-turn.


  4. Exactly how does one determine 'appropriate' hiking boots when they arrive at the trailhead? I've also done a significant amount of hiking on all terrain types - wearing hiking shoes, lightweight boots, leather boots, heavy boots (with pack aboard). I guess maybe it's to discourage the Keen sandal wearers that think they are OK because they have a toe guard....

  5. It's the ONLY brand I wear anymore since discovering them like 5 years ago. The arch is just perfect. No more shin splints. They make decent dress shoes and love my sandals.

    I get about a year out of each pair now, they used to last longer but they are using cheaper material. I just turn them into "yard work" shoes and buy a new pair.

  6. Pencil heels accompanied with boots!I tremendously love this combo.I was obsessed that this winter how will I be able to manage both the burst of winter and my style.But it just made my problem solved. best work boots for women

  7. Whether you are tramping through a wet forest on a camping trip, slipping and sliding over ice-packed ground after hitting the slopes, walking through the city, or working a job at a construction site, Keen hiking shoes for men where designed to weather any terrain and climate. Keen Hiking boots are designed for men, women and kids, were also manufactured for various situations.

  8. hey're size 10, however some way or another fit my 8 1/2 EEE feet impeccably. They've conveyed me up mountainsides in the Rockies, through greenery canopied ways in the Redwood Forest, sprinkled in the Pacific and the Atlantic,

    kamie J. Ridlon


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