THE BIG TEST: WALKING SHOES VS. WALKING BOOTS (2018)

Trail shoes are popular in summer but do they have their limits when heading into the mountains? To find out, Trail headed into the heart of the Lake District with three pairs of trail shoes and three pairs of 3-season boots from across the price ranges.

DSC_0523.jpg

THE RUNNERS UP


Hi-Tec Wild-Fire Low i WP £70

Tester: Graham Thompson

DSC_0576.jpg
  • Material Upper suede and synthetic mesh, Dri-Tec waterproof lining

  • Sole M-D Traction sole

  • Men’s 6-13 n Women’s 3-8

  • Weight 1202g (size 11) 

On paper, this lower-priced shoe has all the basic features needed for walking outdoors: a waterproof lining, some reinforcement in the toe box and heel cup, and an external synthetic toe cap and heel cup to protect these areas from abrasion. Underfoot there are some quite aggressive sole lugs, but you don’t get a substantial heel breast for added traction. Once on, this did not provide the closeness of fit of other shoes either. On rocky paths it was noticeable how little stiffness there was in the forefoot of the sole, as jagged rocks easily pressed through, leading to discomfort. So while the cushioning works well on level paths, as soon as the terrain becomes rocky, the drawbacks of this shoe are very noticeable.

Pros

Price, weight, comfort on level paths without rocks, waterproof

Cons

Even level rocky paths caused the sole to flex too much to maintain comfort, lack of heel breast limits grip on muddy slopes, upper is unlikely to be as durable as those with less stitching and less mesh

Buy it if

You want a shoe just for forest tracks or moorland paths rather than anything too rough
and rocky


Keen Targhee II £100

Tester: Anna Humphries

DSC_0354.jpg
  • Material Upper suede leather and synthetic mesh, Keen.Dry waterproof lining

  • Sole 4mm deep lugs

  • Men’s 6-16 n Women’s 2.5-8.5

  • Weight 824g (size 7)

A well-established shoe that carries the Keen trademark design of a broad toe box with the sole rubber extending over the toe for more durability. The upper is leather and synthetic mesh, and there’s a waterproof lining to keep feet dry. You also get Cleansport NXT treatment to control odour. This shoe was noticeably wider than others, and they felt a little too wide once I got onto the rockier ground, as the edges tended to roll off smaller holds and my foot moved side to side within the shoe. The foot space was great on level paths though. The outsoles performed well on paths and there was enough stiffness to prevent rocks poking into my foot. Like others, a deep heel breast would give better grip.

Pros

Good lugs for grip, reasonable stiffness to make rocky paths comfortable, good toe protection

Cons

Wider forefoot is a drawback on rockier ground, needs a deeper heel breast for slopes and more stiffness for rocky terrain, upper unlikely to be as durable as those with less stitching and less mesh

Buy it if

You have a wider foot, or are walking on level paths and want better protection against stones


Meindl Meran GTX £214

Tester: Tim Butcher

DSC_0905.jpg
  • Material Nubuck leather, Gore-Tex waterproof lining

  • Sole Vibram Meindl Multigrip 3

  • Men’s 6-15 n Women’s 4-8

  • Weight 1642g (size 12) 

On the shelf these look like stunning boots, with a wider fit as standard, a full leather upper, a Gore-Tex lining and a Meindl Multigrip sole. First impressions are of great comfort, with a soft footbed and higher than average ankle cuff which together provide cushioning underfoot and gentle support and protection for the ankle on well-maintained paths and grassy fells. The sole unit was a surprise when we hit rockier ground though, as it flexed and twisted far more than other 3-season boots I’ve come to trust, and the softness meant I felt every rock through the flexible sole. The lugs were not as deep as I’d have liked, so grip was not ideal, especially on rock and scree. The Meran GTX would be ideal for moorland paths, forest tracks and boggier ground where its overall comfort and waterproof lining would excel – but on rockier ground I’d prefer more stiffness and deeper lugs.

Pros

Comfort, soft ankle support, wider fit than standard Meindl boots

Cons

Outsole did not offer the same depth of lugs or stiffness as others

Buy it if

You want a very comfy boot for use on easier paths, moorland and boggy ground


DSC_0617.jpg

The Top Three


Anatom Q2 Classic/Q2 Ultralight £140

Tester: Graham Thompson

Is this low-priced leather boot the best alternative to shoes in the mountains – or is it worth paying more?

DSC_0318.jpg
  • Material Full grain leather, waterproof tri.aria lining

  • Sole Vibram Grivola

  • Men’s 41-47 (Q2 Classic)

  • Women’s 37-42 (Q2 Ultralight)

  • Weight 1546g (size 46)

It’s good

For the price the Anatom Q2 has become a benchmark product, as it offers most of what hillwalkers need. This prized package includes a relatively stitch-free leather upper, with no mesh, which means durability is great. The toe box is well stiffened, and the ankle cuff provides enough support to protect the foot when stepping through rivers, crossing moorland bogs or rubbing your feet against rocks during scrambles or scree crossings. 

Underfoot there’s a nice deep set of well-spaced lugs, as well as a substantial heel breast, so this sole really does bite into softer ground better than shoes or boots with more shallow lugs. 

Importantly the sole is also well stiffened, so you can securely stand on jagged rocks without the boot flexing too much. But the sole still has enough flex to make walking on easier paths comfortable. 

In terms of fit, these fitted well. Overall it was a relief to get these on in place of the bendier shoes I was wearing.

However

At this price you can’t expect perfection, and some higher-priced boots do offer better performance. While the Q2 fitted me and performed well on rocky scrambles, other boots have a closer and neater fit that allows far more precise placement. 

Some pricier boots also have a more controlled flex from toe to heel, so you get comfort for level paths but with a little more stiffness and support when scrambling. The boot tended to buckle and bend more than is ideal for scrambling, so while scrambles were still possible they would be easier in some pricier boots. The upper seems very durable, but the rands on higher priced boots would be more so.

Verdict

Superb performance for the price when used on a wide range of terrain – but spend more and you’ll get a lighter, more precise feel and fit.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 4/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


Asolo Finder GV £178 

Tester: Anna Humphries

Does the extra precision of fit and increased performance on rock make this the best choice for hillwalkers for an all-round do-anything boot? 

DSC_0796.jpg
  • Material Suede leather, Cordura synthetic materials, Gore-Tex waterproof lining

  • Sole Asolo/Vibram Duo Radiant

  • Men’s 6-13.5

  • Women’s 3.5-9

  • Weight 1034g (size 7)

It’s good

Designed as an entry-level model, but one that offers a welcome step forward in performance compared to lower priced products, the Finder GV is built around a suede leather upper with Cordura synthetic materials and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. This made it a great boot to step straight into as the material slowly loosened to fit my foot shape. 

Underfoot there is a very good sole unit with deep lugs and a substantial heel breast to provide grip. On the foot this felt quite neat and precise, with a solid heel grip and a great feel at the toe that was ideal for scrambling. The sole flexed enough to make walking on easier ground comfortable, but also provided all the support I needed over rockier ground. 

It was also nice to see a boot designed for women without the requisite pink flashes to prove it!

However

The upper is a mix of suede leather and Cordura with minimal stitching, but paying more would get an upper with a bonded rather than stitched construction for no seams, while a one-piece leather upper would be even more durable. Also the rubber rands on higher priced boots would be even more durable. The precision of fit was great, but you can get boots that offer even more precise foot placement when scrambling. 

The sole stiffness was superb, but pricier boots might have stiffer soles that offer an even smoother role for the optimum in toe to heel comfort when walking. These are all minor niggles and only come into play if you are going to be out on the rockier hills regularly as for most hillwalkers it is hard to justify paying more. This is a great boot for sure, but pay more and you could get even more comfort and precision.

Verdict

This all-rounder is ideal for most walkers, but if you can afford to pay more then even better performance can be found.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

Best-in-test.gif
 

DSC_0035.jpg

Scarpa Mescalito £160 

Tester: Tim Butcher

Can the best shoes compare to a boot for a wide range of terrain... or should they stick to what they do best?

  • Material Suede leather

  • Sole Vibram Dynamis LBT

  • Men’s 40-47

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1062g (size 47)

It’s good

I can see why this is a popular shoe with outdoor instructors and climbers, as it’s designed for technical approach routes to crags, such as scrambles and rockier paths – and it was certainly comfortable enough to be worn all day. 

The good-looking upper is suede leather, but without a Gore-Tex waterproof lining I had to be careful where I stepped. The fit is neat and precise, with lacing that extends right to the toe keeping my foot secure, and there’s good cushioning underfoot, so my feet remained comfy, even during the long descent at the end of the day. 

Even without huge lugs or a defined heel breast, grip was assured as we descended in the rain down a man-made stone pitched path. But this shoe really stood out from the crowd when scrambling, with great sole stiffness in the forefoot and toe area. I’d certainly choose these, rather than any boot I own, for scrambling up reasonably difficult rock routes. 

However

Although my feet were dry on Great Gable, for sustained walking on wet days in the hills boots with a high ankle cuff and a Gore-Tex lining will keep feet drier and more comfortable for longer. And when crossing steep scree, I needed far more support than a shoe can offer, and I was pleased to have the option of a pair of boots to swap into at such times. 

While the sole was great for scrambling over rock, the shallow lugs and absence of a heel breast would make descending wet grass and boggier paths quite dicey. 

These are great shoes for what they are intended for, but are an expensive luxury for footwear that’s not ideal on all mountain conditions. Boots will always have their place for big mountain days where you’ll meet a wider range of terrain. 

Verdict

 Ideal for scrambling over rock and very comfortable on rocky paths, but for a wider range of terrain other shoes and boots have real benefits.

  • Features 3/5

  • Fit 4/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 72%


For the latest reviews - including extra photos and products that won't appear online - 
pick up a copy of the current issue of Trail magazine!


Best for budget: Trail shoes review (2018)

Best Kit across the price bands

Trail shoes are lighter and more comfortable than boots, and most are a lower price too, which makes them ideal for walking and backpacking along good paths. But some can be taken on more challenging terrain while those described as ‘approach shoes’ are particularly good on rockier ground.

How-to-buy.jpg

What to Expect: Up to £100

At this price, you are getting the basics needed to walk comfortably along footpaths that are not too rough underfoot. The shoes are generally well-cushioned and quite flexible in the sole when flexed from toe to heel, as well as when twisted between the forefoot and heel. This makes them great for walking on level surfaces, but less suited to rougher terrain. The lugs on the sole will be relatively shallow, which again is fine for easier paths, but for more rugged ground deep lugs will offer more grip and longer-term wear. The upper may have more mesh for low weight and improved comfort, but it’s less likely to have any additional reinforcement – such as rubber rands, for example – to increase durability.

What to Expect: From £101 to £125

Shoes in this price band offer more durability on rougher terrain and may use less mesh or have additional rubber rands. These shoes may also benefit from stiffening in the heel cup and toe box to make them more suitable for uneven or rockier ground. The sole unit will have a deeper set of well-spaced lugs and, hopefully, a heel breast to ensure better grip on softer ground. There may also be more stiffness in the sole to ensure that jagged rocks do not place too much pressure on the foot when traversing rockier ground. These shoes are ideal for those who want a little more performance and durability than is offered in the lowest price band.

What to Expect: From £126

Optimum levels of performance and durability are available in this price band, making it a better bet for regular use. You’re likely to see more durable upper materials, along with rubber reinforcements, in this price bracket. The sole may be stiffened to improve performance on rockier ground and you may see even more pronounced lugs on the sole for better grip. More specialised products may include stiffer soles and sticky rubber for climbing over rocks. Some very lightweight products, using the latest tech, may also be available.


Hi-Tec Wildfire Low 1 WP £70

  • Men’s 6-13
  • Women’s 3-8
  • Weight 1066g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

The low price tag is instantly appealing, and you also get some good features. The shoe has a suede leather and mesh upper with a Dri-Tec waterproof lining. But you also get an i-shield treatment on the outside to repel water. The toe box and heel cup are reasonably stiffened, to support and protect the foot, which is good for uneven paths. Underfoot the sole lugs are reasonably deep and well-spaced for good grip, and there is some stiffness in the forefoot area of the sole to help resist pressure from jagged stones. There’s also a good wedge of cushioning under the heel to make walks on firm paths comfy. 

However

This shoe provides a slightly clumpy walking experience compared to higher-priced shoes that tend to contour to the foot and move more naturally as you walk. A deeper heel breast would be nice and, while the lugs are good, we’ve tried better. The sole is not as stiff as it could be and other shoes have less mesh on the upper and stiffer rubber reinforcement at the toe for more durability. 

Verdict

For those on tight budgets, this shoe is great for walks on valley and moorland paths.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Berghaus Expeditor ACT AQ Tech £95

  • Men’s 7-12
  • Women’s 4-8
  • Weight 944g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This is a low weight shoe at a relatively low price. The Pittards suede leather upper has perforations on the sides to increase breathability with some mesh around the tongue. An AQ waterproof breathable lining keeps your feet dry. There is some good stiffness in the heel cup and toe box to provide support and protection. The outsole uses well spaced lugs and there is a slight heel breast, so this all adds up to reasonable grip on muddy paths. Importantly, there is also enough stiffness in the sole to resist pressure from rocks. A good all-rounder.

However

While the features are generally good for easier paths, other shoes offer even more benefits. Some shoes have deeper lugs on the sole for even better grip in mud and a more pronounced heel breast for improved breaking when descending. A dedicated approach shoe style is also better for scrambling. Others are more durable if they have a rubber rand or if they have less stitching. Of course all those benefits would add weight and cost though.

Verdict

A very good shoe for walking on general paths, but if the going gets too muddy or too rocky then others are better and more durable.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

Keen Targhee III WP £100

  • Men’s 6.5-16
  • Women’s 2.5-8.5
  • Weight 1088g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This shoe is available in an exceptionally broad range of sizes. Plus, on the foot, the forefoot area is slightly more spacious than others, with a good fit at the heel. You also get a more durable shoe than most – a very robust upper, made from full-grain leather, with far less stitching than other shoes at this price and no open mesh. The sole rubber extends around the toe box for even more durability. Underfoot the lugs are reasonably deep and well-spaced to provide grip in softer ground. Inside there is a Keen Dry waterproof lining. In use this provides a comfortable walk.

However

The sole is quite flexible, so on rockier ground it may not be as comfortable as a higher-priced shoe. Also while the lugs are quite good, you might want something more aggressive. A more pronounced heel breast to improve grip during descents would be ideal too. The sole is not the best at resisting pressure, so may not be ideal if you plan on walking over rockier ground. But on earth or grass paths it performs well.

Verdict

The spacious forefoot, durable design and decent sole lugs make this a good shoe for easier path walks.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Lowa Taurus GTX Lo £110

  • Men’s 7-13
  • Women’s 4-8
  • Weight 1028g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This well-priced shoe offers a good weight, as well as decent performance for walking on easier paths. It is built around a synthetic fabric upper, with suede overlays and a fairly spacious fit, to suit general walkers. Gore-Tex is used inside to keep the feet dry and the outsole is a Loren unit with a good heel breast and lugs that are fine for paths. You also get some stiffness in the forefoot to prevent pressure through to the foot on rocky paths. To provide more support and protection to the upper, the sole unit employs a Lowa Monowrap skeleton design that encloses the upper around the midfoot area. 

However

While this shoe is fine on level paths, that’s potentially its limit. The sole lugs are not as deep or as aggressive as they could be, so grip on grass slopes or mud is not top-notch. The upper is also quite soft at the toe box and heel, so performs better on more level paths, where its support is not challenged. There is also no rubber toe rand here – not great for rough terrain.  

Verdict

A lower-priced, lightweight shoe that is great on level paths, but step onto slightly challenging terrain and its limitations become clear.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Berghaus FT18 GTX £120

  • Men’s 7-12
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 804g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

The remarkable weight of this shoe sets it apart and, as it is designed for fast hiking, it has some other nice features too. Firstly, you get a Gore-Tex waterproof lining to keep your feet dry and this is protected by a ripstop synthetic fabric upper, with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) overlays and minimal stitching for durability. The heel cup and toe bumper are also slightly stiffened for use on uneven ground. And the sole is a Vibram Opti-stud design with well-spaced stud-like lugs. Finally, there is also some stiffness in the forefoot to prevent rocks pressing through the sole. 

However

The sole lugs are not as deep, nor as aggressive as in some other shoes, so it’s not the best for muddy ground. Also, while there is some stiffness in the sole, heel cup and toe box it could be even stiffer. There is also a little less cushioning underfoot than we’d like. But the absence of these little details is what helps reduce the weight of course. Annoyingly, there is no women’s version of this shoe, which is a real pity as it boasts some unique features.

Verdict

A great shoe if fast-hiking and lightness are your priorities.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Oboz Firebrand II Low Waterproof £125

  • Men’s 7-13
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 1168g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This tough shoe is great for rougher tracks where scrub and scree claw at your footwear, thanks to its suede leather and dense synthetic upper. But, importantly, you also get a very stiff rubber toe rand so you can kick through loose scree with comfort. You also get a B-Dry waterproof lining and the magic continues underfoot with great cushioning and a stiff sole that resists pressure. A very aggressive set of lugs, for biting into softer earth and mud, complete the package. The fit is precise and neat, to allow accurate foot placement on rockier ground, which means that, while it’s not the lightest shoe, it feels nimble. 

However

Sadly, there is no women’s option – the nearest equivalent is the £130 Bridger. Of course, you can get lighter shoes than the Firebrand and lower-priced options too, if you don’t need this level of performance. But it’s a great shoe for general walking and hard to find fault with, apart from personal preferences.

Verdict

A great shoe for backpacking over a range of paths and tracks, with reasonably heavy loads, where support and durability are key.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%
Trail-approved.jpg

Mammut Alnasca Low GTX £129

  • Men’s 6.5-13
  • Women’s 4.5-8
  • Weight 1002g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This shoe is designed as an approach shoe, but has a few more general usage features in the mix too. You get a neat precise fit at the toe and a smooth climbing zone on the rubber sole. The sole itself is a Michelin Rock Tech unit with sticky OCX rubber for better grip on rock and a series of stud-like lugs for traction in softer earth. There is good cushioning at the heel and this extends under the toe, making it a good shoe for walking. The leather and synthetic upper has a Gore-Tex waterproof lining on the inside and a rubber rand for durability at the toe and heel.

However

This is a good shoe for use on rock approaches and via ferrata routes, but its broader appeal, to general walkers, means that those in need of a dedicated approach shoe may prefer the neater performance at the toe of other shoes. General walking users may feel the toe is too restrictive and may want more wiggle room. The sole is great for rockier ground and via feratta, but if you are predominantly walking on softer ground, shoes with deeper lugs might be better. 

Verdict

Great shoe for a mix of approach, via feratta use and walking.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Oboz Bridger Low B-Dry £130

  • Men’s 7-13
  • Women’s 3.5-8.5
  • Weight 1176g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

When this shoe was released last year it was our instant favourite for trail walking and it remains hard to beat. It's built around a great sole unit, with deep, well-spaced lugs that claw their way across the ground like tractor tyres. But you also get plenty of cushioning and enough stiffness to resist pressure and not to strain the foot too much over uneven ground. The upper is made from suede leather, with minimal stitching, and a firm rubber rand at the toe box and heel cup, for support and durability. Inside you get a B-Dry waterproof lining. It's neat and precise on the foot and superb on the trail.

However

There is very little to fault here from the perspective of walking with a rucksack over valley, moor, hill and mountain terrain. It's not the lightest or the most flexible shoe, and not the best shoe you could find for scrambling up rocks or via ferrata, but then it's not supposed to be.

Verdict

An outstanding shoe for regular trekking over varied and uneven terrain with a rucksack

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 96%
Trail-approved.jpg

Aku Montera Low GTX £135

  • Men’s 3-13
  • Women’s 3-8
  • Weight 1090g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

The Montera Low GTX is a versatile design that is good for general walking on valley paths and easier hill terrain. It has a Michelin Pulsar outsole, with a reasonably deep and aggressive set of lugs, and a good heel breast. The sole is reasonably stiff and fine for general walking on paths. The upper is a mix of suede, leather, synthetic fabric in the tongue and PU rand at the toe for durability. A Gore-Tex waterproof lining keeps the rain out and the fit is quite precise, so good enough for scrambling over rocks easily, if you need.

However

The sole could do with a little more stiffness in the forefoot, as you can feel rocks through it. The upper also does not enjoy the full rubber rand or durability features other shoes offer, as there is lots of stitching - not great for rocky terrain. It's not ideal for scrambling or via ferrata as the toe is not particularly neat, so this is best kept as a general-purpose walking shoe. It could also do with more cushioning for long distance walks on hard surfaces.

Verdict

A general-purpose shoe that benefits from a deep and aggressive lug pattern and good durability.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

KEEN BRYCE WP (2013)

PRICE: £110

IMG_7663.JPG

Used by Tom Bailey, Trail and Country Walking Magazine photographer
Used for 11 months

Full disclosure: I’ve never worn these on the hill. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t abused them. They’ve been my everyday wear for almost a year, so they’ve seen plenty of mud and grass during photo shoots, for which they’re well-equipped with a decent KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane. In a nutshell they’re extremely comfy, but not particularly durable. Where my heel meets the fabric it’s worn pretty badly and the outsole grip is going – which I’m a little disappointed by. The lining has also developed an unpleasant smell… but that’s to do with me, not the shoe. Despite all this, I still think they’re a good choice of footwear and I’d happily recommend them. This is in a big way thanks to the level of comfort they provide – which is among the best I’ve ever felt. There’s a reason I’ve worn them out in less than a year...

Verdict They’re all right. Which is high praise from me.       
www.keenfootwear.com

Keen Targhee Mid (2015)

Features

The Keen Targhee Mid’s low weight of 1134g (pair, size 11) is exceptional. For that you get an upper made of mostly leather with synthetic material around the tongue plus a Keen.Dry waterproof and breathable lining. The ankle cuff is very low and there is more stitching on the upper, so this may be less supportive and less durable than some. There is virtually no heel breast on the sole. 3/5

Fit

The men’s sizes are 6-13 and the women’s 2½-8½. The fit is typical of Keen, being quite broad and spacious at the forefoot and toe area. The ankle cuff is lower than most boots. This will probably fit those with wider feet better than some of the narrower models we looked at. 5/5

Comfort

The low cuff and low weight make the Keen Targhee Mid very comfy straight away. The toe box is spacious too, so again great for comfort. As there is decent stiffness in the toe box and sole that comfort is retained quite well on rocky ground, though the lower cuff does mean that on angled slopes of rock or earth your feet have to work pretty hard and so comfort reduces. 4/5

In use

The Keen Targhee Mid is quite good on level, dry ground but on soft ground the lugs are quite wide, so they don't bite in that well; plus there is virtually no heel breast so braking power during descents is not great. Sole stiffness is reasonable for rocky ground, but the lower ankle cuff offers minimal protection and support. The upper may not be as durable as a one-piece leather design. 3/5

Value

The price is good, but this lacks the higher cuff and features of other boots at this price. 4/5

Verdict

If you want a lightweight boot for level ground the Keen Targhee Mid is a good option but it has drawbacks for rockier ground and more uneven terrain. 3.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

Keen.jpg

Keen Liberty Ridge (2015)

It’s a long time since outdoor gear worn on the British hills has necessarily been designed, developed and assembled in the UK – and today very little is even made in Europe; but the times are changing.

US brand Keen is the latest company to invest in European manufacturing skills and facilities, and it has developed a site in Romania that allows them to test, design and make products specifically for the European market. Sitting at the pinnacle of the new range of footwear that will be emerging from this factory is the Keen Liberty Ridge.

Designed for more technical ground and longer backpacking trips, according to its new European manufacturers, the Liberty Ridge is a classic leather boot built with a full-grain leather upper. There is a synthetic tongue and a KeenDry waterproof and breathable membrane tucked inside.

Underfoot you get a Keen rubber outsole with quite deep lugs that are well-spaced, but you don’t get much of a heel breast compared to other boots in this price range. There is a big rubber toe rand for more durability as well as a rubber skeleton at the ankle cuff to add extra support. Stiffness in the upper and sole is very good and comparable to some of the better boots in this price range, with enough toe-to-heel and lateral stiffness to take the strain out of more uneven ground.

Putting the Liberty Ridge on, I found the fit to be particularly spacious in the forefoot, something Keen is renowned for, making this particularly suitable for those with wider feet or who just like a little more wiggle room. The ankle cuff was a little firmer than I’d have liked, but I did get used to it pretty quickly.

I found it provided a very stable foothold on every step, that extra forefoot width really making each step feel very secure. There is also a good toe-to-heel flex, which allowed a very smooth rolling gait. The lateral stiffness was good too and enabled some easy scrambling to be enjoyed in confidence. The only niggle is as that forefoot is quite wide my relatively slender feet tended to slip sideways a little more than I would like, meaning that traversing slopes was not ideal for me; but broader-footed walkers may prefer this to narrower boots of course.

On rocky ground there is enough stiffness in the sole to make jagged rocks comfortable, and enough stiffness in the upper to ensure the feet are afforded a decent degree of protection.

Vital stats:

Upper full-grain leather; synthetic tongue

Waterproof lining Keen Dry

Sole Keen dual-density rubber

Sizes 6½-13  (men’s); 3½–8½ (women’s)

www.keenfootwear.com

Verdict

The Keen Liberty Ridge is a European-made boot that I am sure many British hillwalkers would welcome to our shores as it is well-priced and a great choice for heading across the moors, hills and mountains of the UK.

Review by Graham Thompson

Published in Trail magazine November 2015

dsc_0825.jpg
dsc_0850.jpg
dsc_0855.jpg

Keen Durand Low (2015)

These are the sturdiest shoes on test and are real heather-bashing tanks. The sole is thick with deep, with fat lugs. More than an inch of protective rubber sits all the way around the edge, with a solid, slightly squared-off heel and a thick rubber lip rising up over a generous toe box. You might think they sound clompy but I didn’t find that at all, though the footprint is wide. The upper is huge, yet flexible; it consists mainly of leather, with padded textile around the opening and tongue. Keen’s in-house membrane does a good job of preventing water ingress too. They might feel stiff at first, but they soften up in one walk, with all that hardness moulding into comfortable support. After two walks they’re perfect. One last thing: Keen reckon these come up a half-size small but my narrow feet found a smaller sizing generous. Keep that in mind if you're buying online.

Specifications

Sizes: 3.5-8.5 (including half sizes)

Membrane: Keen.Dry

Outsole: Dual compound rubber

Weight per pair: 1,068g

Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 00800 22 55 53 36

www.keenfootwear.com

Verdict

Solid, grippy, comfy and protective. Built like tanks but without clumsiness.

Tested by Sarah Ryan

Country Walking June 2015

Womens-Keen.jpg

Keen Marshall Mid (2015)

Features

There is a KEEN. Dry waterproof lining behind the synthetic upper that comprises of synthetic mesh with rubber overlays. The heel cup is nicely stiffened and there is a large rubber rand at the toe, but the upper is quite soft in general. Underfoot you get 4mm deep widely spaced lugs, which is great, but there is no heel breast and the sole is more flexible than most. It’s light, but not the lightest. 4/5

Fit

The men’s version of the Marshall Mid comes in size 6-12 and the women’s in sizes 3-8. The fit is typical of Keen, being wider at the forefoot than average. The upper still fits closely though as this is not a particularly high-volume design, while the heel fits closely too. The ankle cuff is slightly lower than most boots here. 5/5

Comfort

Straight from the box the Keen Marshall Mid feels great, but it lacks the underfoot cushioning of some models and the stiffness of others, so when used on the hill it is not as comfortable on hard rough ground as others. On level paths and grass it is great though. The upper is not very stiff so rocks can easily be felt through the upper. 3/5

In use

The 4mm deep lugs do provide great grip on softer ground and on level paths, but like a lot of the lightweight boots, there is no heel breast so descending is less secure. The flex in the sole makes the feet work harder on more uneven ground too, which is where stiffer and heavier boots are a benefit. You are not getting the biggest weight saving here or the maximum breathability either. 3/5

Value

The lowest-priced boot in our test and still very lightweight, so value is excellent. 5/5

Verdict

The Keen Marshall Mid wins in terms of price, but you need to consider if this benefit outweighs its performance drawbacks on more uneven ground. It won Trail’s ‘Best Value’ award. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine August 2015

keen.jpg

Keen Marshall WP (2014)

The Keen Marshall WP is a very modern style of shoe with a low weight of just 970g (pair, size 11), which gives it instant appeal on the shelf and in the hand. The upper is a mix of synthetic material and an external rubber skeleton with a particularly large rubber bumper. A Keen Dry waterproof lining is provided, and this combination does appear to be useful for wet conditions as well as giving some rocky ground abrasion resistance. For grip there’s a good set of deep, widely spaced lugs, particularly under the forefoot. But there is a less pronounced heel breast than on some other shoes in our test, so there’s less braking grip available on wet grass slopes. The main problem with this shoe, though, is that it is very flexible. This will be welcomed by those seeking a more natural and unrestricted feel underfoot; but once you’re on rocky paths it places more physical demands on the foot, and I did find it felt more tiring on such ground. The fit is typically Keen in style with a wider forefoot and a very comfortable but secure heel area. When used on level paths the Marshall WP is an extremely comfortable option, but it’s less well-equipped for more challenging terrain unless you’re looking for lightweight, more natural-feeling footwear, which does have benefits of course.

Specifications:

Upper material synthetic closed mesh, leather overlays

Waterproof lining Keen Dry

Sole unit high traction rubber

Men’s sizes 6-13

Women’s sizes 3-8

Weight 970g (pair, size 11)

Website www.keenfootwear.com

Verdict

The Keen Marshall WP is waterproof and durable with good grip for level muddy surfaces, but on rock you may prefer a shoe with more sole stiffness.

Review by Graham Thompson

Published in Trail magazine May 2014

keen.jpg

Keen Bryce Low WP (2013)

Tough-looking shoes in the traditional Keen square-toed design. They’re not as voluminous as they look, though, and will suit a variety of foot shapes. Lots of padding makes them feel comfortable and very secure, but also very hot, and lots of waterproof leather in the uppers means they’re not particularly light or breathable either. But they’re well-made and certainly very tough; so they’ll take a beasting on the trail before any real signs of wear appears. They’ve got a waterproof lining to keep out water, and plenty of stiffness in the midsole for support on rough terrain. The sole is very grippy and there’s plenty of shock absorption for a spring in your step. Pronounced rubber bumpers at the toe and heel protect from knocks.

 

Sizes: 2½-8
Upper: Leather
Sole: Keen non-marking rubber
Waterproof/breathable lining: Keen Dry
Weight: 800g
Men’s version: Yes
Contact: 00800 22555336; www.keenfootwear.com


Keen Bryce Mid (2012)

A new boot for this winter, the Keen Bryce Mid also comes in a lower ankle cuff version than the model featured here, and it has that typical Keen design feature of a wraparound rubber toe bumper. Put these on and they also have the renowned Keen fit of a wide forefoot and generally good comfort. In terms of a walking boot the Bryce has a good leather upper with mesh around the tongue to keep weight and price down while increasing airflow around the top of the foot – and this upper provides reasonable protection and support for the foot. The heel cup is particularly supportive too. Underfoot there is a sole unit with well-spaced lugs that are not the deepest available, and so they will probably wear down sooner than others and also they don’t have quite as much grip. But the main problem is there is no heel breast at all, so there is no braking power on muddy descents, loose gravel or smooth rock – meaning this boot is definitely one for level paths rather than anything steeper, in my view. Having said that, when the Keen Bryce Mid is used on firm level paths the stiffness and cushioning of the sole are good enough to make walking comfortable.

Upper materials nubuck leather, mesh
Waterproof lining Keen Dry
Sole unit Keen dual density rubber
Weight  1222g  (pair size 11)
Men’s sizes 6-13
Women’s sizes 2.5-8
Website
www.keenfootwear.com

 

Verdict
The Keen Bryce Mid is a comfortable boot for level paths but on steeper slopes that are loose or slippery the grip is not as good as others, meaning it is not great in the hills.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine December 2012


(2012)

A tough-looking shoe in Keen’s unmistakable square-toed design. There’s plenty of padding in the uppers, which makes them very comfortable from the box, and the soft fabric is very forgiving – worth noting if you’ve got wide feet. These don’t feel as supportive as some, though, and unless you lace them really tight they have a tendency to be a little sloppy. They flex easily across the toes but with just enough stiffness in the midsole to provide support on rugged terrain. A decent rubber bumper protects the toes from knocks, and the sole grips better on rock than mud. With no waterproof lining, the mesh uppers feel very breathable.

Sizes: 2½–8½
Upper: Nubuck leather/breathable mesh (waterproof version available)
Sole: Non-marking rubber
Weight: 820g
Men’s version: Yes (Siskiyou)
Contact: 0800 2255 5336; www.keenfootwear.com

 

Review from Country Walking magazine, June 2012


Keen Siskiyou Mid WP (2012)

Here’s another in the breed of lightweight, flexible mid-height boots that have more in common with multi-activity shoes than traditional stiff and heavy walking boots. As a result, they’re at their best when used in a range of low-level terrain, without too many challenging features to get in the way. Grip levels are good for drier conditions and some mud, although the relatively shallow lug pattern does mean things slip a bit in the deeper stuff. The tread can be cleared quickly and easily, however. The fit follows Keen’s usual last, with a wide fitting at the forefoot section. This allows plenty of space in the front for your feet to breathe and move, while also holding your heel in place. They’re a good option if you like a bit more space up at the front of your shoes. The mid-height, although comfortable, does mean these don’t offer as much support as a true boot, though.

Sizes: 6-14

Upper: Waterproof nubuck and mesh

Lining: Keen.Dry membrane

Sole: Non-marking rubber outsole

Weight: 1,116g

Women’s version: Yes – Shasta

Contact: 0800 2255 5336; www.keenfootwear.com

*Published in Country Walking magazine, April 2012


Keen Alamosa

The Alamosa is a real all-rounder of a shoe, with a medium stiffness in the sole that allows for cycling and other sports as well as giving you the ability to move quickly and lightly through the countryside. Although the uppers aren’t particularly rigid, with mesh panels, the Keen Protect system at the front really helps to protect your toes. It’s a large rubber rand that extends from the front of the outsole up and over the toe that also helps the shoe keep its shape at the front. There is no waterproof membrane and, although there is water-repellence to the nubuck, you will get wet feet on muddy ground. Of course on dry days the mesh is great, making these a good bet for overseas travel. The sole unit is surprisingly sturdy, and gives great grip on rockier ground and can shed a bit of mud.

VITAL STATS
Sizes:
6-14
Materials: Waterproof nubuck leather/mesh
Sole: Rubber 4mm lugs
Weight: 979g
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 01572 772500; www.keenfootwear.com
• Review from Country Walking magazine, June ’11


Keen Shasta Mid WP

The Shasta looks more like a multi-activity shoe with an ankle cuff than a traditional fabric walking boot, with split nubuck leather and mesh uppers which are surprisingly soft and comfortable. Conversely, the midsole offers plenty of support. This mixture of support results in a fast and light hybrid that works as well on the high street as it does skipping across rocks in the hills. The uppers breathe well and there’s a waterproof lining to keep out water, although beware: deep puddles and low ankle cuffs don’t mix! The sole appears rather flat at first, but this means that the shallow tread pattern gets as much contact with the ground as possible, although this design doesn’t work well on soft, muddy ground, with little traction.

VITAL STATS
Sizes
: 4-8 (inc half-sizes)
Upper: Mesh/nubuck
Sole: Carbon rubber
Waterproof/breathable lining: Keen Dry
Weight: 800g
Men’s version: Yes
Contact: 01572 772500; www.keenfootwear.com


Keen Owyhee 2011

As with much of the Keen footwear range the Owyhee benefits from a large toe bumper that extends from the sole unit to provide a unique look and protection for the foot. The upper is more shoe than sandal, but there are plenty of gaps to allow airflow too. There is a shoe-style lacing system as well, rather than Velcro straps, while the heel straps are stretchy for a comfortable fit. Underfoot you get a stiff sole that resists pressure from uneven ground well, making this good for more challenging paths. There are decent lugs too for biting into softer ground. A very useful design for more
challenging terrain. But the Keen Owyhee may be more shoe than you want as the toe area is particularly enclosed, which can allow bits of grit to get trapped in this area. The price is quite high as there is a lot of shoe here, and for less you can get a very good sandal that may suit your needs better.

Upper synthetic, polyester webbing, neoprene padding
Sole rubber
Sizes 6-12 (men’s); 2½-8 (women’s)
Weight 704g (pair, size 8)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 25

The Keen Owyhee is a great alternative to an open sandal if you prefer more of an enclosed design, particularly for rougher terrain.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine May 2011


Keen Pyrenees 2011

The Keen Pyrenees weighs 1300g (pair, size 11); leather upper; Keen Dry waterproof lining; sole unit extends around toe for extra protection; outsole has a deep lug pattern and those lugs are well-spaced to prevent clogging. But not much of a heel breast for downhill braking; toe box is not as stiff as others; ankle cuff is a little low; very bendy sole unit and upper softer than some.

The Keen Pyrenees is a good boot for hill and valley walking, particularly if you have a wider forefoot.

First published in Trail magazine May 2011


Keen Alamosa 2011

Keen footwear tends to have a very spacious forefoot area, which provides a different type of fit to other footwear that is often quite narrow for a more precise fit when climbing. The Alamosa also benefits from Keen’s wrapover toe bumper that extends seamlessly from the sole over the toe. This adds a good degree of durability and toe protection for rockier ground. The upper is a mix of leather and mesh, and while it does not have a waterproof lining it is relatively durable thanks to the areas of leather. Underfoot there is an aggressive pattern of lugs for a decent grip without clogging. Also there is good stiffness for rockier ground. The general feel of this shoe is one of stability as it has a relatively wide sole unit compared to others. It feels great for walking but you can also move fast in the hills with it, and bike and scramble around on rock. But the Keen Alamosa has no waterproof lining, so this limits its use a little to dry ground and treks abroad where rain is not expected. The wide profile is not ideal for precise foot placements when climbing, and other shoes are better for purely running. So like most true all-rounders it does not excel at specific activities.

Upper nubuck leather, synthetic overlays, mesh
Sole rubber, EVA cushioning
Sizes 6-12 (men’s); 2½-8½ (women’s)
Weight 980g (pair, size 11)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 85

The Keen Alamosa is a good general outdoor shoe. It is not waterproof but it is great for travel, trekking and moving fast in drier conditions.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine May 2011


Keen Skyline Mid 2011

The Keen Skyline Mid is a mid-cut boot with a lower ankle cuff than others in the test. What is striking about it though is the stiffness in the sole and toe box, which means it offers far better protection on rockier ground than others. The forefoot is also wide so it may suit some kids’ feet better than narrower boots.  But the outsole does not have deep lugs or a deep heel breast for grip, and so I suspect others would offer more grip. The lug pattern and lower ankle cuff make the Keen Skyline Mid better for good paths rather than rocky or wet ground where grip may not be ideal.

Upper leather and textile; waterproof lining
Sole non-marking carbon rubber
Sizes 7-12, 13-5 youth
Weight 772g (pair, size 2)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 25

The Keen Skyline Mid is good for wide feet, but performance is best on good valley paths rather than more challenging ground.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine May 2011