Keen Men’s Karraig Boot Review

Dave Roberts reviews the Karraig Boots by Keen.

The Men’s Karraig Boot by Keen are a sturdy bit of kit designed for backpacking and mountain walking:

For adventures deep in the backcountry, dependable comfort is key. This waterproof backpacking boot features board-lasted construction for added stability plus a heel brake for extra support on the descent.

Despite Keen being an American company, the Karraig Boot is designed for the British climate and the kind of ‘hiking’ we do this side of the pond. We tested them extensively over the wet, rather than cold, winter and spring of 2019 in the wilds of Snowdonia, and you’ll find out how we got on with them below.

The first thing we noticed was during the un-boxing. In this day and age, the packaging an item arrives in says everything about that company’s approach to the environment. It didn’t surprise us that Keen had packed the boots efficiently and in fully recyclable packaging without any plastic.

The Keen Karraig boots are a fully featured bit of footwear, constructed from waterproof leather and KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane uppers and their own KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN+ rubber outsole which claims ‘maximum grip’. These are both features we intended to put fully to test. There’s also a generous rand around and over the toe, which puts many other rands to shame. When we test boots, or any bit of kit, we don’t shirk from the conditions. If there are puddles, or rivers on a walk, we’re in there. Copper stained stream? That’ll do nicely.

Waterproof is one thing, and the Karraig boots have remained waterproof over the months we’ve tested them. How they grip in the wet is another totally different matter. Snowdonia in our view, has some of the slipperiest paths and rocks anywhere. The footpaths along Cwm Llan, from the Watkin Path over to Rhyd Ddu are largely slate, and gave plenty of opportunity to test how the boots grip on wet slabs of slate. We’d prefer some grit-stone to pure slate in the wet any day, but the KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN+ soles somehow manage to make wet slate feel like tarmac.

One thing that you’ll need to be aware of is the lacing system used. It took a couple of walks before we realised this, and the boots were loose and uncomfortable for these first few outings. Just look at the amateur attempt at lacing in the image above! We assumed this was due to them being new, and they’d sort themselves out. But no. The Keen boots have their own lacing system as seen below (from Keen’s website). These work quite simply by using a ‘locking eyelet’ on each side of the boot which controls the tightness of the lacing system. These are simply opened when you put the boot on, the laces tightened to your preferred fit and then they lock as you cross the laces for tying. I’ll admit to having to often stop to close my laces, which is usually as a result of testing new boots and new laces. In our experience, new laces seem to come undone more often than ones that have been worn in. Either that, or I’m just rubbish at tying my laces! Ultimately, the laces went from something we disliked to one of the best lacing up systems we’ve used.

Rounding off their credentials as a great all round boot for non-summer UK conditions, they’ll also take a set of crampons for short stretches of non-technical walking. While not advertised as being crampon compatible, many rugged boots of this nature are stiff enough to take a pair of walking crampons. For a typical winter day in the UK where you’ll encounter everything from wet to snow, and back again, we think a good all round boot is much better suited to the conditions than a pure winter boot that can be hard on the feet when there’s no snow. Of course, for those days that are less mixed or involve some more technical ground we’d always wear our B1 compatible boots.

We think the main limitation of the Karraig is that they are a warm boot, and best suited to the cooler months of the year. We don’t see that as anything negative as we don’t believe there’s a perfect boot for all year round use in the UK. It’s better to have a boot that’s designed for the wet and cold as that will obviously perform better in those conditions, but will probably be too warm in the summer months. The breathable waterproof liner and soles aren’t the usual GoreTex / Vibram, which might be enough to make some people think twice, especially if they’ve been advised to make sure the boot is GoreTex and Vibram. But that doesn’t have any adverse effect on the boot performance as the soles are as grippy as fell running shoes and the breathable waterproof liner just works as it should.

Summary

At a reasonable £159.99, you can’t go far wrong with these boots for colder weather walking. For most walkers who don’t cover overly technical ground in winter, these will be the only winter boot they’ll need. Couple them with a shoe, or a lightweight boot and you’ve got your year round footwear sorted. We’ll add the usual warning that any boot is only as good as the fit, and they suited my size 10 feet that cope with any boot that’s not narrow (Scarpa, here’s looking at you). So make sure you get to try them properly before buying.

Manufacturer’s Information

  • Speed hooks for easy lace adjustment
  • Removable, dual-density EVA insole with arch support for all-day comfort
  • PU midsole delivers resilient cushioning
  • KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN+ rubber outsole for maximum grip
  • 4mm Multi-directional lugs for traction
  • Full-length stability shank for added support
  • Contoured heel lock for a more secure fit
  • European Made: assembled with pride in Europe
  • KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane
  • CLEANSPORT NXT™ for natural odour control
MATERIAL
  • Waterproof leather and performance mesh upper
  • KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN+ rubber outsole for maximum grip
  • PU midsole delivers resilient cushioning
  • Breathable mesh lining
  • Removable EVA insoles with arch support for all-day comfort

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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