Keen Ridge Flex Waterproof Hiking Boots Review
Keen have released a boot featuring brand new technology for an easier hiking experience and requiring 60% less energy to flex than other boots! Local expert Rik brings us his impressions
Whether you are an avid fan of the Keen footwear company or not, you’ve almost certainly seen their products either on the wall of your favourite outdoor store or worn by those in the outdoor community, if you haven’t heard of them then let me shed some light on this iconic brand…
Based out of Portland, Oregon (US), Keen was founded in 2003 and hit the market with the Newport Sandal, a robust and hardy looking open shoe that targeted the outdoor market, specifically water sports. The company offered a range of other products suited for outdoor activities and later expanded to cater for a variety of applications such as casual and cold-weather footwear, bags, clothing, and safety work footwear.
I remember working in the Blacks footwear department as a teenager about the time the Newport Sandal hit the UK market and they were a resounding hit. Whilst at that age I couldn’t even comprehend wearing any kind of sandal, it was obvious to me that the Newport Sandal was very popular to a certain kind of outdoorsy person, that of the traveling persuasion, and paddlers (kayaks and canoes). The obsession was clear, a sandal with the sole of a boot and plenty of protection…oh and an array of pretty colourways!
Since then, Keen have ventured into other areas and more recently have a strong line of shoes and boots aimed at walkers and mountaineers. Here at Mud and Routes we were absolutely thrilled to get our hands on and test their latest walking boot, the Keen Ridge Flex Waterproof Hiking Boot. Upon opening the box it’s pretty obvious these are Keens, in fact there’s no mistaking them, with their chunky sole unit and bulbus rubber toe box, which makes you think just how impressive and substantial the original sandals were back in 2003! The KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN rubber outsole has a noticeably chunky appearance with deep 5mm multi-directional lugs and sticky rubber for ultimate grip and traction.
The other features such as premium leather upper, lightweight stability shank, heel-capture system for added stability, speed-lace webbing system and KEEN.DRY waterproof and breathable membrane are not necessarily revolutionary (although packaged very well in this instance), however what is noticeably different and new about this model is their KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX technology. This is basically a more flexible rubber panel, or bellow, that sits between the bottom of the lacing system and the top of the toe box, the bit that creases basically. The idea is that on a standard boot this area can start to deteriorate be it leather or fabric models, eventually splitting and failing after time, whereas this soft bellow system flexes and manages the strain more effectively whilst shielding the surrounding leather upper from wear and tear. They claim that this system requires 60% less energy to bend than similar boots making each step feel easier, a system that has been put through a durability test and captured by a cheeky acronym – OMFG, or One Million Flex Goodness test (flexed 1 million times).
What the manufacturer says;
What if every step could feel easier? We took the trusted fit of our iconic Targhee hiker and paired it with our new KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX technology to reduce the energy each step takes. Flex easier, hike happier in our men’s waterproof hiking boot.
Enough of the technical jargon, how well do these boots perform in the real world? These boots dropped at a weird and slightly frustrating time, the third national lockdown and the back end of winter, therefore I was governed by restrictions. living in Shrewsbury the Shropshire Hills were easily accessible and arguably the perfect testing ground for such boots. First task for these box fresh boots was a brisk walk up a small but impressive mound called Bury Ditches, a British Iron Age hill fort between Clun and Bishop’s Castle in the South East of this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
As I laced up in the carpark I noticed these boots are quite roomy, I struggle sometimes with fitment as I have broad feet, or once described as “sturdy feet”, not a terrible compliment for a mountain walker like myself! They really did fit perfectly and the overall lining and construction is super comfortable. What I can’t get over though is just how light they feel when walking, how can such a sturdy and chunky looking boot feel so light? As I gained height up a path towards the summit you could certainly see the bellow taking the brunt of the flex and whilst it’s impossible to ascertain whether the system feels 60% more efficient / effective, it’s obvious that these are a very comfortable boot, even straight out of the box.
Although the forecast boasted of good weather that day, the ground was wet and quite muddy in places. The level of grip on these sole units is particularly impressive, from steep wet stuff to slippy rock / shale, they did a fine job of biting into the ground. They seem to manage that fine balance of sticky surface area and deep lugs very well. Even though the days outing was a short one I managed to get a good feel for the boots, they were supremely comfortable and extremely waterproof. I managed to jump about in some puddles much to the amusement of my better half. All boots are PU coated in the factory, so I wasn’t surprised that the muddy water beaded off without leaving a single mark or wet patch.
Over the next few weeks and as the lock down measures eased, I managed to bag several walks and further testing opportunities, from local easy 15km trails and classic Shropshire hill loops to Snowdonia classics and even a bit of gardening … you may laugh but clearing and maintaining a large garden is no mean feat! I have gained a bit of a soft spot for these epic boots. They seem to manage everything I have thrown at them with absolute ease. On longer routes they feel like slippers and much more efficient than a standard boot, and feel lighter on foot than most mid boots, I guess that’s down to the bellow flex technology doing its magic.
On a Snowdonia beauty renowned for being boggy on its Eastern flank, Moel Siabod, I probably looked quite strange when willing the Keen’s to break traction, jumping up and down and trying to skid on the different surfaces, I only came a cropper on the descending path that is made up of shale and loose rock on steep ground, but I beg anyone to find a boot that can grip here! The lower boggy section towards the end of this iconic loop is always a great test for a boots waterproofness and the Keen’s PU coating is either better applied, or a more superior solution as they’re almost self-cleaning, to the point where the inner KEEN.DRY waterproof system hasn’t even come into play yet. They bead incredibly well and my feet have always been bone dry in a range of different weather conditions.
My one and only gripe with them is their appearance. Now I am no barometer for what is or isn’t fashionable and taste is of course subjective, but I’ve always found Keen’s to be a bit clumpy looking. It reminds me of an insulation layer I owned a few years ago, a Montane Hi-Q Luxe Pull-On that consisted of an elasticated waste section and placed sections of Primaloft insulation and donning a grey / teal colourway. It was ugly, there is no doubt about that and even got the attention of well known and loved mountain photographer who worked shifts at Moel Siabod Café at the time, stating “that’s a weird top isn’t it?!” as he handed me over a scone the size of my head (if you know, you know). In fact, it gained that much negative attention that I sold it on an outdoor gear selling page on Facebook, a mistake I have regretted ever since! I absolutely adored that layer, a top that could literally be worn from the start of the day right until the end and managed my overheating bodies temperature better than anything else I have owned. Its discontinued now and there is no chance of getting another and believe me I have tried. I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that its Scottish buyer is frolicking in the Cairngorms and no doubt enjoying every minute with it. These boots are incredible and I can’t help but think that if Keen’s design department altered the overall look of these fantastic boots, their functionality and performance would be negatively impacted. Whilst they don’t have the fast and sleek appearance of my usual footwear purchases, they certainly trump them in all other areas that’s for sure!
Keen Ridge Flex Waterproof Hiking Boots Verdict
To conclude the Keen Ridge Flex Waterproof Hiking Boots are superb and short of being able to feedback from using them all year round, for the time I have used them they have handled everything I’ve thrown at them with ease and grace. They’re a bomber boot and extremely comfy and for those that love to live in their outdoor footwear, the Keen’s would be an excellent choice and for all that I have worn them, they still haven’t seen a brush or tap and look almost brand new. At £154.99 they are what you would expect to pay for that kind of quality and construction, and they come in three different colourways, Magnet/Black, Dark Olive/Ketchup and the ones we tested – Steel Grey/Evening Primrose, they also do a women’s boot with three different colourways.
Keen is a modern company with great initiatives and values, having donated more than $15 million to non-profit organisations and causes around the world, you’re safe I the knowledge that you’re dealing with a company who care about the world and communities we live in!
Keen Ridge Flex Waterproof Hiking Boots features and specifications:
- Flexes Easier:The Ridge Flex, featuring KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX, requires 60% less energy to bend so each step feels easier.
- More Durable:KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX bends where other boots crack and weaken over time.
- For All Conditions:Ready for anything with KEEN.DRY waterproof protection and KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN traction for better grip on a variety of trail surfaces.
- 5mm multi-directional lugs for traction
- Stability shank delivers lightweight support
- Heel-capture system for added stability
- Speed-lace webbing system for comfortably snug fit
- KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane
- KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX in the upper for more bend and less wear
- Environmentally preferred premium leather from LWG-certified tannery
- Eco Anti-Odour for natural odour control
- PFC-free, durable water repellent
- High-abrasion rubber tip for added durability and protection
- Waterproof leather and performance mesh upper
- Compression-molded EVA midsole for cushioning
- KEEN.ALL-TERRAIN rubber outsole for higher-traction grip
- Quick-dry lining for active use
- Removable PU insole for long-lasting comfort
- KEEN.DRY – A proprietary waterproof, breathable membrane that lets vapor out without letting water in.
- KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX – Built-in flex that makes every step feel easier, bending where other boots crack and weaken over time.