KEEN the Portland, Oregon-based brand on a mission to create original and versatile products, improve lives, and inspire adventures outside, proudly continues its “Consciously Created” approach by committing to choose materials that favour sustainability, do not disrupt the natural order and do not harmfully impact the environment when constructing their products. For several years the brand has been on a journey to identify and remove harmful chemicals in their supply chain and make choices that minimise their footprint on the planet.
I’ve been a fan for a good while. Back in 2012 I won their Playtime Tester competition which entitled me to four pairs of my choice, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with them a number of times since then. Last summer I was fortunate enough to receive a couple of pairs of KEEN’s most recent offerings, the Terradora Evo Mids and the Karraig Mids. Each pair is very different in design and fit, and I thought it would be good opportunity to talk about the variance in hiking boots and how to choose between them.
KEEN Kerraig Mids
The solid KEEN Kerraig is a traditional looking hiking boot that will keep you secure on the trail thanks to it’s grippy outsole, support your ankles thanks to the solid construction, and will keep your feet dry thanks to the waterproof KEEN Dry material and thick outsole. It’s a rugged boot with a weight to match (this is not a lightweight boot…), with thick and warm cushioning, a sturdy footbed, and deep lugs underneath to give you confidence underfoot whatever the trail is like.
This is the kind of boot you want for gnarly terrain, when it’s cold and wet, when you want something that will perform mile after mile however muddy it might get. Fit-wise it’s not super wide, but has plenty of space for my toes, and goes high enough up my ankle to keep me from rolling around on uneven terrain. It isn’t the most comfortable boot I’ve ever tried out, but it does have a lot going for it, and I do enjoy wearing it on day hikes, especially when the weather is a bit questionable.
One of the slightly more unusual benefits of the Kerraig is the fancy lacing system that locks the laces in place, which is really rather good. There is a locking system thanks to a couple of hinged eyelets half way up the Kerraig which holds tightly onto the lace meaning the bottom half and the top half stay just as you set them at the start of the day. It means I can have the laces at the toe end done up loosely, giving me room to wiggle my toes even after several miles on the trail (like most people, my feet swell when they’re working hard – no comments, please), but I can still have them done up securely around my ankle to keep the boots from slipping around. It sounds simple, but most boots don’t allow for this, the laces tend to end up evenly spread whatever you do. This cool lace lock system is one of the reasons I keep reaching for these boots, especially in the wet weather, as no-one wants to stop and adjust the lacing when it’s teeming it down and you’re stood in a muddy puddle.
KEEN Terradora Evo Mids
Where the Kerraig is a solid and traditional looking hiker, the KEEN Terradora Evo is much lighter and more subtle in both appearance and technology. Of course, being a KEEN boot it is still packed full of the technology you might expect, but in a much less obvious package. This is a lightweight fast hiker designed to fit and feel like trainers while giving you the support of a boot. It seems a bit narrower in the foot than the Kerraig and stops a little lower at the ankle, making it a much more streamlined model.
The knitted material that makes up most of the upper is lightweight and very breathable. The boot as a whole is flexible, including the sole, but it still has decent grip even without the thick heavy sole of the more traditional looking Kerraig. The weight and material make this boot very comfortable straight from the box, and as such it is a very easy boot to wear – put it on, tie a bow, and go. Having said that, while I completely trust the Terradora Evo on rooty and uneven low level trails, and enjoy bouncing along dry and dusty footpaths in them, I wouldn’t choose these for a muddy day out or when I might want to give my ankles some extra help. KEEN do not claim these are waterproof, and I admit that I haven’t given them the opportunity to soak up the rain – these are my dry day out boots.
My favourite thing about the KEEN Terradora Evo is that it looks much less like a hiking boot in a lot of ways, and with its trainer like construction, is suitable for both on and off the trail. If I want a boot to walk to work in, along what is a primarily concrete and quarry stone footpath, then I pick the Terradora Evo. I would also pick the Terradora Evo if I was likely to be walking a lot of miles in the city; you get the support of a hiker with the comfort of a trainer. They are ideal for lunchtime walks to run errands in town, and exploring National Trust and English Heritage properties – a boot for someone who leads an active lifestyle who isn’t carrying a massive pack or pushing themselves to the limit.
Which is Best?
I think you know that I can’t and won’t be saying which of these two pairs of boots are better than the other, I can’t and won’t do that. The fact is they are simply two very different types of boot, and an excellent example of the variety available to choose from in our modern world of shoe technology. You will already have noted a few pros and cons of each style that might help you see which pair would be good for you and your walking style. And that is the key – your walking style – choosing the right hiker should always start there. In short:
The KEEN Terradora Evo Mid is very lightweight, low to the ground, built like a pair of trainers, and is very breathable. The support is there, but it is subtle and the boots are flexible, making you feel nimble and easy when you wear them.
The KEEN Kerraig is a solid, robust, very supportive boot with a thick and rugged sole, that looks and feels like a strong and sturdy traditional hiking boot. Your feet are safe in these boots whatever the weather and whatever the terrain is like (real extremes excepting).
You can’t properly compare these two very different boot designs because they are intended for different people in different places. As mentioned above, the Terradora Evos are great for fast hiking when you’re probably not carrying much gear and are concerned about keeping your feet cool. Whereas the Kerraigs are made when you need more stability for uneven terrain when you are carrying a bit of weight on your back and want to keep upright in mud and your feet dry in the rain. If you are primarily walking in fair weather on reasonably well maintained footpaths, or are concerned particularly about the weight on your feet, then you should try on the Terradora Evo first. But if you are backpacking in all weathers and are bothered about a secure fit and well cushioned ankle, then grab the Kerraigs first.
Both are genuinely great options, I’ve enjoyed testing them out in order to write this comparison piece, and but it’s a good example of when starting your search for hiking boots knowing what kind of hiking you want to do in them is the right order to go in.
If I was going into a shop to buy a pair from this particular choice right now, it would be the KEEN Kerraig Mids, because I do prefer solid boot over a fast hiker. That’s no criticism of the Terradora Evo, I’ve been wearing them a lot for my lunching government-approved walks in the last couple of weeks! Actually, if I’m completely honest, if I was actually going out to purchase a new pair of hiking boots today, I would probably go and get a new pair of the Terradora Leather Mids, another KEEN boot that I’ve used and abused over the last few years (read my original review here) that sits somewhere in the middle. I gave mine to the dustbin at the end of last summer after they wore through at the toes and ankles, but they were SO comfortable for everyday hiking that I miss them.
Find out more about the three pairs of boots mentioned on the KEEN website:
With thanks to KEEN who gifted me both the Terradora Evo Mid and the Kerraig Mid (and the Terradora Leather I mentioned, ages ago) so I could try out their latest boots, something you know I enjoy very much. Gifted but not sponsored, and certainly not an advertorial.