Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A Year in the Life of a Keen Canada Ambassador

Many of you will know that I have been an Ambassador for Keen Canada this past year and it's high time I actually sit down to tell you about some of the awesome shoes, sandals, and boots I've been wearing.  (Especially since Christmas is coming and I have some great shoes you can add to your wish list.) 

Two of the most repeated sentences out of my mouth this year have definitely been:  "Check out my new shoes!  They're sooooooo comfortable!"  My friends are always well aware each time I get a new pair of Keen shoes and I should probably apologize to some of them now for how much I've talked about my feet this year.   ;)  The problem though is that I really can't stop talking about it - and it has nothing to do with my official role as an Ambassador for Keen Canada.  It all comes down to pure excitement in finding comfortable pairs of shoes.  You see, I'm not one of those people that can just put anything on their feet and expect comfort.  I've gotten blisters in 99% of the hiking boots I've ever tried, I sprain my ankle if my hiking shoes have bad support, and I'm convinced my feet are some unusual size because nothing has ever really fit well.  My shoes have always been slightly too big for me or just a bit too small.  No perfect fit.  Until this year...

Hiking in my Keen Sandals

So, what have I been wearing?

Hiking Boots - Gypsum Mid Boots

I confess up front that I still get blisters some of the time from my Keen hiking boots.   They are the most comfortable pair of boots I've ever owned, feel like slippers when I wear them, and are fabulous for short walks with my son.  But, on long hikes, mountaineering trips, and backpacking trips I will still get blisters.  However, that's just my crazy feet.  The boots are awesome.  I've never had another pair of boots feel like slippers.  Have you?  They're light on my feet, well cushioned, and most important for the stuff I do - waterproof.  I've used them on glaciers without waterproofing them and have never had a wet sock.  Can your hiking boots do that?

Keen Boots Meet Glacier

The plan going forward - I'll keep wearing them for light adventures as a family but I am going to try out new boots next year and see if we can kill this blister thing once and for all.  I also want to try out some light hikers with my orthotics to see if it might be a better solution for me.

Not Your Typical Mountaineering Boot!

My son has also started wearing the toddler version of the Keen Gypsum Hiking Shoes this year and they've been awesome.  He's only 4.5 years old so we didn't think he needed full hiking boots.  The shoes have been great for everything from hiking to bike riding and every day use in the city.  We've actually started using them as the all-purpose do everything in shoe.  He wears them to school, then goes for a bike ride in them, wears them to swimming lessons... - everything.  Never a blister or sore spot, no rubbing, and never a complaint.  We wouldn't wear them in puddles or deep snow but they've been reasonably waterproof for the trails we've taken them on (they are only shoes after all) and we've had zero complaints.  Best shoes he's ever had.

Keen Shoes Meet Mountain Top

The plan going forward - I want to get him some Keen sandals for next summer.  This year he just wore an average pair of department store sandals and I'm very curious to see how much better Keen will perform for him.  I'm also anticipating having to get another pair of shoes because sadly, his feet will likely grow over the winter.  :(


City Shoes - Mercer Lace CNX and Kona Flips

When was the last time you bought a pair of shoes and loved them so much you bought a second pair?  That was me with these Mercer Lace shoes.  I bought the hot pink ones (not currently shown on the website) and they were soooooooo comfortable, I ordered an identical pair in black.  Now they match everything I own and I can wear them every day in the summer.  They are probably the first pair of city shoes I've ever had that are the exact perfect size for me.  It's as if they were specially made for my crazy feet. 

My favourite colour ever in a pair of shoes!
Hiking in my Mercer Lace CNX Shoes

While they don't have a ton of support and are super light weight, I have never twisted an ankle in them (which is saying a lot for me) and I've never had sore feet after wearing them. They are cool on hot days and are fun to wear to places like the zoo or on a casual walk around the city.  Between these shoes and my Keen flip flops (not currently for sale on the website), that was my summer footwear 90% of the time.  The Kona Flips, should they reappear for sale in summer 2014, were awesome and by far the best flip flops I've ever had.  I wore them while hiking canyons, I wore them on walks of 5km or more, and I lived in them while camping.  I really hope Keen brings them back for next summer and highly encourage you women to keep an eye out for them.  They were not your average mall sandal and were definitely designed for the athletic woman who expects performance out of all her shoes from boots to flip flops.

Keen Kona Flips at the Beach

The plan going forward - To keep wearing the same awesome shoes I have and hopefully keep trying out new shoes as they get added to the Keen collection.

Sandals - The Willow Sandal

My particular sandal has been discontinued but you'll find it's similar to either the Newport Sandal or the Venice Sandal.  When I chose my sandals two years ago, I chose something that would work for light hiking, water sports, biking, and every day use.  I wanted an all-purpose sandal that I could take camping and use for everything!  In the past I would have brought at least 3-4 pairs of shoes on a camping trip and I was hoping I could cut back with a good pair of sandals. 

SUPing in my Keen Sandals
I definitely succeeded with that mission and this summer I used my sandals for everything from backpacking to hiking, biking, and stand up paddleboarding. By far the biggest surprise was that I could use them for backpacking and hiking without spraining my ankle.  I have always had to wear orthotics and good hiking boots on trails but this summer I started using my sandals to get around the blister problems and I had 100% success. While everybody else on my summer climbing trip was trekking to the backcountry hut in their mountaineering boots, I wore my sandals and attached my boots to my pack.   I was comfortable, got no blisters, and felt light on my feet for once.  Backpacking in sandals might become a permanent thing  for me. 

My Backpacking Footwear of Choice - Keen Sandals

The plan going forward - I want to get a pair of the new Clearwater CNX sandals (in my favourite colour pink of course) and dedicate them to water sports.  I found this summer that often my sandals were wet when I wanted to go for a hike.  While they would dry quickly on hot days, we transitioned quickly from SUPing in the early morning to hiking or biking later in the morning and it would have been nice to have a second pair of dry shoes. 

Winter Shoes - The Howser

New to the Keen line of footwear - and my current best friend, this is the best shoe for spring and fall ever!  It feels like I'm wear sleeping bags on my feet.  These slipper-like shoes are lined with plush microfleece and are so easy to put on, they have become my footwear of choice for the last month.  I bought the pink ones and they match pretty much every jacket I have.  For those who may not be as enamored with pink as I am, the shoes also come in more traditional colours such as black and blue.  In fact, I'm considering getting a pair in black for myself for the odd day when I'm wearing a gray or black sweater. 

Hiking through the snow in my new Howser Keen shoes

While you won't be able to wear these shoes in puddles or deep snow drifts, I've been wearing them in slush, snow, and wet parking lots with dry feet.  You just have to try and stay on top of the snow.  They have a good waterproof sole (better than many pairs of winter boots I've had) so as long as you keep the upper nylon fabric dry-ish, you are good for most weather.  I've actually gone sledding in them and worn them while pulling a sled through snow - with dry feet at the end of it, so they're pretty impressive for a low-cut shoe.  The nylon fabric is more waterproof than I would have ever expected. 

Sledding in my Keen Howsers

And as far as comfort while walking, I've been wearing them all over the city without any problems at all.  Truly, my favourite pair of shoes I've ever had - and a Christmas list MUST for all women who like warm feet. (even if you just wear them in the house when snow drifts are piled up high.)  And as a bonus, I discovered they make great hut booties or camp shoes for backpacking trips.  I attached them to my pack on our September trip and had warm, mud-free shoes for the campsite.  The heavy sole was good for the roots and rocks in camp and they were better than a traditional soft-soled hut bootie would have been. 

The plan going forward - To get some winter boots.   I've got my eyes on the Betty Boot II for playing in the snow and the Zurich High Boot for the city. 

So, tell me, what's your favourite pair of Keen footwear in your closet?  What should I check out next?

Disclaimer:  While Keen generously compensated me for many of these pairs of shoes, several were paid for out of pocket and all thoughts are entirely my own. 


  1. Looks like you are wearing what I wear in the top photo. However when I tried to find a pair of hiking boots several years ago I think I tried on about 12 or more. Yes, I am a stickler for comfort and vanity will not rule my life like it did when I was a teen. Sore feet and blisters does not cut it in the bush! However I find my Keen's heavier than my previous hiking boots, that is my only complaint but otherwise it has proven to be very sturdy. I still prefer my previous brand but it was narrow at the toe and the sides eventually popped open so I had to find another brand.

    1. Agree that Keens are definitely sturdy and wider than many other boots. I think the width is one reason I find them to feel like slippers because my toes never rub along the side of the boots and other than heel blisters that I get in most boots, at least there's no other chaffing in my Gypsum boots. And I've had to return other boots that have broken apart after less than a year, developed holes in them, and been pure crap. My Keens have survived everything from glacier to toddler hikes. Very good boots.

      Perhaps if your Keen boots are heavier, it's just the style? I think My Gypsums are light hiking boots and not full backpacking boots. Usually the backpacking ones are really heavy no matter the brand. I always choose something lighter and use it for everything because I generally can't afford multiple boots for each thing I do in the mountains.

  2. Our family lives in our Newport sandals... sadly, with the snow on the ground, they just don't work at this time of year, but truly, they are amazing!! Having a kid who can sometimes seem prone to tripping, I love that the sandals protect the toes, which also makes them great for hiking!! We too, have done many trips in our KEEN sandals. My other favourite KEENS are my Bern Baby Bern boots. I can actually look stylish and dressed up going out at night!! This list just gives me more ideas to try... good thing Christmas is coming!!

    1. I highly recommend the Howsers for yourself Sharon. Like sandals, put on, wear anywhere, super comfy. AND they keep your feet dry/warm in winter. I've been wearing them with just tiny little ankle socks. Didn't check if they make them for kids... (and a tip, I found them at Winners. )

  3. I am so glad, Tanya, that you found your perfect boots! I was not lucky with Keen brand personally, so I stopped buying them. I have a wide foot, so they have naturally been my first choice for several years, but no pair had last.... unfortunately. They did not fall apart, but started developing problems. My super comfy keen sandals were build so, that naturally after some distance the would push your foot outback... I checked MEC website and nearly all customers left them similar reviews and they got discontinued. Next up we my $300 hiking boots that leaked right trough on the first trip, again same review on MEC website, same return story... A couple more pairs followed, lasted one season both. May be that's just luck, no idea, but it's kind of expensive to try all the time, so I steer clear of the brand in general. One of my kiddos has Keen hiking boots and we had no problems with them so far, but we never properly tested them yet...
    The last pair you showed I think I am falling in love with. It's 3rd winter that I am wearing uggs and enjoy that super light and super warm sensation combined with light flat sole, I think I need try them next time I come to MEC

    1. So sorry many of your boots haven't worked out for you. I do recommend the Howser shoes. They don't go up as high as uggs but the soles are very waterproof which is refreshing. My fake-uggs always left me with wet socks. Don't know about the real ones. I'm not sure if MEC is carrying the shoe or not yet. If they aren't, check Winners (where I got mine) or you can order them on line. And Keen has an excellent return policy on line if they don't fit and you need to return for a bigger size. Free return shipping.