Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Summer of Testing Hiking Shoes - and the Two Winners!

As an Ambassador for KEEN Canada, I get to try a lot of new boots,  shoes, and sandals.  This summer was no exception. I tried the all new Durand Mid WP boots that promise "Amazing comfort and unsurpassed durability from the first step to the millionth!" I tried sandals that were so "UNEEK," I honestly haven't decided what I think of them yet.  And I tried some funky red Rivington Mary Janes that are supposed to "pair well with anything in your closet."  

Testing out the Durand Mid WP boots on a day hike in the Rockies

What I discovered rather quickly in the testing process, was that in my collection of new shoes, I had found two clear winners that would be worn on 80% of my outings this summer.  The other 20% of the time was spent in my Keen flip flops and sandals from previous seasons. (or bare foot on my stand up paddleboard)

I put all of my boots through every test I can devise!  Even Ice Climbing!

The Winning Hiking Boot for Comfort and Best Fit EVER

Early last spring I went down to Mountain Equipment COOP and tried on every pair of Keen boots they had in stock.  I also started reading gear reviews and asking around to get an idea of what hiking boot I should invest in this year.  Everything lead me to the same pair of boots - the KEEN Marshall Mid Waterproof Trail Shoe.  

Mountain High in my Keen Marshall Mid WP Boots
I tried the Marshalls on at MEC and fell in love immediately.  Many many trips later, and I'm still in love with them.  They are quite possibly the best pair of boots I've found for my feet in the last ten years.  Why do I love them so much?  Simple!  They actually tighten and get rid of the sloppy boot feeling I have always found to be a huge problem in most hiking boots.

Climbing in my Keen Marshalls this summer

Maybe I have narrow feet, but I have always found it next to impossible to tighten a pair of hiking boots so that my feet don't wiggle around inside the boots.  Feet sliding around in boots = blisters and I hate blisters.  I also suffer from weak ankles so I need my boots to tighten well at the ankle or else I'm prone to sprain one of my ankles.  (yet again!) With the Keen Marshalls however, one simple pull of the laces cinches the entire boot from my toes to my ankle and I don't have to reef on every single lace in a vain attempt to pull the sides together.  I have never had happier ankles and I owe it all to these great boots.

Big adventures require good boots!

I wore my Keen Marshall Mid WP boots backpacking, mountaineering (with crampons and vertical ice,) scrambling, rock climbing on a Via Ferrata tour, and while following my son around on family hikes.  While they may not have been entirely waterproof enough for traversing a glacier for hours, they performed as expected (and as designed - since they are a trail shoe and not a rugged mountaineering or climbing boot.)

Keeping up to my Junior Keen Ambassador in Training

The Winning All Purpose Trail Shoe for Every Day Life and Adventures

As much as I love my Keen Marshall Mid WP boots, they are a bit constrictive for a walk around the zoo or a short little hike with my son.  My active lifestyle requires good shoes for my day to day adventures that are sturdy yet lightweight and can take me from the city to the mountains in comfort.   Enter, the Keen Madison Low CNX Trail Cruiser.

The KEEN Madison Low CNX Trail Cruiser

My Madisons are another pair of shoes that I tried on, and immediately said "where have you been all my life?!!"  Comfortable, supportive, and lightweight, I wore these all summer and found that I could have almost slept in them (that comfortable!)

Mountain Happy in my Keen Madison Low CNX  shoes

I wore my Madisons in the city while chasing my son around our parks and natural areas, I wore them for biking all summer long, and I loved them for mountain biking.  I especially loved them for combo bike-hike trips.  They were super lightweight for biking but supportive enough for a quick rest break to climb a mountain or hike in to a lake for lunch.  

Every bike ride this summer was done in my Madison Low CNX shoes.

I never dreamed I would find the perfect all-around shoe that could be warn while hiking, biking, walking, and hanging out in the city, but the Madison Low CNX trail cruiser has become that ideal shoe for me. They are the kind of shoe you actually buy a few pairs of - just in case they get discontinued and you can't find them anymore. I would be hard pressed to find a better multipurpose outdoor shoe. 

Outdoor KEEN Family

What will I be wearing this winter?

I have chosen a couple pairs of Keen boots to try out this winter and so far I'm becoming quite fond of my bright red Betty Boots.  The Betty Women's Boot II is both stylish and warm, and so far incredibly waterproof.   I even wore them out in  puddles the other day - just to test out their claim at being waterproof. I'm not sure yet if they will become my primary snowshoeing boots or not, but guaranteed I will be wearing them around the city all winter long, walking my son to school and back in them, and running around our parks looking stylish and warm! 

Playing Disc Golf in my Keen Betty II Insulated Boots

The other pair of Keen shoes that for me is a must have in winter is the Howser II "sleeping bag" shoe.  I've been wearing my pink Howsers since September and my feet are always toasty warm.  I bought them last winter and they continue to be my all time fav. winter shoe that I can wear around the city.  I even took them into the backcountry last fall to keep my feet warm at camp.

Keen Howser Shoes in the snow - feet toasty warm

Questions about any of the shoes or boots mentioned in this review?  Leave me a comment below and I'll do my best to answer.  I'd also love to hear which Keen boots and shoes you plan to wear this winter season coming up.  There may still be room on my shoe rack for one more pair of shoes.  Maybe.  :)

My Signature Keen Ambassador "Star" Pose

Disclaimer:  Some of the shoes and boots mentioned in this review were provided for me in order to test and promote them.  However, my opinion is entirely my own and I wasn't paid to write this review.