Monday, February 05, 2018

Women's KEEN Durand Polar Shell Boots - Review

One of the most frequently asked questions I see posted in online forums is about winter footwear, with women asking for recommendations for good winter boots. We all want warm feet but we're also looking for something "stylish" enough that we can wear to the grocery store or around the city without feeling like we're heading out on an arctic expedition.

Women's KEEN Durand Polar Shell Boots

I'm in my second year now with the same boots, my beloved KEEN Durand Polar Shells, boots that I honestly wear everywhere. They're my go-to boots for snowshoeing, winter hiking, and walking my son to school every day.

Note for 2018, these boots have been updated to the Women's Durand Polar Waterproof Boot. Similar, but not quite the same as what I've reviewed. I'm fairly confident that the new boots would perform similarly. Otherwise, you might be able to find a pair of the older ones on Amazon or on a discounted shoe website.

Top Five Reasons I Love my KEEN Durand Polar Shell Boots

1. They are WARM

This is probably the most important thing with winter boots, right? Fashion aside, we need warm feet if we're going to survive a Canadian winter. The Durand Polar Shell boots are rated to -32 C and I'd say that's about right, as long as you're moving and wearing warm socks. Like all winter boots, stand around on a sledding hill without doing anything, and yes, your feet will be cold. Go for a hike, and actually move your feet, and you'll have no problems with warmth in these boots.

I definitely tested them down to -30 while hiking and while walking my son to school, and had no problems.

And while you can't tell in the photo below, it was really cold, and I was hiking through deep untracked snow in my Durand Polar Shell boots. My feet stayed warm, dry, and comfortable the whole time.

My KEEN Durand Polar Shell Boots are great for snowshoeing

2. My feet stay DRY

I have the cutest pair of "fashion winter boots" in my closet that I just can't wear. (and no, they are not Keen boots because I can wear my Keen fashion boots - and stay warm!)

I don't know what it is with these other boots (or what possessed me to buy them other than they were cute,) but my socks are always damp when I pull them out of the boots. I suspect they just don't have good wicking properties to prevent against moisture when feet start to get warm.

Fortunately this is not a problem with my Keen Durand Polar Shells. I've never had damp socks, and never a problem with feet getting too warm, sweating, and then getting cold.

Boots that stay dry and warm inside (even when playing in deep snow like this!) 

3. They are Super Comfortable

I think boots should fit snug around the ankles so that you don't twist or roll an ankle while hiking (or even walking the kids to school.) The toe box however should be wide enough that your toes can wiggle around and feel warm air circulating around the foot.

I have success on both accounts with my Durand Polar Shells. The boots cinch really tight at the ankles so that I don't have the traditional "sloppy winter boot" fit. I can wear them hiking, can take long walks in them, and can climb steep hills - all with the same support I'd find in a normal hiking boot. The bonus is that they are much warmer than your average hiking boot.

My toes have plenty of room to move around without being squished, and my feet are comfy cozy with the soft fleece lining at the top of the boots.

It should also be noted that I rarely get blisters with them either. And this is a big thing for me because I have crazy feet and always get blisters! The average person should not expect to get blisters from these boots because they are very soft inside and fit well without your foot slipping around.

They are awesome for winter biking!

4. They are stylish enough that I can wear them around the city

These boots have a low profile and don't make you look like you just returned from an Arctic adventure. They look like cute little hiking boots and don't scream "traditional department store winter boot."

While maybe I wouldn't wear them to church (I have better Keen boots for that,) I do wear them all over the city and they look fine paired with jeans or even leggings and a tall pair of socks.

My go-to walking boots around the city (on their way to Zumba here)

5. They are great on ice and slippery walks

These are my go-to "walk the boy to school" boots, and I haven't slipped or fallen on ice yet (knock on wood.) They have great  grip and I wouldn't wear anything else on my neighborhood walks.

In especially icy conditions, I add a pair of ice spikes or cleats and they fit well over these boots without ever falling off.

Boots with great grip on the bottom for icy conditions

Questions you may have:

Q. Are they tall enough to keep snow out? 

A. Yes. I wear them for snowshoeing and I've never had a problem with snow in my boots. They cinch up tightly to keep snow out, and they go up just high enough for most conditions.

Q. Are they easy to put on and take off?

A. Truthfully, no, they are a bit of work to put on (and take off.) But that's a good thing. You don't just slip hiking boots on, and you won't do that with these either. You have to loosen the laces to get them off, and then you'll have to tighten those laces again next time you put them on. And if I'm wearing extra thick socks, I'll have to loosen them quite a bit to get them off.

I find the extra time it takes me getting dressed to be worth it though for the support I get in these winter hikers. And I have other Keen winter shoes for easy slip on/slip off outings to the grocery store.

Q. Do they fit true to size? 

A. That's a great question because the Keen website says to order a full size larger than your usual size, saying that they fit quite small. Personally though, I bought my true size and love them.

I do have narrow feet though so perhaps that's why I love them so much.

My recommendation would be to try them on before deciding which size to buy (rather than buying online.)

Q. Can you wear them for snowshoeing? 

A. Yes, I do all the time. They are snowshoe compatible with a back heel support. They fit well with snowshoes and they keep snow out while hiking.

The KEEN Durand Polar Shell boots are great for snowshoeing

Other Important Things to Know about these Boots 

  • They have a KEEN.Dry® waterproof breathable membrane (I've never had wet feet)

  • They have a reinforced synthetic shell for extra protection

  • They have a thermal heat shield footbed ("On the outside, wooly softness; in the middle, support cushioning; and inside, a thermal foil barrier to harness radiant heat. Keeps the cold out and the heat in.")

  • Cleansport NXT™ for natural odor control (and I've never had stinky feet from wearing these boots, nor have I ever noticed the boots to be smelly inside.)

  • They have a ring hook for gaiters

  • They are lightweight (567.0 g)

Soft fleece lining at the top of the boots, rated to -32C 

My Other Go-to Winter Footwear 

I mentioned other shoes and boots I wear during the winter a couple of times in this story and the ones I love (and recommend buying) are below.

I LOVE these insulated slip-on winter shoes. They are what I wear when I'm running errands around the city, going to the skating rink (for easy on, easy off comfort,) going to the ski hill (for comfortable car rides,) and for general city use. 

In these shoes, I've never had wet or cold feet. They are amazingly warm for low cut slip-on shoes and I can stomp through puddles (and still have dry feet!)

Honestly, these are the shoes you buy multiple pairs of (just in case they get discontinued and you can't find them anymore in the future.)

And straight from the KEEN website: 
"This versatile slip-on has all-season features, like water-repellent leather and a cozy microfleece lining. Elasticized panels give it a comfortably snug fit, and the lugged sole stands up to slick sidewalks."

Note, the website says they fit true to size, but I do find them to run a bit large. I'd personally order a half size smaller than your normal size. I make do with my "slightly large" shoes by wearing thick socks.

KEEN Kaci Winter Shoes 

Women's Baby Bern II Tall, Wide Calf Boots

These are my "going to church, going out for dinner, or attempting to look fancy" boots. And that probably doesn't say much about how much I dress up because they don't even have a heel.

Still, these boots look great over a pair of skinny jeans (why you need the wide calf version,) and are easy to put on with a full zipper down the side.

KEEN Baby Bern Boots
They are warm, waterproof, and durable. My feet are always happy, warm, and dry in these boots. They're also exceptionally comfortable for "fashion boots" if you can call them that. I could easily walk around the zoo in them for hours and not have sore feet thanks to the cushioned footbed.

Note the link goes to the American KEEN website because they are currently discontinued on the Canadian site. Hopefully they come back again next winter, or you can find them at another store around the city if you'd like to order a pair now. Otherwise, they are on sale on the US site now if you have friends down south.

And as far as sizing goes, I find them to run a little large so perhaps try buying a half size smaller, or just wear thicker socks in them as I do.

In Canada, consider ordering the Women's Presidio II Waterproof Boots for a comparable boot.

Disclaimer: I am a KEEN Ambassador and received these winter boots in exchange for promoting Keen footwear. As always, all words and opinions are my own and I was not paid to provide a positive review. 


  1. Glad they fit you! I ordered these and they were too small! I would order a half size up so wool hiking socks fit inside if they had my size. I have another pair of KEENs with 200 g insulation that are good to -20 so I believe these with 300 g insulation would be good for -30.

    1. I think I have narrow feet because I ordered a 7.5 (my true size) and I wear them with thick wool socks. In the photo at the beginning of this story I'm wearing those ginormous heat socks that you can get from Marks. Still fit. :)

  2. Yay! Thanks for the review. I'm in need of getting my first pair of snow boots and I hate shopping. You've done the research for me! Keens are the only shoes that fit me well with their large toe box.