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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Keen Explore Vent and WP Low Boots > Test Report by Michael Pearl

KEEN EXPLORE WATERPROOF HIKING SHOE
TEST SERIES BY MIKE PEARL
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - August 13, 2019
FIELD REPORT - November 12, 2019
LONG TERM REPORT - January 02, 2020

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Pearl
EMAIL: mikepearl36ATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 45
LOCATION: Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 155 lb (70.30 kg)

I have a great appreciation for the outdoors and get out at every opportunity. I am a three-season, learning to be a four-season backpacker and year-round hiker. Currently, my trips are two to three days long as well as an annual week-long trip. I utilize the abundant trail shelters in my locale and pack a backup tarp-tent. I like to cover big distances while still taking in the views. I have lightweight leanings but function and reliability are the priority. I mostly travel woodland mountain terrain but enjoy hiking beautiful trails anywhere.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: KEEN IMAGE 1
Year of Manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer's Website: www.keenfootwear.com
MSRP: US$125.00
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 28.7 oz (813 g) for Men's size 9

Sizes Available: 7 through 15
Size Tested: 9

Materials:
Mesh upper with TPU overlays
KEEN all-terrain rubber outsole
EVA midsole
Breathable mesh lining
Removable PU footbed

Colors Available: Mararine Blue / Black, Black / Magnet, Canteen / Brindle and Magnet / Bright Yellow
Color Tested: Magnet / Bright Yellow

Features:
4 mm multi-directional lugs
Stability Shank
Konnectfit heel-capture system
Radial support system
Achilles notch
Eco Anti-Odor
KEEN.Dry waterproof, breathable membrane

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The KEEN Explore shoes arrived in a standard shoe box. Giving them a good look over I find the Explore shoes stylish, well made and light footwear. They look more running shoe than hiking shoe to me. The heel of the sole is pronounced and abundant. The sole is fairly flat with the slightest arch and a minimalistic tread. The uppers or body of the shoe has a soft but almost fuzzy texture. It is almost sponge like and has a cushioning feel. All the materials and construction look to be of excellent quality. These are lightweight, sharp looking shoes.

IMAGE 2

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The only instructions found on the KEEN website refer to care.

Clean with mild soap and cold water. Use a stiff brush or soft cloth to spot clean and remove excess dirt. Let air dry away from heat.

TRYING IT OUT

IMAGE 3I slipped my feet into the Explore shoes and they instantly felt comfortable. I had a sense of my foot being gently enveloped by a protective and supportive shell. I tied up the laces and went for a walk up a nearby trail. I feel the shape and support of this shoe mostly around the sides and heels of my feet. They flex easily with each step and cushion with each strike to the ground. The bottoms or outsole of the shoe is thinner than other hiking shoes I have worn. This gives the Explore more of a trail running shoe feel. When walking I can sense the different textures underfoot like rocks and sticks. Making my way up the trail the shoes provided ample support, comfort, traction and protection. My one concern was feeling the shoe bend and give to rocks underfoot. I wonder what a day with a full pack and many miles over rough terrain will feel like.

SUMMARY

The KEEN Explore Waterproof Hiking Shoe are good looking, well made and comfortable shoes. My feet feel good in them on the first wear. The materials and construction suggest shoes that are ready go and can withstand wear on the trail. While I like the fit, comfort, weight savings and awareness of sensing the ground I am concerned about my feet becoming fatigued. I hike many rock strewn trails that can take a toll on the feet. I am looking forward to pairing up with the Explore shoes and challenging my concerns.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Three day, two night backpack

Mounts Wildcats, Carters and Moriah Traverse - Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation - 22 mi (35 km) from 780 to 4830 ft (238 to 1472 m)
Pack Weight - 25 lb (11 kg)
Temperature and Conditions - 40 to 75 F (4 to 24 C) Clear and calm to raining and windy

Three day, two night backpack

Mounts Jackson, Pierce and Hale - Crawford Notch, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation - 18 mi (29 km) from 1900 to 4310 ft (579 to 1314 m)
Pack Weight - 25 lb (11 kg)
Temperature and Conditions - 38 to 70 F (3 to 21 C) Clear and sunny

Day Hike

Balch Hill - Hanover, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation - 5 mi (8 km) from 525 to 950 ft (160 to 290 m)
Temperature and Conditions - 65 F (18 C) and damp

IMAGE 1

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I very much like the fit of the Explore shoe. Every time I put them on I like they way they wrap and cushion my feet. The no-slip laces are "slick" making it easy to get good, comfortable tension when tying them up. I have not once had to make adjustment to the laces while hiking. The traction has been impressive. I have only slipped on the smoothest surfaces that have been slickened with water. This would be on rocks on stream crossing. Or wet puncheons which behave like ice. After two past wipe outs (not in the Explore shoes) I now step cautiously on these things. Otherwise the Explore's have held my footing on all surfaces. When slipping on those wet river rocks the Explores went for a dip. As long as water wasn't over my ankle my feet stayed dry. The Explore's are waterproof all the way around which was much appreciated when passing through damp brush on chilly mornings.

Thinking of the soles the majority of the time they keep my feet protected and comfortable. However the first backpack with the Explores I crossed a few rock strewn sections. On the irregular and pointier rocks I felt some uncomfortable pressure points as the sole gave way to the rocks. This slowed me down through these sections as I had to focus on where and how I placed my feet. On all other trail surfaces the soles provided enough support not to leave my feet tender. Additionally in those rockier sections I bumped and kicked a few rocks with the toe of the shoes. The Explores absorbed the brunt of the insult and my toes where unharmed.

Other than crossing jumbled rock the Explores cruise over all trail conditions. They provide good feedback and a good sense of the terrain under my feet so I can react accordingly. The heel has a pronounced and noticeable cushion when striking the ground. I get the sense of a forward leaning stance on flat surfaces. This is so much so I perceive a forward momentum when moving fast on flat ground. Then when the trail ascends I really feel the Explore excel. The combination of this lofty heel, lower toe and gripping traction makes uphills more enjoyable than usual.

But what goes up most come down. This is where I experienced my one and only complaint with the Explore shoe. The same forward lean I feel on flat surfaces I also feel on the downhill. Add the weight of an overnight pack and I feel it even more. This has led to some pain in my knees hiking downhill. I feel the way the heel to toe of the sole is designed is acting to increase the downward angle of the hill. This is translating to my knees and putting them in an unnatural "braking" position.

On the second overnight hike I decreased the my pace as well as the amount of elevation gain and loss. While the downhill knee pain was not as severe it was still there. I did notice that after dropping our packs in camp and climbing a nearby summit I did not have the same pain coming back down. So the next hike I went on with the Explore's was a shorter day hike. Here I wouldn't label it pain but there was a discomfort in my knee on the downhill. The next time an opportunity presented for an overnight backpack I sadly left the Explore's at home. I just couldn't bear the thought of that potential knee pain. I do plan to experiment with lighter pack loads and day hike distances wearing the Explore's. I like everything else about these shoes and still hope that they will work for me.

SUMMARY

The KEEN Explore hiking shoes are foot comfy with great trail traction. I have developed a sensitive knee while carrying loads downhill in these shoes though. I will try to overcome this or strengthen my knees by hiking less aggressive terrain with lighter loads. I am happy when moving along even grades and really like tackling uphills in these shoes. So I hope the pain experienced when traveling downhill resolves.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Wrights Mountain - Bradford, Vermont
Distance and Elevation - 8 mi (13 km) from 1000 to 1822 ft (305 to 555 m)
Pack Weight - 12 lb (5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions - 45 F (7 C) sunny with winds at the summit

Balch Hill - Hanover, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation - 5 mi (8 km) from 525 to 950 ft (160 to 290 m)
Pack Weight - 10 lb (4.5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions - 35 F (2 C) and cloudly

Boston Lot - Lebanon, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation - 6 mi from 800 to 1100 ft (244 to 335 m)
Pack Weight - 10 lb (4.5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions - 20 F (-7 C) and windy

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I decreased my mileage and pack weight for hikes during this phase of testing. I am happy to say the knee pain I experienced early has not reoccurred. However I now realize I have a strained pes anserinus. This is a group of three tendons that meet up at the front, inner side of the knee.

I am quite confident this was not caused by any footwear but just overuse and some overaggressive running. The lag time between injury and then resulting pain coincidentally coincided with the KEEN Explores and a three day hike ending with a prolonged downhill. A whole lot of stretching and strengthening exercises have resulted in pain free hiking and running. However the day following a hike or run can be particularly painful.

I was able to hike with the Explore shoes over some varying trail conditions and grades. I traveled some steep up and down, moderate and flat trails. This was over a wide range of slab rock, loose rock, dirt, mud and/or leaf covered terrain. The comfort, traction and balance of the Explores was very good in all conditions. My feet stayed dry even when sloshing through puddles. These are pretty solid trail shoe. However something still didn't feel 100% right.

All the strengthening, stretching and focus on my gait did draw my close attention to how I move when hiking. What I discovered was I do not squarely heel strike particularly with my injured leg. The outer side of my heel strikes first. I confirmed this by looking at the soles of an old pair of shoes. And the outer portion of the heel is much more worn. I then focused my attention on my heel strike in the Explores. I could sense a horseshoe shape area of cushion around the outer edges of my heel. The inner center portion of heel has less pronounced cushioning. The way my foot strikes weighted to one side causes an unusual motion when paired with the Explores padded heel. I think the generous lateral cushioning has an additive affect on my uneven heel strike. This further increases my misaligned gait and further destabilizing my stride. This is all so minor it is almost impercievable but none the less causing me some discomfort carrying heavier loads for multiple days over longer distances.

SUMMARY

Overall the KEEN Explore waterproof hiking shoe is a well made quality shoe. It is comfortable on my foot, has great traction and withstands the rough abuse of the rock strewn trails. However my slightly misaligned gait is not fully compatible with the shape or structure built into the heel of the Explore shoes. While I can comfortably day hike in the Explores and they perform well for me this does not extend to overnight backpacking. Between the increased pack weight, longer miles and back to back days on the trail the heel of the Explore and my gait are not well suited for each other.

Winter is in full swing here with ankle deep snow on the ground. It will be boot season for awhile for me. When the snow melts out and I am headed out for a day hike I will again be exploring with the KEEN Explore hiking shoes.

This brings my Long-Term Report to an end. I would like to extend my appreciation to KEEN Footwear and BackpackGeartTest.org for making this test series possible.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Footwear > Boots > Keen Explore Vent and WP Low Boots > Test Report by Michael Pearl



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