words :: Don Tomas // sponsored by KEEN Canada.
Ever heard of the holy grail of hiking boots? Me neither. That’s because such a thing doesn’t exist—there are simply too many feet and too many trails on the planet for a one-boot-fits-all scenario to ever play out. But can a hiking boot triumph in any condition it leaves its footprint on, while leaving a positive footprint on nature?
I’ve never worn KEEN hiking boots before, so, with no expectations I laced up a pair of the new Men’s Ridge Flex Waterproof Boot and stepped into my vast and varied backyard known as the Coast Mountains of B.C. Hiking anywhere in these mountains requires a hiking boot to do more than just get you safely from A to B. You need enough sturdy ruggedness to keep your feet warm and safe, enough waterproofing to keep them dry, and enough traction to ford streams, climb boulders, walk across slippery logs, bootpack through alpine snow, and scramble across granite boulders.
After putting them through a few thousand paces, were KEEN’s Ridge Flex Waterproof Boots tough enough to pass the holy grail trifecta of testing criteria below?
A perfect fit out-of-the-box is always hard to achieve, and mine didn’t fit perfectly…until I laced them up. Although the laces were a couple inches too short, the “Speed-Lace” webbing system gave my feet a nice warm hug and kept them nice and snug for hours. They look heavy, but they’re possibly the lightest boots I’ve ever worn. Pass.
Here, they shine. Hikers who really want a proper boot will be stoked. Their new ‘bellows’ technology (always good to see innovation!) prevents cracking in the most-worked area of the boot, and they’re tough enough to handle anything you want to walk across. And they’re fully waterproof too. Pass.
Above all else this is what I care most about when hiking. Traction equals trust for me. Without it, serious injury is one step away from ruining your entire season. An absolute must is positive grip on wet rocks and logs, and that base is covered with an all-terrain rubber outsole with enough grippy lugs to keep the trust factor high. Pass.
Now, back to that “leaving a positive footprint on nature” part. It seems that KEEN really does care. The brand strives to leave the world a better place than they found it, by giving back, taking action and reducing its impact on the planet. Ridge Flex boots, for example, are made with environmentally preferred premium leather from an LWG-certified tannery. Since 2003, KEEN has donated more than $15 million to nonprofit organizations and causes around the world through grant-making, board service, and shoe donations. They even print it on their insoles!
Holy grail or not, if you’re into a proper lightweight hiking boot that you can take pretty much anywhere, these are as close as you’re gonna get.
Lace ’em up and go search for your own holy grail. Just make sure you leave only footprints.