KEEN Durand Mid – Boots To Seriously Consider
The KEEN Durand Mid WP is a conventional walking boot built at KEEN’s very own factory in the USA. They offer high durability, decent comfort and build quality that few can match. All this comes at a high price and we’re going to find out whether it can live up to it. Read on for our review.
Before we get started, I’d like to preface this review. These are the first pair of conventional hiking shoes I’ve worn for four years after transitioning over to minimalist/barefoot shoes in all aspects of my life. As such, weight and ground feel comparisons, for example, will have less connection to other boots of a similar construction. I will however do my best to draw on past experiences with typical hiking boots allowing me to draw a fair conclusion.
I’ve heard and read a lot of mixed reviews about KEEN footwear – some suggesting terrible durability while others say it’s great. Let’s try to put to bed this argument, at least in the case of the Durand.
Straight out of the box, it was easy to tell the KEEN Durand Mid is made from high quality materials but even more evident than that was the fact it looks well finished too. The Durand’s are free from glue lines and most of the panels – of which there are many – are double stitched for increased durability.
The upper on the Durand is made from a waterproof Nubuck leather combined with a breathable mesh that helps to push moisture out without letting any in. The breathable KEEN membrane adds to the complete waterproofness of the boot without affecting weight dramatically.
To test this, I walked through water around 4 inches deep (4.5 is the limit before it runs over the tongue) for over five minutes and finished it off by jumping 5ft or so down into it. I was positively surprised by how good the waterproofing was – my feet were as dry as when I left home.
I did notice a few hours after taking off the Durand’s that they felt a *bit* damp in certain places inside. This most certainly wasn’t present during the test and so I can only surmise that it worked its way through gradually. This could be an issue on extremely long, wet days or a few hours following a river crossing but it’s a medium term concern rather than an instantly occurring worry.
The midsole is directly attached and made of polyurethane and there’s a removable ‘metatomical’ EVA footbed too if that’s your kind of thing!
Metatomical Footbed – An insole that has been anatomically engineered to provide excellent arch support and cradle the natural contours of the foot.
With the insole removed, the ‘integrated PU heel cushion’ is visible – a soft, squishy circle that fits into the concave dome on the bottom of the insole. The purpose of this is to allow a little more comfort through the centre of the heel.
The boots are certainly comfortable and once again I was surprised because they didn’t need to be broken in as with most boots. They will adjust, stretch, bend and wear to your walking style over time but I had no rubs, hot-spots and more importantly, no blisters on any occasion. A world apart from the last time I wore stiffer, conventional boots akin to these.
Running through the centre of the boot is a ‘TPU stability shank’ which is designed to take away some of the flex and stiffen up the middle of the boot. Evidently it works because there’s very little flex even when applying a good amount of force.
My issue coming from a boot that puts me only a few millimetres off the ground is one of ground feel and proprioception. The difference from the KEEN Durand Mid to a similarly spec’d boot is clearly much less but I certainly would’ve liked to feel what was beneath me a little bit more. The possibility of me twisting an ankle following a tough, long hike when I’m tired seems far greater wearing these than what I’m used to. Though I feel you can draw that conclusion using only common sense – a girl walking in platform shoes will fall over more than another wearing flat shoes.
The sole is made from a dual compound rubber that feels almost sticky in places and much harder in others. On each grip block, there are hundreds of very small indents for a little extra traction – think cheese grater. I imagine these do make a small difference but they also wear away quickly so the grip blocks become flat surfaces. Mine were worn away within 10 miles or so on a combination of on and off-road walking.
There are a multitude of grooves and gaps on the sole where mud gets stuck so you’re going to spend a while cleaning these things with a toothbrush if you want them spotless before your next adventure. This is the case all the way up to where sole meets upper. The better news is that running water clears most of the fresh mud quickly due to the majority of blocks on the sole being widely spaced. Most of the grooves have no effect on traction whatsoever, so it’d probably be beneficial if there were fewer of them.
V-shaped or angled tread blocks are present amongst the large, flatter ones but are confined to the centre of the boot. When you’re walking on ground that is harder and fairly slick with little opportunity for the tread to ‘dig in’, traction is largely reduced. I feel the addition of a few more sharply angled pieces would be beneficial on the outer edges of the boot to combat this.
The lace loops are thick and extremely durable; they certainly won’t be fraying any time soon. Further up, the lace is threaded through a circular drum which is connected to a band system that stretches around the back of the boot to the lace loop on the opposite side. When you tighten the laces, the band is contracted and the back of the boot is also tightened for a snug fit. The laces themselves are pretty thin and can be difficult to untie, particularly when wet but they do stay tied nicely for the same reasons.
Inside, the boot feels pretty comfortable and the toe-box is large both vertically and horizontally, allowing your toes a bit of room and preventing them being too cramped. You can easily wear a couple of pairs of socks without your toes bashing on the inside of the boot. The Durand is also 100% free of rough surfaces and seams so there is nowhere to cause a bad rub or blister. I think you’d be seriously unlucky to end up with bad feet, even during the first wear.
As for overall aesthetics, I think the boots look nice with flashes of red interspersed with a mixture of greys and blacks. This kind of styling suits my tastes to a tee where subtlety meets a classy touch of colour. The bright yellow logo remains visible whatever you throw at them too which KEEN should be pleased to hear.
One thing I really dislike however is the warning triangle on the sole. The reason for this I understand – it highlights it’s a toe-protecting rubber but the placement of it I’m less sure of. There’s absolutely no need for it to be so obviously positioned and I feel it takes away from the pleasing look of the boot, making that part of it look almost childish or workman-like. I appreciate those are very different things. The solution to this is to keep them constantly covered in mud but that is of course completely impractical.
Whether it’s a consistency throughout their product range or not, I feel it’s something they should change and regardless of whether it’s a minor detail that doesn’t adversely affect the performance of the boot, it’s also something that will make *some* potential buyers choose another boot.
It’s a bit like someone a few years ago buying a top-of-the-range Skoda instead of an Audi.
KEEN recommend half-sizing up in the Durand so I’ve been wearing an 8.5 (42.5 EU, 9.5 US) for the first time ever. Specifications suggest the boot weighs 569 grams but based on my accurate review-weighing scales they come out at more like 670 grams per shoe when dry and 720 grams when wet. Their figures put the boot slightly lower than that of a conventional hiking boot but according to mine (which I’ll take as accurate) they’re the same. The last time I wore heavier hiking footwear was with my Merrel Chameleon 3 GTX shoes and after 20 miles hiking around mountains in the Lake District, I couldn’t wait to get them off. Every gram you can shed is a good one.
I feel the breathable membrane could do with being a little more breathable because I found my feet, which were covered with a standard hiking sock, got hot quickly. This was in weather around eight degrees so in the summer, I’m sure your feet will be uncomfortably sweaty. It’s always a tough balance between perfect waterproofness and keeping them breathable but it could do with a small tweak.
The KEEN Durand Mid WP hiking boots have been a real surprise in terms of quality, finish, waterproofness and first-wear to all-round comfort. They’re American made (I’m sure they’re happy to promote that!) and pretty too, which is always a good thing. They’re also £140. And £140 is a lot when you consider their competitors – Mammut boots retail at around that price, if not less and it makes the purchase a whole lot harder. KEEN are still relatively unknown over here and have only improved their ill-famed durability woes in recent times. Off the back of that, it’s hard to see someone choosing them over the aforementioned Mammut.
It’s a bit like someone a few years ago buying a top-of-the-range Skoda instead of an Audi. The thing is though, that was a few years ago and now Skoda are top in a number of nationwide surveys based on reliability, running costs, performance and more. So what’s to say, given time, KEEN won’t be sometimes favoured over other, more established and trusted brands in the same price bracket?
What is clear is that you’ll be a lot older by the time you wear out your Durand’s, a time period where you may have purchased two or maybe even three pairs of less hard-wearing boots. It’s a tricky choice but if you’re after durability then your decision should inevitably be made a lot easier.
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