Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Keen Gorge Boots, Review

Webtogs contacted me recently to see if I'd be interested in a pair of Keen Gorge boots for review. The Keen Gorge are a neoprene boot not unlike the type I would wear surfing but with a much stiffer sole. They're aimed mainly at watersport activities such as canoeing but the sole design suggested that they were intended for use where a bit of portaging or river walking would be required. Looking at the description on the Webtogs site they mention the high traction sole. The sole has a fairly low profile tread pattern and doesn't have a heel step but the wedge shaped 'fishscales' on the sole are opposing so I felt they'd be grippier than they looked.

I'd intended to wear them without socks which is how I wear my wetsuit boots but in the case of the wetsuit boots it's nescessity as they're a split toe design. With that in mind I requested size 9 in the Keen Gorge but when they arrived they were too small so had to be exchanged for size 10. As it turned out size 10 can stretch enough to allow me to wear socks if I wish.

The boots are promarily neoprene which obviously isn't waterproof, the idea is that they retain water which eventually heats up. My wetsuit boots, Alder Plasma 7mm are winter boots and as such are blindstitched, glued and liquid sealed to reduce flushing (cold water flushing through and displacing the water already warmed) and have kept my feet toasty winter/spring on the North Antrim coast which is essentially the Atlantic. The Keen Gorge however are 3mm and appear to have a basic stitch patter however given that I wouldn't expect my feet to be submerged for anything like the time they would surfing I'd no reservations about warmth.

The sole unit is quite substantial with the trademark Keen toecap which extends up over the toe, there's a decent heel cup and the outside of the toe area is heavily reinforced to prevent wear against the sides of a kayak. Fastening is by a wide velcro strap across the forefoot, in addition the cuff is secured by a velcro patch and for additional security there's a 2nd thinner strap that passes around the back of the ankle above the heel cup and secures at the front which holds your heel in place.

One other thing worth mentioning is the packaging, using recycled materials is a step in the right direction, more information on Keen's 'Corporate Responsibility can be found Here

Having worn basic trainers in my canoe and having had to wade through shallow parts of the river in them and having had experience of neoprene boots I didn't have any reservations about how they'd fare when used as intended. What I wanted to try though was wearing them as walking footwear. I don't like cold wet feet which is why I tend to use wool/wool mix socks or if I expect the going to be really wet I'll use gore tex socks however I had a short walk planned for today which I knew would primarily be on forest tracks or through the forest off trail so decided to try the Keens.

As it turned out I could hardly have picked a worse (or better?) day to try them out. It was raining when Les arrived and continued for most of the time we were out with only a brief dry spell towards the end.

Although we were mostly on a track at the beginning and I could feel my feet getting wet they never felt as cold as they would have just wearing trainers, I put this down to the slow rate at which the water penetrates the neoprene. With water running off my over trousers my feet were soon saturated but at no time did they feel cold.

The boots were comfortable while on the move although the toe bumper is quite noticable when stopped as it seems to down on my big toe. I found it slightly annoying but as I say I didn't notice it on the move, it may well be that it's something that is more/less noticable depending on foot shape.

The sole unit provided plenty of grip on the tracks and off trail through the forest although I suspect that steep slopes with short wet grass may prove to be a problem. As I hadn't had the opportunity to test that I tried walking up a steeply angled wall which was covered in moss and again I didn't have a problem with lack of grip.

I wouldn't expect them to dry quickly so once they're wet you can expect them to stay wet for the duration unless the weather is really warm/sunny. That's just a charcteristic of neoprene, my wetsuit/boots/gloves are just the same so if surfing on consecutive days you just have to put on wet kit but it does warm up quickly. The Keen boots being 3mm should of course dry quicker than my other kit which is 7mm.

Used as intended they look like a good product, for canoeing or packrafting which requires a bit of walking they should be a good option as walking in them is no problem at all. Used as I did as a walking shoe/boot if you're aware of the way neoprene works they work just fine although in warmer weather they're likely to feel a bit hot/sweaty, the solution to that is to step into the 1st stream you find.

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