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Keen Explore Waterproof: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link

70
/100 by , posted on .
This is a review from one expert, and reflects personal opinions. Learn what 5 other hikers think of this shoe and see colorways at the KEEN Explore WP main page.

The Keen Explore Waterproof is an interesting hiking shoe made with high-quality materials. However, some striking design flaws make the shoe uncomfortable to hike in.

 

 

The Explore has a rugged, waterproof upper, which lacks in breathability; a perfect density midsole for all-day comfort: not too hard but not at all mushy; and an extremely high quality rugged, protective, grippy outsole.

I did not enjoy running in this shoe, but with a small update, Keen could make a very strong hiker.

To start, I would like to say this is a hiking shoe, not a running shoe. Many shoes can double, but this shoe is more like a boot than a shoe. The whole shoe is too stiff and built up to be comfortable for running.

This review will focus on what's notable about the Explore.

Traction

The traction of the Explore is quite notable. The Explore features an aggressive multi-directional, deep lugged pattern which will bite into anything.

 

 

The traction works well in mud, loose gravel, snow, wet rocks, on most steep terrain. This shoe will keep you standing in sketchy conditions.

Stability

This might be the most stable low profile hiking shoe I have ever tested. I have a knack for rolling my ankle, but this shoe has an anti-roll feature.

I'm not quite sure how they do it, but every time I try to step with the outside of my foot instead of the bottom of my foot, the shoe immediately rolls back to an underfoot position. No matter how hard I try, I can’t roll my ankle. This is quite amazing.

 

 

This shoe has a wide platform, is extremely stiff, and has a secure fit, all of which provide a stable ride.

Waterproof

As is evident by the name, the Explore Waterproof is indeed waterproof. The waterproof membrane works very well, and it is comfortable against the foot.

 

 

Of course, your feet will still get wet from the gaping hole your foot enters through, but it does keep your feet overall drier. The exception to this is if you are wading through multiple rivers, the decreased breathability will hold the water in the shoe.

Durability

The Explorer has an all-round durable construction. The upper, midsole and upper will last for a long time. This does come at the expense of some comfort and weight.

 

 

The upper is strongly reinforced, which comes at the expense of breathability. All components of the shoe could be lighter, but this design makes them more durable. This shoe will likely last at least 600 miles of hiking, depending on the type of usage.

Heel extension

The detrimental problem with the Explore is that the midsole and outsole extend too far behind where the heel sits. This, in combination with the stiff platform, causes problems during a heel strike, which most people do when walking.

 

 

The extended heel causes your shoe to come into contact with the ground sooner, while your leg is still extended in front of you. Then, because of the stiff platform, the shoe forces itself into the more stable position of being flat on the ground.

 

 

The shoe will abruptly fall flat every step you take, which is jarring and uncomfortable. This is accentuated on downhill slopes, which are almost completely unavoidable.

Hiking downhill feels like I am stomping, trying to wreck my body. This needs an update if Keen wants future success in this model.

Summary

Honestly, this is not a shoe I will continue to hike in. Though it might work for some people, I cannot recommend this shoe in its current state.

The stiff platform, coupled with the heel extension, made the shoe too jarring of a ride for me to enjoy. This shoe is still cooked up with high-quality ingredients, but this design flaw ruins it for me.

To know more about Keen Explore WP, visit Keen's official page!

Avery Smith | Level 1 expert Verified
Avery has run for about 4 years on all types of terrain, totaling about 80 miles per week when he is not injured. He loves shoes from Brooks, Hoka One One, Altra, La Sportiva, and Merrel. Avery runs every distance, from 100 meters to 100 miles. Notable accomplishments include winning several 5ks and winning his age group in the Leadville 50 by an hour and forty minutes. This year Avery will be competing in the Boston Marathon and the Leadman Competition.

The Keen Explore Waterproof: Unassumingly rugged lightweight hiker!

94
/100 by , posted on .
This is a review from one expert, and reflects personal opinions. Learn what 5 other hikers think of this shoe and see colorways at the KEEN Explore WP main page.

The Keen Explore Waterproof hiking shoe was instantly comfortable right out of the box. Its unassuming look hides a rugged capability.

Modest enough to wear to work on a casual Friday and tough enough to scramble up a couple of thousand feet of a mountain, the Keen Explore seems to be a jack of all trades.

 

Category: Hiking shoe                     Lug Depth: 4mm                       Weight: 15oz

 

For hikers who like to move fast but desire a little more protection and waterproofing than a trail-runner provides, this is a shoe to check out. Some years ago I remember thinking that hiking boots were always overkilled in every situation I used them in.

While there is no replacing a pair of mountaineering boots on the side of a glacier, most of us don't find ourselves in that situation very often. The Keen Explore Waterproof hits the sweet spot between running shoes and hiking boots and fills a much-needed niche in the outdoor enthusiast's foot locker.

Fit

The Keen Konnectfit heel-capture system was a nice feature of this shoe. I have what I consider to be a boney heel that seems to have a tough time finding a home in the heel box of the shoe.

The Keen made my heel feel more than welcome. The shoe has a notched out heel cup style that helps to cradle the heel and give comfort and support to your Achilles tendon.

The tongue is amply padded and gave a comfortable feel for the top of the foot when laced tight. The padding in the upper worried me a little in the sense that over time it might be a little hot on longer outings on warm days.

 

 

The upper mesh is pliable, breathable and comfortable but the tight weave suggests durability far beyond a knit shoe. The lacing system is reinforced with a rigid rubberized material and a lateral stability cord.

The gusseted tongue is a welcomed feature on this shoe, helping keep the padded tongue where it belongs and also keeping bits of debris from finding their way down to your foot.

The Keen Konnectfit system also creates a sort of exoskeleton on the hind quarter of the shoe, helping with stability. The solid heel provides a good amount of cushion but not too much.

 

Function

The 4mm multi-directional lugs are the first thing that stands out on the Keen Explore Waterproof. The tread pattern has an excellent grip on every surface that I’ve used these shoes on.

From loose gravel to wet mud, to rocky talus, the Keen Explore was in its element for superb grip. The toe of the sole is well thought out with directional lateral bands for those steep moments when you're climbing on your toes. The heel has a similar design.

 

 

The Keen stability shank delivers support in the arch of the foot where it's needed. The reinforced toe box is an especially nice feature. It’s burly and is ready for abuse. The sidewalls are made from a rugged, synthetic suede-like material that has injected cushioning to help protect the hiker from looming rocks and logs.

The KEEN Dry waterproof, breathable membrane performed as promised. It's impossible, however, to write a review about a waterproof hiking shoe and not mention its nemesis Gore-Tex.

As mentioned, the KEEN Dry waterproof did a great job of keeping my foot completely dry. That said, new technology like this lacks the pedigree of a product like Gore-Tex.

With a juggernaut on the waterproof textile industry, Gore-Tex has become an industry standard. The KEEN dry technology worked equally well, but it does beacon the question of how long will the waterproofing capabilities last on the shoe? That is a question that can't be answered just yet (at least by this tester).

 

Eco-friendly

The KEEN Explore boasts that its footbed is infused with a probiotic technology that limits the need for added chemicals to dissuade odor. After 70+ miles in these shoes, they have not generated anything thing in the way of intolerable stink.

I hope this continues, and the promise of less chemicals involved in the shoemaking process is always a boon. KEEN also reports that they use an alternative chemical technology (proprietary I guess) for waterproofing instead of the classic Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) that are commonly used and are generally considered carcinogenic.

 

Pros

  • Excellent traction
  • Waterproof
    Lightweight

Cons

  • KEEN dry stands to be tested for longevity
  • A little warm on hot days

Overall

The KEEN Explore Waterproof is a great shoe. It’s light enough to fast-pack, yet rugged enough to scramble up the side of a big mountain peak.

Its comfort makes a long day with a heavy pack seem less deplorable. For someone that is looking for a comfortable shoe that handles wet conditions excellently and has good support, the KEEN Explore Waterproof is one to look at seriously.

Finding its home somewhere between a hiking boot and a trail runner the KEEN Explore Waterproof gets high praise from this reviewer. At $125.00, it’s reasonably priced.

To know more about Keen Explore WP, visit Keen's official page!

Sean Kiffe | Level 1 expert Verified
My name is Sean Kiffe. I live with my wife and three daughters in Missoula, MT where I teach middle school science. I am primarily a trail runner but also dabble in road events occasionally. Currently, I am working my way into ultra distances and will be doing my first 50K and 100K trail races this season.

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