Keen Shoes:

Keen Voyaguer

Photo: Voyageur.

Keen make some excellent comfy shoes, particularly if you have wide feet like me in which case you pretty much have no other choice anyway. I have had a number of Keen shoes: Targhee 2, Gypsum, Marshall and now Voyageur. Until I bought the Marshall I thought Keen had pretty much sorted out the water absorption problem with their shoes. That is shoes which take on too much weight when wet and which will not give it up again anytime soon,. They had not!

The Marshall took on much more than twice their own weight (over 450 grams of water) and were still sodden days later despite sitting on the sun in the verandah next to my old pairs of Gypsum and Targhee 2 (which I tested simultaneously) which were bone dry the next day – whereas the Marshall were still wet four days later. This is a disaster. I will say Keen generously refunded me the money on the new Marshall but not before they had caused me some angst.

We were heading off to hike the South Coast Track in NZ on the Easter Monday (See: & etc). After close of trading on the Thursday before Easter just as we were heading off for our afternoon walk I happened to turn over my old pair of Gypsum when I realised the soles were starting to deteriorate such that they might have let me down days from anywhere. On reflection I realise that I have waked over 3,000 km in these shoes and they are still quite serviceable for daily walks – so no complaints there! Just as clearly though I needed a new pair of shoes.

I would only have Easter Saturday morning to buy them.- and I needed size 8 1/2s. Much frenzied ringing around informed me that my only accessible alternative was a pair of Marshall from a local retailer, so I bought them and off we went. Carrying that extra 450 grams of water on each foot for a week certainly took some of the gloss off our otherwise wonderful walk. In retrospect I would have been much better off taking my old pair of Redback leather boots which though they start off dry around 100 grams heavier, would have been over 300 grams lighter when wet – a certainty in Fiordland. I would also like to issue a further warning: I switched out the shoe liners for a pair of orthotic liners which I thought would be more comfortable. These liners took on and held 100 grams of water per shoe as well! Double disaster! Lesson: 1. Test and weigh long before you go. 2. Make sure you have pretty new shoes ready before any big trip!

I have advanced the suggestion to Keen that they test weigh all their boots wet, after five minutes walking after they are wet and after a number of hours drying and that they post this data along with their dry weights. I offered to repost all this data on my website right here, but they say they are not in the business of weighing wet shoes – which is a great pity. Perhaps they will change their minds? The sales representative I spoke to at Keen though owned a pair of the new Versatrail himself which he kindly tested for me. I can state that they add about 150 grams when wet much the same as my old Gypsum, Targhee2 and my new Voyageurs. (I haven’t tested the new Targhee or Gypsum)

I have now bought a new pair of Targhee 2, Gypsum and Voyageur shoes, all in 8 ½. The new Gypsum and Targhee 2 weigh around 520 dry (a significant increase for my old Targhees which were size 8 – I hope they have not changed the lining) and the Voyaguers around 425 dry per shoe. The Voyageur added 150 grams when wet some of which pumped out after a few steps. They have lost 50 grams overnight in fairly cool air so I daresay they would dry on my feet in about half an hour as my old Gypsums and Targhees usually do.

As the Voyaguers start off 100 grams lighter and are 100 grams lighter when wet. I suggest they will become my default hiking shoe. The new Versatrail is (apparently) marginally lighter still (and quick drying etc) but does not have such an aggressive sole so might be more appropriate on formed walking paths than in the back-blocks.

I am unaware of any shoe manufacturer who will tell you the wet weight of their shoes. They are also liable to change the composition of shoes without notice too so that anew pair might be different in this regard than your old ones. I have a whole basket of (new) shoes which I will never again wear as they either have this (too heavy wet) defect or the other main serious defect that they will  not grip on wet surfaces. As well as stating dry and wet weights manufacturers ought to be required to state a coefficient of friction for their soles both wet and dry.

I will update this post if I hear from any of them – and after I have tested out my new Targhee and Gypsum. I also like their sandals:

See also:

PS: If you are in Australia, We bought  five pairs of Keens from these folk yesterday (from A$50 per pair – a saving of hundreds of dollars!). They were cheaper even than I could buy them on the net: They have a huge range, stocking pretty much no other shoe brand – plus some backpacks, etc.

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