Now, I’m not saying that these are the most impressive boots I’ve ever tested, but I’m only not saying that because I’ve done a fair amount of standing around in the cold over the last week whilst wearing them and I’ve gotten really cold toes. But, if I was to cast that aside then I actually do think that these Aphlex boots from Keen are well up there with the most comfortable and capable boots I’ve reviewed in the last 5 years.
Firstly, and most strikingly for me as a reviewer, they’re nothing like all the other Keen boots I’ve tested. These are super light, super flexible… almost high-ankled running shoes rather than the thicker boots with big ol’ toe bumpers that we’ve seen from Keen before. When I first saw them at a trade show I was taken aback at how un-Keen they were and that’s the reason we requested a pair to try out.
And over the last couple of months they’ve taken a real hammering. They’ve been worn on hot days and on icy fields, up crags and in bogs, and pretty much everywhere in between. And they have been SUPERB.
The upper is a very lightweight synthetic mesh more akin to a running shoe than a boot, and it’s lined with a Keen-Dry membrane which, to date, hasn’t let a drop of water through. There was one time I stood up to my knees in a stream and they filled with cold water, but aside from that the interior has dealt with all manner of puddle, brook and ice with no bother at all. And on the flip-side they’ve not ever been overly sweaty either.
Looking at the sole you’d be forgiven for thinking that the thin lugs would be less grippy than a “bigger” boot, but I’ve not suffered any slips and they’ve been stable on pretty much every surface. The mid-sole is well cushioned and you feel protected, rather than distanced, from the trail with enough feedback to know where your foot is.
The toe bumper is smaller than most other Keen boots, but still significant enough to protect your tootsies from kicking rocks, and protect that seemingly delicate upper from any scree. You can kick a step to knock mud off the soles without breaking a toenail, which is handy when you forget how light the boots are.
About the weight, they come it at about 500g, which is 110g lighter than an alternative leather Keen boot (that’s two Mars Bars of difference!) and you feel that difference after a good hike. You don’t get that fatigued feeling that you can sometimes get with a heavier boot. In fact, these are so light when on that I’ve been known to wear them as house-shoes (we have flagstone floors, which are freezing cold in winter).
The height of the Aphlex is mid-ankle, but with a deeply curved achilles section that means you can point your toes easily and it won’t rub. The lacing system is OK and does allow you to strap yourself in for a rougher terrain, but there’s never going to be as much support as with a rugged boot – the synthetic upper moves a lot with your foot, so it’s possible to roll over on your ankle. That said, the cuff is really comfortable and being so low it allows a lot of sweat out of the boot quickly and easily. And a generous (glove compatible) loop allows you to put the boots on easily too.
They Aphlex come in at £119, which is a really good price when you compare it to something with a Gore membrane instead of an own-brand version, but to my mind the Keen-Dry system is as good as Gore for real-world use and I’ve never had cause the worry about damp feet in these boots. I’d be very happy to pay that for a pair.