As a rule, when I’m looking for something to shod my feet for a bit of a ramble I tend to go for shoes. Historically I’ve found boots a bit on the chunky side, and with all the extra ankle padding stuff I’ve felt it’s just more things to rub and hurt you… and don’t get me started on the phaff and nonsense of tying the laces!
So it was with interest that I opened the box and set my eyes on the Keen Departs. First thing that you notice is that they are super slimline and lightweight (a quick weigh on my scales reveals a boot to be just under 300 grams.) The sole on them is noticeably lower profile than any of my walking shoes, and several pairs of regular shoes.
The leather was also an interesting shade of dark green – ‘im indoors, who seems to know too much about these things called them “a nice shade of teal” a departure from the more traditional ‘outdoorsy’ shades of brown.
I’ve now had these boots on a very long-term test, and in that time they have been on my feet daily – from nipping to the shops to walking the dog around the block, and on some longer 10-mile-ish rambles.
First thing to comment on is that super skinny sole; initially I thought that I would be able to feel every stone and twig, but whilst they are responsive, your foot is nicely cushioned. They also have a big rubbery bit that comes up and protects the toes. This is quite important if, like me, you are a bit clumsy, as it protects ones toenails rather nicely and it also shields them whilst kicking assorted balls for the dog.
The tread on the sole looks a bit like that on my car, and has done a great job of gripping on downhill muddy paths in the forest and wet pavements in town. A plus for me is that because the tread is not deeply rutted you don’t end up carrying loads of mud home with you and thus distributing it round your car and house. (I’m not a big fan of hoovering!)
One last thing to say about the sole is that it is built with a contoured arch. This is obviously “a big thing” as it is printed on the shoe… I think this means it gives you more mid foot support which is particularly good for people with high arches. I’m not aware that mine are particularly high, but it certainly adds to the comfort level. [Ed: Arch support is important for reducing the stress and stretch on the ligaments in your foot, particularly over longer periods of wear. Always invest in the correct level of arch support for your own foot, and consider orthotic insoles if you need greater support.]
As they are a boot design they offer some ankle protection, but it is not as high or rigid as more serious looking hiking boots but its more than sufficient to protect against a bit of ankle rolling. And because they are not as architectural as more hardcore boots, getting in and out of them is a breeze, – there is no need for multiple adjustments to the laces, you just slap you feet in them, tie and bow and off you go.
As mentioned, these have been on a long term test of nearly 8 months now and they were comfy straight out of the box. I found the sizing to be very accurate and a super bonus is that they didn’t require any of the painful breaking in that you sometimes experience with heavier boots. Very, very occasionally – and there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to when or why this happens – my little toes get a little bit hot-spot feeling, this lasts for no more than 5mins and it goes again, with absolutely no damage to my feet, all very odd.
The waterproofing remains as good as it has been – double checked again by dumping my feet in a mucky puddle this morning.
The tongue of the boot is a mesh fabric which is designed to help keep the feet cool – this does sort of work, but I have noticed after 8 hours or so of wear, or a longer walk (3 hours) in the sunshine my socks are a bit sweaty.
After all this time they are looking seriously lived in, which is only fair as they have been lived in! The teal green is now more “obsidian” according to ‘im indoors… think that means very mucky dark green/blue. The mid-sole is starting to come away from the main boot where your ball of your foot naturally bends – this is not great, but I have worn these daily, some days all day – which is a great deal more than your regular user so I’m not going to grumble too much about that.
After a 3 hour hike earlier today I switched out of them into another pair of outdoor shoes so I could have a proper look to write this review and it was noticeable how less supported my feet felt in this other pair. So from me it’s a double thumbs up and I will happily wear these boots until they fall off my feet.
More: Search internet for availability (no longer on Keen’s webpage)