Review: KEEN Karraig Waterproof BootsGear
ITEM: KEEN Karraig Waterproof Boots
STYLE: Multi-day Walking boots
WEIGHT: 1620g (pair, size UK12)
WHAT THEY SAY: For adventures deep in the backcountry, dependable comfort is key. This waterproof backpacking boot features board-lasted construction for added stability plus a heel brake for extra support on the descent.
Consult pretty much any Ordnance Survey map in England and Wales, and you’ll find the word ‘beacon’ scattered across the hills and high places. The name comes from their use as lighthouses or signal fires to warn of coming invaders. The Brecon Beacons in Wales, for example, were used to warn of the coming English army, and many hills along the south coast first became ‘beacons’ during Elizabethan times to warn of the Spanish Armada. One of these beacons was our destination on a cold but dry January day; the kind of day with low sunshine, frozen puddles and crispy grass.
The Worcestershire Beacon is the high point of the Malvern Hills, a stretch of upland running 13km along the Hereford-Worcestershire border, and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. On a clear day, you can see the Welsh border mountains and the Shropshire Hills, the Cotswold Hills, and the Bristol Channel. From this 425m peak, you can look into 13 counties.
We spent the day walking in the Malvern Hills to test out KEEN’s new Karraig boots: footwear specifically designed for days like this, for hills like this. The Karraig boot is created for the British hills and mountains and described as their most technical boot yet. So what does that mean when you’re on the hill?
KEEN is a company based in Portland, Oregon, a place with a similar climate and terrain to our wet northern islands, but most of their previous boots have been swayed towards the US market – one dominated by dry, rocky ground.
KEEN has quietly become a favourite for trekkers around the world, however, thanks to the game-changing comfort of their boots. You can walk for days in them without any issues.
The Karraig’s designers have made a boot with that trademark comfort, but with elements enhanced for Northern European soil. Firstly, the lug pattern on the underside is now much more aggressive; there’s a lot of slippery, muddy ground here. Starting up the steep eastern flank of Worcestershire Beacon, on ground trodden for centuries, the difference between these and previous KEEN boots I’ve tried became apparent. The grip was confident even in the wet mud thanks to the wide, 4mm lugs that dug into the earth like spikes. Descending after a long day out, the distinctive heel ‘brake’ again felt very surefooted.
Across its sandals, shoes, and boots, KEEN has also become known for its protective toe cap: a feature boosted in the Karraig. The high-abrasion rubber tip offers excellent protection when scrambling, for example, and against any abrasion. The rest of the upper is made from durable leather, and mesh along the tongue. Although we’ve only been testing these for a couple of weeks, it has proven resilient to northern winters.
The lacing is distinctive too, and a genuine bonus to the boot. Near the top, there’s an extra cord eyelet that we’ve not seen on other boots. The cord subtly pulls in around the heel to offer a positive fit, and a couple of eyelets down, the lacing is attached to another cord that draws in around the ankle. It is lacing that can be fine tuned for a perfect fit.
The toebox, as you’d expect from KEEN, is very wide. This means comfort straight out of the box, but more importantly, the boots are still comfortable when the foot swells after long days and multi-day treks. The cushioning too is classic KEEN: spongy, but not at the expense of durability. The PU midsole combined with an EVA footbed rebounds well, moving with the foot but remaining torsionally stable on rough ground.
The KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane is proven and offers a decent amount of breathability, and the lacing comes up relatively high. They do run warm, but comfortably so in these conditions. There’s also an anti-odour treatment.
These are boots made for days like the one we tested them on. Full days out, clocking up the miles, tested against rain and frigid northerly winds. And that’s at the crux of this boot: the Karraig is quality made (in Europe), from heel to toe.