Review: KEEN Venture Hiking ShoesGear
Written by Tom Hill // Photography by Johny Cook
ITEM: KEEN Venture Waterproof Hiking Shoe
STYLE: Lightweight Hiking Shoe
ACTIVITY: Fast and light hiking
WHAT THEY SAY: Get ready to go full blast. With a lightweight upper, locked-in fit, and higher-traction outsole, this waterproof hiking shoe is faster, lighter, and sleeker, and is purposely built to perform on the trail.
I pad my way up the rocky north ridge of Tryfan. My palms flat against the rough, ancient volcanic rock, I press the ball of each foot into the slab below me. I can almost hear my KEEN Venture shoes gripping as black rubber makes contact and settles in place. I lift a foot deliberately, gently, and raise it a little further, jamming it into a corner crack as I create a line that balances difficulty, fun and risk – the essence of play – to the summit.
It is my third day in a pair of shoes that have carried me from city-centre Manchester to my current precipitous position. Despite their bright orange, the Ventures blend in to the urban landscape better than a traditional pair of hiking boots. So much so that they are probably the least conspicuous part of someone bounding through the city centre with a stuffed rucksack and holding a map. I make the short journey from coffee shop to train station with the kind of spring in my step that is only brought on by the prospect of adventure.
When I reach Wales, the 5km of hiking are hardly a test. Maintained track means easy going all the way to the foot of Aber Falls. It’s hard to comprehend the size of the drop, especially as it is so accessible. It won’t be the last time on this trip that I am left astonished by the beauty and ruggedness that our congested isle has to offer with just a little effort. Sometimes a bit more effort is worth it too, though. I climb the steeply pitched footpath to the side of the falls, thankful for the minimal weight of the Ventures compared to high-top boots. The trail is quickly broken by scree and I am left to find my own way up the hanging valley behind the drop, following Afon Goch to its source. I start by hopping between dry patches of ground, but as the bowl of the hillside widens and seemingly fills, I am forced to hike through springtime bogs. In the still evening, all I can hear is the brushing of my feet against tussocks and the audible clue as to how wet my next foot placement is. I watch peaty water pour over the front of the Ventures, beading and running off the KEEN.DRY fabric in the same way it does over the rocks in the stream to my side.
It takes longer than I expect to reach the bothy that night, and darkness has already fallen by the time I slide the heavy bolt and swing open the green painted door. It takes much less time before I am sitting in a chair by the fire, sipping whisky and slipping my shoes off. My feet steam in the warmth, twisting shapes caught in the beam of my head torch.
The early spring warmth of my first day has been torn away overnight. From the comfort of the bothy window, I can see the beige mountain grass bending under the force of the gusts that slam into the side of my small mountain hut. Squalls of rain push through and rainbows briefly light up the hillside. There is so much beauty in this meteorological drama being played out in front of me that once again I am reminded of the old adage that there is no such thing as bad weather. Conditions may have been more challenging than benign sunshine, but the reward was plain to see.
My day was interspersed by bleak hillsides and the lushest of forests, saturated landscapes and saturated colours. I pulled my hood up and down countless times, but my feet stayed warm and dry as I hopped rocks through swollen rivers and brushed through thick carwash-like foliage.
This time, my destination would be improvised; a clearing in the trees no larger than the footprint of my tarp, with the tall conifers giving almost as much shelter as the sheet of nylon that I strung up below them. There was still a psychological homeliness to being under cover, though, and an instant warmth as I slipped out of damp clothes and into my sleeping bag. The KEEN Ventures had provided the same during the day – they might not have been able to work miracles and stop the slow seepage of damp down my socks to my feet, but they kept my toes warm and feeling dry (no doubt thanks to the breathable KEEN.DRY fabric) and my morale high in sopping conditions.
Seventy-two hours is a long time in mountains. It’s not even a blink compared to the age of the hills that I pass through, but it is long enough for the weather to swing once more. And with the sun comes the opportunity to aim high, leaving the folds and shelter of the valleys. Despite the previous rain, the wind and sun has dried Tryfan completely by the time I reach Llyn Ogwen. Cinching up the KonnectFit lacing, and securing my feet in the Ventures, I follow the start of the path up before deliberately seeking alternatives. Those bright orange shoes are not so bright any more, after repeated boggy dips, but they stand out against the greys of the rock beneath them. I place my trust in their grip once more and scramble towards the top.
For more on this story visit sidetracked.com/venture-out.
In addition to the shoe featured here, there is also a Mid version available for £129.99. For more information on the KEEN Venture Waterproof Hiking Shoe, visit keenfootwear.com/en-gb/venture and follow KEEN on Instagram @keeneurope.