Footwear Review. Keen WK400
I don’t do a huge number of equipment reviews these days and do even fewer for items of footwear.
All decent outdoor equipment will comfortably exceed the needs of the vast majority of hillwalkers, so disentangling the minor differences between brands and models often feels as pointless as medieval clerics arguing over the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin.
There are however, exceptions.
I will always take notice if someone introduces an item that represents incredible value, or if something comes to market that pushes the boundaries of performance in a positive direction.
Late last year, the good people at Keen Footwear sent me something to try out, and, after three months of wear, it is clear that the WK 400 walking shoe definitely, pushes the boundaries. Pushes them a lot, in fact. Here’s my tuppenceworth on a fairly radical design.
The WK400 comes in a variety of bright colours as well as the relatively neutral, grey that they sent me. The standout visible feature is the curved sole unit. Keen have taken the running ‘Super shoe’ format, popularised by Nike et al, and have tried to see how far they can take it in a walking shoe.
The thick midsole is a high-energy, high rebound foam which is backed up internally by a stiff plastic plate to give maximum energy transfer and reduce the effort required per step.
Lacing is offset to the outside to follow the shape of the foot and the midfoot is held by an elasticated internal sock.
Not Keen’s widest but much more accommodating than a standard Hoka or Adidas shoe. This provides a reasonably generous fit, and plenty of toe space for most wider hoofed folks. The support and stability offered by the basic shoe is way above the norm in the sports or outdoor market and this affected my choice of insole quite a bit. I normally use fairly substantial Superfeet Running footbeds but switched to a pair of Superfeet Black's, as the comfort was better. If you normally wear quite a solid orthotic you may want, likewise, to trade down to something a bit easier going.
The proof of the pudding.
The WK400s arrived while it was snowing outside, and temperatures were sub-zero. From these conditions I learned that their excellent ventilation and breathability aren’t always a good thing. The grip was absolutely fine on snow, dirt, and smooth urban surfaces. Performance on ice was as adequate as any other non-winter-specific rubber and glacier trekking is hardly what this shoe is made for, so it did fine when asked to do more than its designers envisaged.
The initial feeling, setting out for the first time is strange. The constant rocker action of the sole is unusual and does take a few steps to get used to, but when you do, Wow!
A longer stride, lower impact, less effort, and the ability to chew up the miles with impunity. I did a regular eight kilometre walk with a friend one evening and he commented that I was flying. At some point he will learn that it wasn’t down to my natural athleticism and all-round amazingness, but until then I’m taking the credit. Thanks, Keen.
After some flat wanders, they hit some hill trails and the results were equally positive. I was a little wary, initially, of descents. I had mental images of me speeding inexorably downhill and crashing in a heap at the bottom like Wile E. Coyote. That turned out to be no more than the fever dream of an overactive imagination.
Over the next few months, they were used for all manner of trail and road walking and have become a regular companion on local strolls. They are light, comfortable and really do make walking easier, smoother and lower impact.
Only two. One is that in rural Ireland, in the winter, a waterproof version would be nice. Please. The other is that although these are marvellous to walk in, I found them much less enjoyable to wear at work when I would spend a lot of time on my feet but without moving much. The rocker design then just puts too much pressure under the midfoot for my personal comfort. So if you work in a warehouse or are manning a stand at a trade show and expect to be vertical but immobile then these may not be ideal.
Positive final note.
These are super shoes and really add something beyond a new colour, to the options available in a crowded outdoor market. As well as smoothing out the road for me locally, they would certainly be in the frame for use on long-distance trails such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain, or any of Ireland’s established greenways. They could also be a huge enabler for anyone with lower leg or foot problems that involve a limited range of joint movement. They would remove a lot of strain and pressure from anyone who had a fused big toe or who had reduced ankle flexion. Try them.
The WK400s were a joy to test, and I would like to thank Keen Footwear for sending me a pair to play with.
For further information Official KEEN® Site | Largest Selection of KEEN Shoes, Boots & Sandals | KEEN Footwear健康
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