Review: Keen Utility Work Boots - All Terrain / All the Time

If you've been following this blog for any length of time you've noticed that my standard, weekend-warrior formal-wear consists of a t-shirt, cargo shorts, and a pair of work boots. I've been a work boot wearing dude for years. Heck, I don't even own a decent pair of athletic shoes, anymore. Maybe that's what the people from KEEN noticed when they contacted me to ask if I'd like to take one of their new utility footwear products out for a spin.

I jumped at the chance. I was familiar with Keen's footwear and loved the pair I already owned. The difference is, my original pair wasn't for working. (I didn't even know Keen made work wear.) You see, if I'm not wearing casual/dress shoes at work or not not climbing ladders and making sawdust on the weekend, I'm likely to be wearing Keen sandals. Admittedly, I've done some projects wearing sandals, mostly little DIY handy projects around the house or completely do-nothing projects around the beaches of San Diego or the red rocks and forests of Sedona in one of our rare leisure trips.

Now that is my kind of weekend work. Tough stuff. 
We'd been a Keen's family for years. Based on our experience with the sandals, they are worth the price tag. They are tough as heck and super comfortable. The only thing they haven't figured out is why my teenage son's pair mysteriously keep getting too small, forcing us to buy one replacement pair after another. I think they should come with some sort of warning about that.

A family's worth of colorful Keen's. Mine are 2 yrs old (left). 
In choosing boots, I poured through the Keen Utility website with the same focused intensity and desire that my brother and I used to pay to the Sears toy catalog when a new line of Star Wars toys came out. I finally picked a pair of boots, chock-full of features I like. I also found my style, with more of a hiking boot look.

I chose the Braddock Mid AL WP, in Ensign Bluea good looking, leather boot.

photo from

The Braddock had a lot of features that I like in a boot. For those of you that are comparison-loving detail peeping junkies like me, here are the specs from the manufacturer's site:
  • American Built
  • Direct attach outsole for superior bonding
  • KEEN.DRY ™ waterproof breathable membrane
  • Left and right asymmetrical steel toes
  • Lining with hydrophobic/hydrophilic 2-zone comfort technology
  • Meets or exceeds ASTM F1677-96 Mark II non-slip testing standards
  • Meets or exceeds ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75 EH standards
  • Oil and slip resistant non-marking rubber outsole
  • Removable metatomical dual density EVA footbed
  • Waterproof nubuck leather upper
The boots were delivered to my doorstep in a few days. To give them a full run though, I laced them them up and wore them to the office, on casual Friday. They looked just fine with a pair jeans, a polo shirt, and just enough pre-weekend beard stubble. I got a few compliments from other dudes (on the boots, not the stubble). I work with a bunch of tradesmen and ex-tradesmen. These guys know work boots, since they spend most of their life in them.

Clean Keen's. Remember what they look like.
When I placed the order, I'd gone with my normal size for boot, men's 11, which seems to be about a full size smaller than I wear in shoes, depending on the brand. These fit perfectly and comfortably. I've worn boots in the past that felt like tennis shoes and I've worn boots that felt like cinder blocks, that take a month to break in, leaving me limping in the evening. These were perfect. They felt like a boot, but were comfortably broken in that first day.

One feature that got tested that first day was the non-slip sole. I've slipped many times on a particular piece of sidewalk at work that gets slick when the sprinklers go on. This time, I tried to slide (you know,... for science and reviewing purposes). No dice. They gripped like Spider Man. 

I wore them after work and on weekends for two weeks solid. I grocery shopped, went to kid's birthday parties, restaurants, walks around the neighborhood, and up and down the bleachers of high-school robotics competitions. I even braved the grand-daddy of all foot-cramping city hikes, the massive parking lot, winding ramps, and concrete floor of the University of Phoenix Stadium for the Phoenix Home and Garden Show. Aisle after aisle of manufacturers, contractors, pots and pan demonstrators, and financing companies assailed us with their pitches. I walked the whole dang thing.

Others in my party needed additional motivation to hike the whole show.
The boots were comfortable, no blisters, no sore feet.

Finally, I took them into real battle, actual work in rough terrain to do some hammer slinging and power tool stuff. You can read my last post to see just what the heck I'm doing, but trust me, I put these boots through their paces, including a solid sledge hammer strike to the toe. Thank goodness for the steel-armored toe reinforcement. I was able to walk, without a limp, into an ice cream shop that evening, instead of the emergency room. In my 100% unbiased opinion, I recommend ice cream shops over emergency rooms for an evening's entertainment.

"Sledge Hammer!"
                     - Peter Gabriel
I didn't pick them because of the steel toe, in fact, I normally don't like steel toes. Not that I'm toe-safety adverse, but I hate what happens to most steel toe boots. My last pair of steel toes got all scuffed up and even wore right through the toe leather down to the steel, the first week. They were a premier brand boot too, with a premier price tag, but they quickly looked like premier crap.

See? I can't even wear them with my tuxedo any more.
Granted, I don't exactly flit about daintily while I'm working; I don't give a thought to taking care of or protecting my boots when I work. I  kneel down, kick stuff, crawl on my hands and knees, step in water, and do whatever it takes to get the job done. My boots take an outright beating. I treated the Keen boots no differently.

Don't try this in sandals. 
Maybe I'm a boot geek, but I absolutely love how the rubber sole, wraps up over the tip of the toe. It actually gives a little extra grip for balance when you are kneeling or working on hands and knees. At the end of a hard weekend of it, there wasn't even a scuff, much less any sign of the steel toe busting through.

I can't imagine the sole peeling off - (Been there. Done that.)
I'm not sure Keen really thought I'd beat the hell out of these boots when they offered to have me try them out, but that's what I did. They survived, so did my feet. 

Messy Keen's. Scroll back up to see clean ones.

The Verdict? 

I love 'em. Here's why:

Comfort - The soles are soft enough for grip and comfort, but tough enough for support. They bend easily when crouching and don't pinch behind the steel toe like some boots I've worn in the past. I wore could wear them all day for walking, hiking, and working. With the breathable membrane, my feet never got hot and sweaty, and it was in the low 90's here in Arizona. They felt good.

I've beat my body up over the years. A solid supportive height is a must to keep me from rolling my ankle.  The padded cuff doesn't cut into my leg as thinner topped boots have in the past. At the end of a long day, my ankles don't hurt.

Toughness - I beat them up pretty good, but they don't show it (other than the heavy coating of stone dust). I love that rubber reinforcement over the toe. That steel toe is nice when you need it; you don't realize you even have it when you don't. The fact that they are waterproof, will come in handy at some point; the lack of this feature quickly kills a lesser boot.

Styling - Like I mentioned earlier, they're a nice looking boot. Of course, I'm going to have to clean this pair up a bit before I wear them out on date night. 

Other - I like little things that alone wouldn't make me buy them, but they are like the extra options you love in a new car. They included niceties like the non-slip sole, removable insoles. a meaty loop at the rear to help tug them on, a single pair of speed-lacing hooks, and what even seems to be a reflective strip in the center of the blue banding. I haven't found any blue-tooth connectivity yet though. 

This pair lists for $195, which sounds spendy, but that's just what a good pair of work boots goes for, sometimes more. Don't cheap out on your feet friends. I dang near crippled myself with foot pain after over-wearing a a pair of discount store boots years ago and vowed never to return the cheap side. I've only worn premier boots ever since and these Keen's are obviously premier boots, There's nothing I don't like about them, nothing I'd change. You'll be seeing a lot more of them in future posts. 

Thanks to Keen for providing a pair of boots to test.
 I chose the boots myself and opinions are 100% my own. 
This is a non-sponsored post.

There's Always a Bigger Hammer - The Paving Stone Demolition Experiment

I'm trying to remove the cemented-in mystery stone from our pool deck. The same stuff is on our patio, so if I'm successful, I may go after that area too. Why would I do that? Cause it's ugly, bad stuff.

You can read about this delightful stone in my last post about our upcoming swimming pool renovation if you like, or you can stay here for the hard-core, hammer-slammin' action.

To update progress on the renovation, I've had two pool contractors give renovation options and quotes for a total pool re-do / repair. The first contractor thought we could remove the mystery stone from the original deck, and cover it with brick pavers. The second promoted jack-hammering the deck down to dirt and starting from scratch, with a new acrylic coated concrete cool-deck.

We're considering both approaches, but the paver idea hinges on successfully removing the stone, and they want $2,000 to do that. Just to remove the stone, not to buy or install the pavers. Holy crap! I decided to see if I could do it myself.

The Next Big Thing - Swimming Pool Renovation

Necessity has once again led us to fail in keeping to our Strategic Doctrine of Inside-Out Home Renovation. The swimming pool continues to be unusable. First world problems right?

Wrong. Access to a swimming pool is a requirement here in the fierce desert southwest. In fact, when you get off an airplane, they check your luggage, just to make sure you have your suit with you. The Border Patrol prowls the edges of the state, making sure anyone attempting to enter without towels, inflatable float toys, squirt guns, and a pair of swim goggles is promptly sent back the other direction. God forbid you try to bring children here in the summer without intending to routinely hurl them into the cool, refreshing embrace of a sparkling, chlorinated aquatic wonder at least once a day.

Whist most of the country is emerging, bleary-eyed, from their winter hibernation homes, blinking at the sunlight like pale zombies, basking in temperatures approaching 60 degrees, we're eyeballing the pool, with temperatures already tickling the low 90's. Oh, it's time.

Shadow Mounting Small Art Pieces

My wife has had this beautiful heirloom crucifix for years. It is something beloved family members who have long since passed brought back from a trip to Rome.  We had it hanging, on a simple nail. in the living room over the entry to the kitchen / dining area before the remodel. After the remodel, with the crown molding and trim around the entry, it just wouldn't fit anymore.

I came up with this this little trick that I thought worked out quite nicely. For a change, I have a quick, little post to share instead of my normal monstrosities.

Using the magical powers of JB Weld, I affixed a large, flat headed screw to the back of the crucifix, roughly dead center.

The Home Automation Project: Garage Opener Door Edition

In my ongoing campaign to fill the house with electronic automation wizardry, the workshop / garage only makes sense for the next step. In addition to the camera that's integrated into the Inston system out there, I'm adding a garage door controller.

I teased this story a little bit in my last post. You know, the DIY Disaster one, where stuff got all explodey and smokey.

Let's just put that episode behind us, shall we?

My second order of stuff for the Inston system included this slick Garage Door Control and Status Kit. I'll be installing more cool expansion devices in the near future.

Insteon Garage Door and Status Kit. Device #43