The Keen Ridge Flex WP hiking boot is not for the shy and retiring of foot. Brand spanking new for 2021, the signature chunkiness and broad-of-forefoot Keen styling is alive and well here, along with a variety of innovations and some environmental credentials to seal the deal. Keen makes some of the best men's hiking boots and best women's hiking boots around – is this style amongst them? Read on for our full Keen Ridge Flex WP hiking boot review.
Keen Ridge Flex WP Hiking Boot review: design
There’s certainly plenty going on in the design stakes here, with an overall look that could be charitably described as ‘busy’. However, there’s some underlying tech innovation too, not least obvious in the sheer range of materials on show. Keen has started out with a relatively traditional leather boot, before adding multiple layers of protective overlay stitched in place, as well as a robust toecap. Leather is environmentally-sourced from LWG-certified tanneries that operate on a closed loop basis, according to Keen.
A generous thumb loop graces the rear, the webbing running around the boot to form part of the lacing system, which is also made of separate loops of the same webbing, itself boasting a reflective strand running through it. Internally there’s an in-house membrane ‘Keen Dry’, intended to keep toes breathable yet dry.
However, the big noise is the ‘bellows flex’ technology, which is essentially a corrugated TPU strip across the toe box, and another section in the heel. Keen’s concept here is to make the boot flex more easily, as well as handling the areas where repeated use causes the greatest wear and tear, such as cracking in a traditional boot.
Keen Ridge Flex WP: performance and comfort
Comfort is actually the Keen Ridge Flex WP’s superpower, offering a generously wide fit for most foot shapes, and a luxuriously padded ankle and heel capture system add plenty of plushness. The lacing system is more than enough to lock your foot in comfortably, and the thumb loop lets you drag the boots on easily when sitting in a tent doorway. They’re not the lightest boot, but not crushingly weighty, so a decent compromise for all-round walking in varied conditions.
The Bellows Flex concept does work very well, especially in the toe box. The insert is right in that inevitable crease which will form in every pair of boots, and while it’s hard to assess whether Keen’s claim that the Keen Ridge Flex WP takes 60% less energy to bend, it’s noticeably easy to wear. The boots feel like an old favourite straight out of the box, which is quite an achievement. Whether the TPU insert will last as long as a standard boot toe is another question, but it’ll probably outlast much of the rest of the boot anyway.
Finally, the outsole does a grand job of gripping varied terrain, the 5mm lugs feeling solid on muddy and grassy inclines, and perfectly sure-footed on paths and trails. The complex sole grooves can pick up claggier, clay-style mud, but not enough to hinder progress, and the toe cap fends off light scree with ease. The membrane certainly keeps water out, but as most of the foot is covered in leather the breathability is fairly limited. Not enough to be a major problem, but if you’re planning fast hikes in the height of summer then there are more breathable boots on the market.
Keen Ridge Flex WP Hiking Boot review: verdict
The Keen Ridge Flex WP hiking boots are overall a success, especially in the realm of comfort. The Bellows Flex does indeed make flexing the boot easier, and the build quality overall will stand the test of time too, especially the leather elements which really add robustness to the boot. Breathability is reasonable, but not astonishing, the traction is good, and the RRP very much in the market sweet spot.
The real headline here is comfort, the Keen Ridge Flex WP hiking boots are immediately wearable out of the box, ending the trauma of ‘wearing in’ boots for months in advance of a big trip. That’s not at the expense of robustness either, often the first thing to be traded for lightness and flexibility. These are the boots you need for long distance trails, treks and general footpath-bashing - a varied and beautiful way to get outdoors in any area and any conditions.