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Keen vs Merrell: Who Makes the Best Hiking Footwear?

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Keen and Merrell are two impressive brands that design hiking footwear. They are wildly popular among outdoor enthusiasts and for good reason, they make awesome outdoor kicks.

There is a trend in the hiking community to move from traditional hiking boots to a more lightweight and comfortable option. Two of the major players in the lightweight hiking footwear game are Keen and Merrel. Both companies design lightweight hiking shoes that are made with comfort and versatility in mind.

Benefits of Keen and Merrell Footwear (Shoes)

There is a common line of thinking in the hiking world that you can wear any shoe for hiking. While any old pair that you have in the closet will work, a shoe that is made for hiking has a number of benefits over an old pair found in the closet.

1. Light on your feet

The more weight that you carry on your body the more energy you use carrying it. There is a saying in the hiking community: “a pound on your feet equals five on your back.” There are several studies that support this claim and the basic concept is simple enough, lighten your load on your feet and you lighten the load on your body.

2. Limit blisters on your feet

Blisters on your feet are the worst and hiking with blisters is a real pain in the ass, or feet. Hiking boots have rigid heels and lack ventilation which both are both reasons that blisters form on your feet.

Hiking shoes have excellent ventilation and don’t have rigid heels, in other words, blisters are much harder to get in a comfortable pair of hiking shoes.

3. Quick drying

Waterproof is an overused term in the hiking world and there are no hiking boots or shoes that are completely waterproof. Hiking shoes that are made of breathable material dry quickly. So if you’re feet do get wet (they will) you can count on lightweight hiking shoes to dry out quickly.

4. Ankle support not required

Ankle support is important, but not THAT important. One of the biggest reasons that boot companies push the ankle support aspect of their product is simple, to sell more boots.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the best way to prevent ankle injuries is to:

  • Stretch before you exercise
  • Strengthen the muscles around your ankles
  • Improve your balance

Hiking shoes may not offer the same amount of ankle support, however, that doesn’t mean that shoes of any kind actually prevent ankle injuries.

5. Hiking shoes are less of an investment than boots

Hiking boots are expensive and take a long time to break in before they are 100% trail ready. Hiking shoes are a lightweight and cost-effective alternative that are comfortable right away. They are more comfortable and more affordable, two damn good reasons to consider hiking shoes from Merrell and Keen.


Keen is a footwear company based in Portland, Oregon that was officially founded in 2005 by Martin Keen, however, they designed their first shoe in 2003. They found a niche in the sailing community, however, they have since found a following by all outdoor enthusiasts. Keens have a reputation of being a durable and affordable shoe that bridges that gap between hiking, sailing, and relaxing.

They take social responsibility seriously and since 2003 have donated $15 million to nonprofit organizations and good causes all around the world…

“We seek to be a change engine for good business, as cause-leaders and difference-makers in an unapologetic pursuit of our values. We are working to leave the world a better place than we found it. We approach this three basic ways: 1) Giving Back, 2) Taking Action, and 3) Reducing Our Impact.”

Features and options:

  • Waterproofing
  • Cleansport NXT odor control
  • Breathable membrane
  • Stability shank (ESS)
  • Regular and wide fit
  • UVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) or PU (Polyurethane) midsoles
  • Replacement insoles
  • Proprietary rubber soles
Keen Newport H2 Sandal
452 Reviews
Keen Newport H2 Sandal
  • Washable polyester webbing
  • Made in the USA and Imported
  • Non-marking rubber outsole with razor siping sole
  • Platform measures approximately 1.5


Merrell was founded in 1981 when all-American Olympian Clark Matis and John Schweizer teamed up with Randy Merrell to create a more affordable hiking boot. They applied a “no compromise” method to boot making by combining American cowboy boot technology and Italian manufacturing. Their original “wilderness boot” had thick leather soles that were designed to last a decade, quality leather, and Merrell’s signature blue laces which they still use today.

Merrell makes all of their products with their “core” values in mind: comfort, design, durability, and versatility. This translates into a product that is well thought out from beginning to end to cover every aspect of the perfect outdoor hiking shoe and boot.

Features and options:

  • Full boot waterproofing
  • Seam-sealed waterproofing
  • Ventilated
  • Insulated linings
  • Air cushion
  • Vibram soles
  • Comfortable midsole
  • Outsole
  • Lug pattern
  • Heel brake
Merrell Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe
7,811 Reviews
Merrell Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe
  • Pigskin leather and mesh upper
  • Traditional lace closure
  • Bellows tongue keeps out debris
  • Protective toe cap

Keen vs Merrell Comparison

Both companies make hiking shoes that are well-known and loved throughout the hiking community. We’re going to break down the most important aspects of a piece of outdoor footwear.


When you build a house you start with the foundation, the same thing goes with a hiking shoe. The soles of a hiking shoe take the most impact on a daily basis and are the most susceptible to failure.

A thin sole and you’ll feel every rock and twig under your feet, a super thick sole is going to be awkward and heavy. Both Keen and Merrell use different rubber soles that find a good balance of design and functionality.

  • Merrell uses Vibram soles which are known for being long-lasting, durable, and providing excellent grip on a variety of surfaces.
  • Keen uses a proprietary rubber sole that they produce in-house that provides great traction and grip.


If the soles are the foundation then the footbed is the hardwood floors that you walk all over. The footbed of a hiking shoe should be comfortable while adding support to the arches of your feet.

  • Merrell uses their M-Select FIT footbed which is an EVA contoured footbed that provides good heel and arch support.
  • Keen has a metatomical footbed which is an internal support system anatomically engineered to provide excellent arch support and cradle the natural contours of the foot the com in low, medium, and high arch footbeds.

Water resistance

Any shoe can handle a casual hike in dry weather. The one factor that can make a hike enjoyable or miserable is how they handle getting wet, whether that’s getting caught in a torrential downpour or coming to a point you have to cross a river. Being able to handle wetness and dry quickly makes a huge difference in comfort level.

  • Merrell uses M-Select Dry technology is waterproof technology that keeps your feet dry and is moisture wicking so it dried quickly.
  • Keen uses a lightweight mesh lining that’s breathable and waterproof. If your feet end up getting wet you can count on the shoes drying off quickly.


Both Keen and Merrell have a reputation for making hiking footwear that is made of high-quality material and built to last. This is one of the many reasons that both brands have built a reputation as a reliable and consistent player in the outdoor footwear game. You can count on their hiking shoes to take a beating and still perform like new.

  • A good way to get honest reviews of how long a shoe will last (durability) is to talk to someone who has owned a pair. If you don’t know anyone who has worn the shoe before, head online and read reviews so you can make the best choice.


Comfort is king when it comes to outdoor footwear that is going to put to the test week in and week out. Everything that you do in the outdoors should feel good, both mentally and physically. Both companies offer comfortable shoes that are fit for a wide variety of activities.


So, which hiking shoe is the clear winner, Keen or Merrell? Unfortunately, it would be irresponsible and silly for us to tell you which one is best for you.

One thing can be said for certain, both Keen and Merrell makes a hiking shoe for any and all outdoor activities. They both have advantages and disadvantages, no piece of hiking footwear is perfect. The trick is finding which one you love that gives you another reason to spend more time outdoors!

Hopefully, you have a better idea what these shoes are all about and you find the perfect pair for your feet!

Keep calm and hike on.

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