Even though I love most Keen footwear (I even write haikus to their wonderfully unchanging Newport H2 sandals), I have had trouble getting a good fit from any of their sturdier hiking shoes. My usual size 12 is a bit too short resulting in smashed toes on descents while 13s are just loose enough for blister inducing heel slippage. Keen stops their half sizes at 12 and above like many manufacturers. The Koven seems to hit the sweet spot, however, in my usual size 12. Here are my initial impressions:
In short, these shoes feel great. The following statement will probably sound laughable in a world obsessed with ultralight and minimalist philosophies, but I almost felt like I could comfortably do some trail running in these.
PERFORMANCE & FUNCTION
The 4mm lugs on the Koven soles provided enough traction and grip to keep me trekking steadily through slick, muddy terrain full of rocks and roots. They also did a pretty good job of finding some grip on the impossibly slick, mossy limestone creek bed I trekked through. The waterproof membrane performed perfectly as I made sure to submerge my foot a few inches in the creek water several times for multiple durations. The shank in the shoe definitely provided good stability over rocks and roots without being overly stiff. Lastly, the breathable waterproof membrane combined with a lot of mesh venting in the design kept my feet nice and cool on a warm, humid day that left every square inch of my t-shirt completely soaked with sweat.
|The 4mm lugs on the Kovens offer solid traction and the shank provides stability without being overly stiff.|
Keen's "Keen.DRY" membranes provide excellent
waterproofing and good ventilation.
As I continue to wear these shoes and get more trail time with them, I’ll update this section in particular.
My initial impression is that my years-long quest is finally over, and I have finally found a mid-weight Keen hiker that fits my foot well. I hope Keen will continue to make this model. These shoes are comfortable out of the box, appear very well made, perform solidly on rugged terrain, and seem to offer excellent ventilation even with a waterproof liner. I would recommend these for day hikers and lightweight backpacking trips, especially in wet weather.
UPDATE - OCTOBER 22, 2014
So, after six weeks or so, I've had these Kovens on many day hikes short and long. This past weekend, I just finished a 15 mile backpacking overnighter with some VERY rocky, rugged terrain and significant elevation changes. I'm happy to report the Kovens have held up extremely well. Despite having trouble getting a good fit in my size with other Keen hikers, the Kovens have proven to be perfect - no toe-bunching on descents or any other issues. The waterproofing is also impressive. I stood in a river halfway up the shoe for a long time photographing a waterfall and the membrane never saturated or soaked through. I am very happy with these shoes. Now, please keep this model in production, Keen, rather than just manufacturing for one season!
NOTE: The Kovens also come in standard model without a waterproof membrane for those who prefer maximum ventilation.