Keen no more

Keen Boston shoes in trash can

This photo taken at 10:12am in Milan, Italy on April 23, 2013 represents the precise point in time when I vowed never to buy another pair of Keen shoes. That’s my 3rd pair of Keen Boston shoes in the trash can in my hotel room. The first pair of Bostons I bought in 2005 and wore all over the World. I loved the quirky asymmetrical raised center seam and the go anywhere, do anything styling that could easily dress down with jeans and dress up with khakis. Their all day, any weather comfort made them my go-to shoes for tradeshows and other travel as well as regular wear at the office. After seven years of hard use the soles were worn slick and the leather was so rumpled and creased that they had begun garnering disapproving glances from my office mates.

Christmas morning I unwrapped a suspiciously shoe box shaped package and delighted at the brand new pair of Keen Boston IIs inside. Before I became too sentimental I fished the old pair from the closet and unceremoniously dropped them into the trash with the rest of the Christmas packaging flotsam and jetsam. I laced up the new Bostons confident they would carry me far and wide for the next several years.

Keen Boston sole delamination 1

Imagine my shock and surprise when only few days later I discovered that the sole was starting to pull away from the body on the inside of the left shoe! I immediately contacted Keen Customer Support on January 2nd and was directed to the warranty claim section of their website. I filled in the required information and waited patiently for a response that was promised to take no more than two weeks.

Keen Boston sole delamination 3

By January 21st my Bostons had pretty much completely fallen apart with the delamination having spread all the way across the left shoe. Having heard nothing from Keen, I dropped them a note and received a reply the next day saying my claim was approved. The note included a promo code for $95.00, the original purchase price of the shoes from Keen’s online store.

I happily navigated over to their online store and placed the order for my replacement Boston IIs. Right around February 1st my replacement Bostons arrived from Keen. Other than the brief delay, no real complaints about the replacement service.

Keen Boston color mismatch

I unpacked my new shoes and gave them a bit of a more thorough examination. While the soles appeared to be well attached, I was disappointed to see how poorly matched the color and texture of the right and left shoes were. I decided I could live with the color variation figuring that they would likely even out as they wore in.

February and March are peak snow season here in New York’s North Country, so my new Keen’s didn’t see much use until April as my snow boots were getting the daily duty. Then, on April 16, 2013 I departed for a 10 day romp through Europe to conduct some consumer research. As I would be spending pretty much all day everyday outside on my feet and doing tons of walking, the Bostons were my obvious first choice.

Keen Boston sole delamination 2

The first day of my trip in London I noticed a small gap appearing in the same exact spot on my left shoe as before. I continued wearing them through my work in Paris and onto Milan. Then, while working in a steady Spring rain in Milan the water started poring in and soaked my sock as the gap really opened up. I was thoroughly fed up by then, reached my tipping point and dropped them into the hotel trash can on my way to Poland. I had to revert to my running shoes as back up for the last half of my trip.

By now you’re probably thinking that this isolated event in of itself doesn’t necessarily warrant a wholesale boycott of Keen’s products (nor ranting about it on my blog for the World to read.) The problem is that this is just one more event in a long line of increasing disappointments for me coming from Keen over the past few years.

You see, I have been a BIG Keen fan since right after they hit the market in 2003. I purchased a pair of their original Newport sandals which I still have and use. I found that Keen’s unique last and squared-off toe box fit my feet better than any shoe I had ever worn. Plus I liked their unique, rugged and functional styling. I quickly added my original Bostons, a pair of Arroyos, a pair of Finlays and a pair of Targhee boots over the next couple of years. The Arroyos became my go-to choice for summer office wear and my regular trips to Southern China. That first pair of Arroyos lasted about four years. I posted an homage to them on my blog back in ‘09 when I replaced them that even made it onto the official Keen blog.

It was the replacement pair of Arroyos where the problems first began. While the first pair survived four years of hard abuse, I wore through the soles and shoelaces on the second pair in less than half that time and easily half the use. The third pair I bought last year is already showing signs of significant wear and the soles are starting to detach from the uppers. I doubt they will make it through the summer and they only see light duty weekend wear.

Checking my closet after returning from Italy I discovered that not only were my Arroyos coming apart, but so were my Targhee boots and my Finlays. In fact, both were so bad that they went in the trash, too. I can accept the fact that a $100 pair of shoes isn’t designed to last a lifetime. But after my poor experience trying to replace my Bostons, and the apparently rapidly deteriorating quality of their products, I’m not about to buy any more Keens. As Keen celebrates their 10th anniversary this year it seems they have fallen victim to their own success by trying to be too many things to too many people and have lost sight of what made them successful in the first place. And you know what, that’s a real shame since I have yet to find anything that fits me as well as they do on so many levels. Suggestions are welcome and appreciated.

14 Responses to “Keen no more”

  1. 1

    I have the same separation issue with a different model, and on yet another pair, the sole isn’t separating(yet) from the shoe, but after being out in rain there is noticeable white residue that leeches out from the sole/shoe interface. Ugh.

  2. 2

    Every pair of Keen’s I’ve owned have had the soles fall off. I am currently wearing this exact pair of Boston’s, and the left sole is almost completely off the shoe. Total junk. I have owned three pairs of Keens. One has already found it’s way to the garbage. This pair of Boston’s is heading there as well. I have a pair of hiking boots that are seperating as well. I will never buy Keens again, and will not recommend them to anybody. Junk Junk Junk.

  3. 3

    Same issue with my Keens. Boston 2. I was surprised that my feet were wet walking from the parking lot to work in the rain. Upon investigation the sole was separating from the upper shoe. They are 10 days old. I will try to return.

  4. 4

    i have an older pair of keens from 2005 or thereabout and looking for my next pair. they have been great shoes, but curious to see if the new ones are the same quality….

  5. 5

    I have had my Keen Boston II for just around 5 years. The signature “Keen” rubber toe has completely pulled away from the leather on the right toe.
    This is not a pair a shoes I wear regularly, maybe 5 times in a month. Albeit, they are 5 years old, but to have a product with a distinctive property to it and to have that distinctive property come up broken or malfunctioning seems bad. Won’t be buying again.

  6. 6

    I hav a pair of bostons and they have no issues. The insole is cupping quite a bit, but they are doing fine. They don’t seem to die. I wear them almost every day. I am an IT guy at a college with 14 buildings and walk about 8 miles a day.

  7. 7

    My first pair of Newport H2s lasted me something like 5 years. I bought them in 2003 when Keen was still a relatively unknown brand. I thought I had found my shoe company for life. Unfortunately, since then I’ve had several pairs fall apart after only a few months use. The toe guard separates from the webbing, the sole detaches from the foot beds, the stitching unravels, and/or the heel straps pull the foot bed away from the sole. On one of my returns I used the credit Keen gave me towards a custom pair of H2s. That was January 2015. It’s now September 2015 and the sole is detaching from the foot bed on the left shoe…and that’s after only occasional use. What the freak Keen?! I’m back to searching for a reliable brand. I won’t buy another pair of Keens.

  8. 8

    I have worn Keen shoes since 2003. The quality has always been great until recently. My Keen Portsmouth soles fell off after 6 months. Both left and right shoe sole fell off in my work office the same day. I then bought a pair of Keen Austin, In one week the soles began to fall off. Emailed Keen 3 times and no response. My older Keen Briggs soles wore off and never fell apart. Keen quality has gone way down hill. No more Keen shoes for me. Poor quality and they don’t back their product.

  9. 9

    bought several pairs of Keen sandals and all of the soles delaminated badly within a couple of years. One pair were my “backups” and had hardly any wear time. Wrote to Keen but they did not even reply.

  10. 10

    Same exact problem! Soles of newer keens with beautiful leather uppers, more or less disintegrated in less than a year with nominal use. Soles wore thin, holes appeared and they completely pulled away from the bottom of the shoe. The shoes were well made back in 2005 but now they totally suck!

  11. 11

    I buy everything like these shoes or anything for camping and travel, or work-out clothes at REI. 1 year money back or replacement for any reason (even: I don’t like the color anymore) and excellent backup after the 1 year. I got into Keens in the fall when I needed sandals for the beach and they were so comfortable I got the Targhee IIs, which are ultra comfortable. My sole has started to slightly separate after 6 months. I can just walk in for another pair, they will see they are not abused and they will hand me a new pair or my money. I bought a second pair at Ll Bean because I had a bunch of store credit there, and they have a LIFETIME Satisfaction guarantee (money back after 10 years).

    Find the items at any store and order them from REI. I happen to be in CT and have and REI and an LL Bean close to me. I find something at Dicks like that I like and then I call REI, if they have them I just have it put on hold or shipped to the house. My ASIC GT2000s too. No discounts, but you would NEVER have this issue if you used a good retailer. BTW you need a onetime membership fee at REI of $20 for you and your whole family.

  12. 12

    I fell in love with Keen ten years ago — they were the first pair of shoes that just fit my feet (I have wide feet) and felt perfect from day one. Unfortunately, every pair I’ve bought since the first one has been progressively worse. First they started tinkering with the insoles — they started adding in these bumps where they assumed my toes shouldn’t be (unfortunately, I have shorter than average toes and they were right on the bumps, so it caused them to go numb after a little walking). I returned the pair for a second pair that had the same problem. My solution — pull out the insoles and replace them with the insoles from my original pair. Oddly enough, that’s a strategy I’ve used more than once with successive Keen purchases over the last ten years.
    I remember that the only problem I had with my original pair was that the soles (not the insoles) weren’t particularly durable. Mine didn’t come unglued, but I was back packing around the world at the time and doing a lot of walking. After three months I had already worn out the soles of my first pair (and yes, this was when I bought the second exact pair that already had a different insole from the original — only three months later…)
    I’ve noticed over the last ten years that the quality of other parts of the shoes have tended to get worse from model to model. I recently realized that it’s almost as if Keen has worked hard, not to improve the quality of the weakest link, but to make sure that they cut costs on the production of any component of the shoe that happens to be more durable than the weakest link. It’s as if somebody said, we’ve been getting these comments that our soles only last three months — but we’re spending all this money on putting high end insoles in the shoes that last two years! We should put in cheaper insoles that only last 3 months as well!
    I’m sad to see a great shoe disappear. I’ll miss my old Keen shoes =(

  13. 13

    It’s not just Keen’s that have delamination problems. I’ve found various brands fail on certain production runs. But I’ve read far too many reports about Keen sole failure that’s finally put me off buying a pair. I generally get lucky with fit even though I have wide feet. Karrimor in the UK seems to be great value for money and good fit but their price reflects their life. Bit of Gorilla glue and better than ever! Like everything outsourced and made to a price, expectations are low for me these days, its why I buy cheap nowadays and bin it when its done. Shame they do look tempting still but way too many bad reviews about longevity. Hope it improves.

  14. 14

    i discovered keen around 2010 as a work shoe, the Deteoit esd. ive been through about 5 pair and they were awsome. very comfortable and almost no break in. used to get about 2 years out of a pair… then the outer souls woild start falling off. this year i bought a new pair of detroits, a pair of atlanta cool and a slip on(cant think of the name)….these new shoes are hard and make me dread buying a new pair because of the murder they are causing to my feet……i suspect the comfort and soles coming off was the result of the same glues and or process used in construction and has been changed since all the complaints..(pure speculation)….oh well on with the search….

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