Keen no more
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.