When heading out on a long hike, having a comfortable and supportive pair of shoes is vital. Whether you are sailing, working, or trekking into the great outdoors, it is important to wear the best shoes for you. Two of the biggest names in outdoor wear, Keen and Merrell, will be compared in this review to see which brand’s shoes are best suited for different activities.
Founded in the early 2000s, Keen started out as a solution for shoddy sailing shoes. With outdoor wear that spans across clothing, shoes, bags, drinkware, and even construction wear, Keen has become popular in many outdoor communities. Not just out for profit, Keen regularly donates to non-profits and encourages its clients and consumers to do the same.
A little older than Keen, Merrell was founded in 1981 and got their start in high-performance hiking boots. Within only a few years, Merrell became an outdoor wear sensation and has become a staple in outdoor enthusiast’s lives.
How We Compared These Brands
For outdoor shoes, fusing fashion with function is key. How well do the shoes support your feet and ankles? Are they waterproof? How do they look? Are they breathable? Which brand utilizes and executes its design features to the fullest? These questions and more are imperative in our quest for an excellent pair of outdoor shoes.
Certain materials are more durable than others, and what your shoe is made of is a good indicator of how long a pair will last. Not only that, but a shoe's material has a huge impact on the comfort level of the shoe; no-one wants to be in pain during a day-long hiking trip. Both Merrell and Keen are well-known for using quality durable materials when making their shoes, making it easy to understand why they are so popular.
Whether it’s an unexpected shower, a walk across a river, or a sailing session out on the high seas, outdoor fans can expect to come into contact with a lot of water. Because of this, outdoor shoes need to be able to stand up to water in all its forms and keep your feet high and dry. Typically, both brands’ shoes are waterproof unless otherwise stated, but Keen seems to have a better track record than Merrell on this particular front.
Foot & Toe Protection
Moving across rocky terrain or working in dangerous environments can lead to unexpected developments; this is why foot and toe protection is highly important in outdoor shoes. Whether its steel toe caps or hardened outer shells, all kinds of safety features can be added or taken into account when selecting the right shoe for you.
Fit and Comfort
Everybody is different and this includes your feet. Whether you need a wide or narrow fit or extra support, you must take your feet’s needs into account when choosing an outdoor shoe. Does the shoe have internal padding? Is the material breathable? Are the shoes flexible? What sizes do they come in? All of these questions factor into which pair is best for each activity.
Getting out into the wilderness should be accessible to anyone, regardless of budget or ability. This is why it is key to consider your budget when selecting a new pair of boots. Generally speaking, Merrell boots are heavier but cheaper while Keen shoes are lighter but sometimes more expensive. This changes depending on the design and model, but it is good to keep this in mind.
Number of Styles Available
Once they find a model or style that they like, some people cannot help but pick up the same thing in a bunch of colors or styles. This is why great hiking shoes often come in a wide range of colors, designs, and styles to suit many tastes and preferences.
Keen Vs. Merrell - Men's Hiking Shoes
Two of the best hiking shoes out there, Keen's Targhee and Merrell's Moab models, are excellent choices for those looking to really hit the trails. Available in a wide range of styles, Merrell has a decent selection of 9 colors, but Keen knocks it out of the park with 18 individual colors to choose from.
Keen keeps things classy with their waterproof Nubuck leather top and rubber sole, whereas Merrell uses suede, leather, rubber, mesh, and nylon to bring their shoe to life. Unfortunately, Merrell’s Moab is not waterproof, so bear this in mind before purchase.
Some highlights for the Targhee include a wide toe box, great ankle support, ghillie lacing, a padded tongue and collar, an aggressive outsole, and an ESS shank. Some highlights for Merrell’s Moab include the synthetic sole, comfortable FIT ECO+ contour footbed, out of the box comfort, great ankle support, and a nylon arch shank.
Merrell goes the extra mile and provides a rubber toe cap on the Moab while Keen's Targhee does not have any toe protection. While the lowest price for both the Targhee and the Moab is the same, the Targhee caps at around $150, whereas the Moab can reach a maximum price of about $300.
Which shoe is the best?
The Keen and Merrell hiking shoes are both worthy investments as they are durable, comfortable, and lightweight pieces of kit that will last for a long time to come. However, the best for us would be Keen's Targhee, thanks to its price, color range, and waterproof nature.
Keen Vs. Merrell - Women's Hiking Shoes
Some great options in women's hiking shoes, Keen’s Koven and Merrell’s Siren are fantastic essentials for your next trip. While the Koven only comes in two color options, the Siren has 14 color options to keep you looking and feeling good on the trail.
The Koven is waterproof and made of leather, mesh, and rubber, but be careful with the Siren as only some colors are waterproof. Some highlights for the Koven include its synthetic sole, tongue, and heel pull tabs, removable EVA foam midsole, non-marking traction outsole, multi-directional lugs, and roomy toe box.
Some highlights for the Siren include its Vibram sole, nylon arch shank, bellows tongue, contoured footbed, air cushion, and large toe box. Previous customers have noted that they needed to go up by half a size, so make sure to try them on before leaving the house. Neither shoe has toe protection, so be careful when out and about. Both Keen and Merrell’s shoes are in the same ballpark in terms of price, costing around $80-$110 each.
Which shoe is the best?
While we love both hiking shoes, Merrell’s Siren just takes the cake thanks to its color range, contoured footbed, and comfortable interior.
Keen Vs. Merrell - Men's Sandals
Finding a sandal that holds up to a rigorous hike or long sailing weekend is tough. Luckily, Merrell and Keen have you covered. Keen’s classic Newport sandal comes in 30 different designs and colors and is both waterproof and toe protected. The Newport utilizes polyester webbing while the Sandspur is made of leather and lycra.
Merrell's Sandspur sandal comes in three color choices and does not have waterproof or protective toe features. Some highlights of the Keen Newport include the multi-direction lug pattern, secure fit lace capture, machine washable ability, TPU stability shank, and EVA footbed.
Some highlights for the Sandspur include its Mselect grip outsoles, hook and look closure, lycra neoprene lining, and comfortable right out of the box design. Both the Newport and the Sandspur start at around $60, but the Sandspur caps at around $100, whereas the Newport caps at $200. Customers have noted that both sandals make great gifts for loved ones.
Which shoe is the best?
In the Keen vs. Merrell sandals debate, we would have to recommend Keen's Newport sandal for sailing enthusiasts and those going out into dangerous territory. Merrell's Sandspur is best for those going for casual hikes and walks in the summer.
Keen Vs. Merrell - Women's Sandals
If you like having color options in your outdoor sandals, look no further than the Keen Whisper and Merrell Hollyleaf. The Whisper comes in a whopping 50 different color and design choices, which all feature waterproof membranes and toe protection.The Hollyleaf has 10 different color options and does not have the same water or toe protection.
Made of polyester and rubber, the Whisper includes a microbe shield, bungee lace capture, non-marking sole, comfortable footbed and shank, and elastic cording. Made of leather, rubber, and foam, the Hollyleaf includes the classic M select sole, memory foam interior, a nylon arch shank, and antimicrobial treated microfiber.
Both shoes are comfortable and provide excellent support while you are out and about. The price varies for both shoes; the Whisper ranges from $45 to $200 whereas the Hollyleaf costs around $85. We love that both sandals are true to size and designed specifically with women’s feet in mind. Some customers have noted that they make great gifts and often go on sale.
Which shoe is the best?
Keen Vs. Merrell - Water Shoes
Getting out on the water is an absolute joy for so many people, but you need quality shoes to help keep you safe. Keen's Clearwater CNX sandal comes in a vast range of colors and designs to match your style. Merrell’s All Out Blaze sandal comes in 10 different designs and has rubber toe protection as well.
Some key features of the Clearwater include a microbial shield, multi-directional flex lugs, contoured arch, and machine washable material. A few key features of the All Out Blaze include 3mm lug depth, a bungee lace system, an unlined footbed, M Select FRESH treated material, and a UniFly midsole.
Both shoes are made in the US and are waterproof. Keen's Clearwater starts at around $60 and caps at about $180, while Merrell's All Out Blaze costs between $70 and $120. The Keen vs Merrell waterproof shoe battle is looking really close.
Which shoe is the best?
While both water sandals are great options, we have to recommend Merrell's All Out Blaze in the Keen vs. Merrell water shoe debate. The All Out Blaze waterproof sandal edged its way to the top thanks to its toe protection, antimicrobial features, and bungee cord lace system.
Keen Vs Merrell - Men's Work Boots
Work boots are a vital piece of protective and practical gear for those who work in tough and dangerous conditions. Not only do they need to hold up to hours of walking, crouching, and working, but they also need to protect you should something fall on your foot.
Keen's Flint work shoe is a sturdy shoe made of nubuck leather and rubber and comes with steel-capped toes as standard. Merrell’s Intercept is made of similar materials but uses a rubber toe cover instead of a steel one. A few key features of the Flint are its stability shank, EVA footbed, oil and slip-resistant material, contoured heel lock, and its Clean Sport NXT anti-odor material. Some key features of the Intercept include its breathable padded tongue, antimicrobial material, compression-molded foot frame, air cushion midsole, and its arch support.
The Flint officially meets the standards set by carpenters and contractors across the country while the Intercept is designed the be a multi-sport shoe with low cut and molded protection. Both boots are available for $80-$120 each.
Which shoe is the best?
This Keen vs. Merrell work boot battle has been tight, but we do have a winner. While they are both great options, we once again have to recommend Keen's Flint work boot due to its waterproof nature, steel toes, and the fact that it meets official working standards.
Keen Vs. Merrell - Women's Work Boots
Getting functional and professional-looking work boots does not have to be difficult thanks to Merrell and Keen’s range of women’s work boots. In particular, Keen’s waterproof Detroit work boot is available in two designs and comes with asymmetrical steel toe protection. Merrell’s Jungle Moc slip-on is waterproof and comes in six different designs but does not come with toe protection.
Detroit has many commendable features, such as its large toe box, hiking-inspired fit, molded reinforcement, breathable waterproof membrane, and grippy rubber sole. Merrell’s Jungle Mocs are made of leather and rubber, have been treated for microbes, have a comfortable Air Cushion heel, and a molded nylon arch shank.
Both shoes start at $60 or so, with Keen’s Detroit's work boots capping off at around $150 and Merrell’s Jungle Moc slip ons costing a maximum of $100.
Which shoe is the best?
While we love both shoes, we have to recommend Keen’s Detroit work boots due to their waterproof nature, steel toes, and hiking-inspired fit.
Sizing of Keen & Merrell Shoes
Getting the size and fit of your shoes right, regardless of brand, is essential in helping to prevent blisters and long-term injuries. In terms of Keen vs. Merrell sizing, check the comments of reviews online and read the shoe description as you may need to go up by a half or one full size. When fitting the shoes, follow this guide:
- 1Test the length by planting your foot in the unlaced boot and sliding your index finger down the back. If your finger is squashed or easily slipped in, then you may need to go up or down a size.
- 2Sit down and plant your foot before lacing up the boot. If your laces are bulging out or you require too much tension, then you need to pick up a different size.
- 3If your toes touch the end of the shoe while standing, then consider buying a larger pair.
- 4Shift your weight to confirm that your foot feels well supported inside the shoe from every angle.
- 5Feel all around the boot with your hand for any spacious or bulging areas. Ideally, your foot should evenly fit in all areas of the boot.
- 6The flex point of a boot, often located from the ball of your foot to your toes, goes through a lot of wear over time. If the material is excessively creasing or pinching, then pick up a different size.
- 7Wear the boots indoors and get used to how they feel. If they do not pinch, rub, or feel uncomfortable after an hour or two, then you have a good fit.
Popularity of these Shoe Brands
Both Merrell and Keen have grown to become two of the most popular outdoor footwear brands out there.
Keen was initially popular within the sailing community but quickly gained traction throughout many outdoor enthusiast groups. By 2013, Keen had raked in over $240 million in sales.
Merrell’s popularity is nothing to sneeze at either. Their hiking boots gave Merrell fame within the hiking community, causing them to sell over 25,000 pairs of boots by 1986 and rake in over $10 million by 1990. Now, Merrell continues to be popular in both the hiking and other wilderness activity enthusiasts.
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