Go-to Gear: Keen Water Shoes

Treat your soggy dogs to two of the best, the Newport H2 and Gorge River Boot

The Newport H2 comes in models for men, women, boys, girls and toddlers. Courtesy keenfootwear.com

The Newport H2 comes in models for men, women, boys, girls and toddlers. Courtesy keenfootwear.com

By Al Kesselheim

You could say that I’ve spent the last 30 years in search of the best footwear for river trips. The quest has taken me from Maine guide boots to Chuck Taylor high-tops; from rubber boots to Crocs, and the full spectrum from flip-flops to neoprene booties. There is a time and place for damn near every one of them, but I’ve rarely found footwear that covers large swaths of river trip terrain over the long haul.

Keen comes close with two of its product line. Often as not, I take a pair of each.

The Keen Newport H2. Courtesy keenfootwear.com

The Keen Newport H2. Courtesy keenfootwear.com

First, and favorite, the Newport H2. It’s been out for a few years, and a few tweaks have improved the design over time, but it stood out from the start. It is rugged, sturdy, fits comfortably, has solid traction, and a bomber toe box to protect against rocks. The footbed is comfortable enough that I often forget to change out of them at the end of the day. These shoes and I have suffered through many a portage together. The toe protection is a huge bonus when you’re hauling upstream and stumbling over boulders. As for drawbacks, bugs can get at your feet in the gaps between webbing straps, which I mitigate by wearing synthetic socks. Also, they have the annoying tendency of river sandals to pick up gravel. Eventually, if you’re walking in streambeds, you just have to sit down, take them off, and dump.

The Keen Gorge Boot. Courtesy keenfootwear.com

The Keen Gorge Boot. Courtesy keenfootwear.com

Second, the Gorge Boot. A newer addition to the Keen line, the Gorge is the choice for long, cold slogs. Going up the Yellowkife River in Canada’s Northwest Territory comes to mind. Ankle-high, neoprene uppers, solid traction sole, and easy, secure Velcro closures make it snug and comfortable. Great, all-around protection in uncertain surfaces and warm comfort for those days spent as much in the water as in the boats. Downside, these babies are built for warmth and protection. They can become pretty ripe if you wear them day-in, day-out. Bring a backup pair of camp shoes, and let these boots–and your feet–breathe.

Intel: www.keenfootwear.com; Newport H2 – $100. Gorge Boot – $80 (Keen is remodeling the Gorge Boot. Older models are available if you shop around, and the new version will be out in 2015 – stay tuned.)

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

Add a Comment

  • AlexP

    I did not get on with the Newports – I found that, wearing them repeatedly in the water as a raft guide the polymer sole expanded, so what had once been a great fit became a loose, floppy nuisance. My pair also only lasted about 5 months of heavy use, with which I was disappointed.

  • Travis Williams

    I found the lack of arch support in the Keen shoes made it really tough to wear the Newports a lot. I did that when they first came out and suffered the consequences. Gotta say Chacos rule on that front – big time arch support!

    • outragex

      My daughter, who has extensive foot problems, also prefers the Chacos. H2s work fine for the rest of the family except on cool-air and overcast days when the warmth of booties is preferable to the dry-off effect of sandals.

  • outragex

    No kidding, it’s actually illegal to live in CO without at least one pair of H2s.

Buyer's Guide

Buyer's Guide