Keen and Merrell are both incredibly popular brands that design and manufacture leisure footwear. In this review, we will focus on their hiking shoes, to help you find the best option for your needs.
It’s important to note that all of the shoes featured in this review are available in both a men’s and a women’s version. So, whichever you’re looking for I’ve got your back – or rather feet.
We’ll take a look at both hiking boots and sandals. And all of the footwear that you read about here is really the best of the best and praised by thousands of happy owners.
Both brands have developed certain technologies that they use consistently in their footwear. First, there are the waterproofing technologies:
Obviously, the first of those two is used by Keen, and it is found in all of their waterproof shoes. It works really well since it acts as a breathable membrane – it doesn’t let any water get inside the shoe, but your feet can still breathe and any moisture inside the shoe can get out.
The M-Select Dry technology from Merrell works pretty much the same way. It will let any moisture inside the shoe (sweat) escape, but it won’t let any water from outside the shoe get in.
I can’t say that one brand is a better choice in this aspect – both have done an excellent job at waterproofing their shoes, and their thousands of satisfied customers vouch for this. If that is your main concern, you’ll be fine with either one.
This is where the brands really part ways. Keen uses an unspecified outsole in their footwear, which gives you great traction and grip – in theory. In real life, the grip and traction are great and you’ll be happy with the outsole for the first few months, but you’ll be disappointed to see how quickly it wears out.
If you’re looking for footwear that you can wear pretty much every day, you won’t be happy with your Keens because you’re going to have to replace them pretty soon.
Merrell, on the other hand, uses Vibram outsoles in pretty much all of their shoes. Now, if you’re not familiar with Vibram outsoles let me just tell you that Danner uses them in all of their work boots. Which are worn by police officers from the entire United States.
Vibram soles are generally one of the most rugged and durable soles that you find in footwear. So, if you want to get hiking shoes that will last you for a long, long time, definitely get a Merrell pair. But be sure to double check that the outsole is in fact Vibram – they also use M-Select Grip outsole, but mostly in their sandals.
Maybe you prioritize comfort and support over grip and traction. In that case, you’re more interested in the insoles and footbeds that these two brands use.
Keen uses their own metatomical footbed, which comes in many different versions – low arch, medium arch and high arch footbeds. And they are usually replaceable, so you can take out the one you get inside your shoes, and put in the footbed that you want.
Merrell also uses a footbed of their own creation – Merrell M-Select FIT. It is actually an EVA contoured footbed, which should provide you with plenty of heel and arch support. But they do not offer as many different choices as Keen does.
So, if you often have issues finding footwear that fits right because of your high arches, Keens will probably fit you a little bit better.
Okay, so this doesn’t really concern the technologies that the brands use, but it’s still a pretty important factor.
These brands have pretty similar prices. But, you can find Merrells much cheaper on Amazon than on their official webshop, especially if you shop smart and go for the cheapest colors.
And to put it this way – you can find much more Merrells for under $100 than you can Keens.
So, now that we’ve cleared up the most important differences, you should have a pretty good idea which shoes are a better fit for you and your needs. Let’s check out their most popular products now, and help you find the perfect pair for you.
In this section, we’ll check out the best-selling products from both brands. And all of the shoes here are incredibly popular, and have hundreds of positive reviews from satisfied customers. In addition to that, all of the shoes are available in both men’s and women’s versions, and I will link both.
How does the Mother of all Boots sound? Because that’s exactly what the MOAB in the name of this boot stands for. And they weren’t lying – with their signature waterproofing technology, comfortable footbed and Vibram outsole, these ankle booties sure do look promising.
You’ll have great traction on both dry and wet surfaces, and your feet will stay completely dry even if you have to step in a little bit of water. With more than a thousand positive reviews, these are really the best Merrells money can buy.
And if you’re looking for something a little bit taller, you’re in luck – the MOAB boot also comes in a mid-ankle version. Just keep in mind that the Mid boot comes in two variants – one that is ventilated, and one that is waterproof.
The Chameleon 7 is another very popular hiking shoe from Merrell. It is great for people who are primarily looking for something comfortable with plenty of support, since it features a Kinetic Fit Base removable insole. That coupled with the Merrell Air Cushion in the heel will give you more than enough stability and support.
These Merrell shoes come in a few different variations – mid-ankle, stretch shoe, waterproof shoe etc. If you’re looking for the overall best package, I would recommend the mid waterproof Chameleon 7.
Our last, but definitely not the least Merrell hiking boot is the All Out Blaze. Just like the previous Merrell booties, these come in a few different variations – a mid-ankle shoe, a sneaker-length shoe, waterproof, sieve etc. But since we’re not talking about water shoes and sandals (yet), I’m skipping the sieve models.
So, all the All Out Blaze shoes you see here have the M-Select Dry waterproofing feature, along with a thick Vibram outsole and a compression-molded and EVA foam-padded footbed. If you’re prioritizing comfort and support over everything else, this is what you should spend your money on.
The Durand boot is one of Keen’s best hiking boots ever. It is waterproof, lightweight and breathable, with Keen’s proprietary membrane. It is the boot you need to buy if you’re looking for the perfect combination of support, stability and comfort. And the shoes are built in Oregon, so you know you can expect them to last.
The only downside is that they are not compatible with aftermarket insoles, so you’ll have to make do with the one you get. Or if you don’t find it comfortable enough, you’re going to have to replace it with a different Keen insole.
Additionally, if you’re preparing for cold weather, know that these boots also come in a tall, winter model.
The Voyageur is the ultimate summer boot. Why? Because it is ventilated throughout, which makes it easy for your feet to breathe and stay dry even if it’s hellishly hot outside. Just make sure to avoid stepping in water, as such excellent ventilation also means that the boot is not waterproof.
But it is water-resistant, so at least you know rain won’t be able to stop you. And the metatomical Keen proprietary footbed will keep you comfortable, and provide you with just the right amount of stability and support. Just like the non-marking rubber outsole with 4mm lugs will ensure you have plenty of grip and traction on every surface.
There are a few different variations of this shoe, but we’ll focus on the Targhee II. It is another really popular Keen hiking shoe that thousands of people love and happily wear.
These boots are waterproof, breathable and have a non-marking rubber outsole with 4mm multi-directional lugs. Which will give you all the traction you need in your off-road adventures.
Here’s a sizing tip: they tend to run a little small, so order them in half a size bigger than you usually wear for the perfect fit.
Both of these brands have a full range of hiking footwear, so obviously that’s going to include some sandals. And, if you’re looking for a pair of shoes that you can take on your summer vacation, but that you will be able to walk in for hours on end, this is the type of footwear that you should be looking at.
Forget about your old, uncomfortable and flat sandals. Here we are talking about sandals with comfortable footbeds, really good outsoles that will actually give you some traction, and that won’t fall apart in water. Here they are.
The All Out Blaze sandals are a great choice for the beach. They’re comfortable, lined with neoprene and feature antibacterial agents in the insole that will reduce odors. The UniFly midsole will help you forget you’re walking on pebbles, and the Vibram outsole will make it easy to walk on any surface even if you get these completely wet.
The only downside of the sandals is that little plastic piece that holds the strap. It is flimsy, and there is a chance that will break very soon – a problem that some people experienced. On the other hand, others had no issue with this. And, even if your sandals do break, just email Merrell and they will gladly replace them for you.
They’re available in a women’s and a men’s version, with there being an additional, closed-toe option for the ladies.
What makes these sandals stand out is that they are a rare Merrell pair that doesn’t have a Vibram outsole. Instead, these are equipped with a Merrell proprietary M-Select Grip outsole. Honestly, it is not as sturdy and durable as the Vibram one, but it will do its job just fine. And along with the contoured footbed it will keep your feet comfy throughout the day.
The upper part of the sandals is a combination of webbing and leather, which means that you shouldn’t wear them underwater. If you’re looking for sandals for water, check out the Keens below, or the previous Merrells. These, on the other hand, are great if you’re looking for something for evening walks or daily errands.
The Newport sandals are a Keen classic and a favorite among thousands of men and women. That’s probably because they have everything you would expect from a good hiking sandals – a metatomical, comfortable footbed, an EVA compression molded midsole and a non-marking rubber outsole with multi-directional lugs.
In addition to that, these are the best sandals for you if you plan on hiking a lot because they will protect your toes. Because there is nothing worse than stubbing your toe on rock, and you don’t deserve to go through that kind of pain.
Here’s a tip for the ladies with small feet – check if they have your size in the Newport Big Kids model. They are cheaper, made in more fun colors, and you can find a size as large as an EU39!
Tip: The slightly lighter version of this sandal is the Keen Clearwater CNX. I just bought a pair, see my initial review.
If you want to get yourself a versatile pair of sandals that you can wear both when hiking but also when engaging in water sports, you should get the Evofit One. They have a synthetic upper, which dries incredibly quickly precisely because they were designed for water.
Additionally, they also have an aqua grip rubber outsole that will give you the maximum amount of traction both on dry and wet surfaces. But the best part about these is the sock-like fit you get when you slip them on, which is what makes them so flexible. Oh and they were built in Portland, so they’re also a great way to support the US economy. :>
So, out of all the shoes in this review, which are the absolute best ones? Here are my top choices, based on their overall features and popularity.
The best Merrell hiking boot would be the MOAB, definitely. I mean if someone tells you that you can get the Mother of all Boots, who are you to argue with them? And it’s not just their cool name that puts them at the top, it is their rugged Vibram outsole, the breathable yet waterproof M-Select Dry membrane and the incredibly comfortable footbed. Not to mention the fact that hundreds of people love these shoes and swear by them.
You best choice from Keen is probably the Targhee II hiking boot – statistically. That’s because several thousand people have purchased these boots and loved them. And what’s not to love, with the Keen.Dry waterproofing features, their proprietary metatomical footbed and a very flexible, non-marking rubber outsole? And since they are so sturdy and versatile, they are your best option for ventures into the unknown.
What about the sandals? Well, if you’re looking for the perfect pair to wear on a daily basis, get the Terran(t) sandals. Not only are they very comfortable, but they also look really stylish and could work with any outfit. Their M-Select Grip outsole might not be the best choice for the forest, but it is more than good enough for the urban jungle. And best of all, they are the most affordable sandals out of the bunch.
Last but never the least, are the Keen Newport sandals. They are your best option if you’re looking for a sporty, all-in-one sandal. You can wear them on hikes, while running errands and even when you’re engaging in water sports. All the while their metatomical footbed will keep you comfortable and the rubber outsole will give you more than enough traction both in and out the water. Oh and your toes will be protected from any danger.
Those are your top choices – and not just because I said so, but because statistics say so. These are the shoes that people buy, wear, and then buy again years later. If you want to become another satisfied Keen or Merrell owner, head over to Amazon – but only if you’re interested in getting the best deal.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!