Photo: A.J. George
Keen Footwear has been making high-quality, comfortable shoes for years. If you're into hiking or outdoor sports you've likely owned a pair of the company's sandals or hiking boots. I'm no exception and have had a few pairs of Keens. Their excellent durability quickly made them my favorite trail shoes. Until recently I had never worn my Keens to work, that is, until Keen sent me a pair of Detroit utility boots.
The Detroit model itself isn't new. In fact, Keen has been making it in both a high and low cut with several different color variations available. The Detroit is a hiking boot: heavy-duty, supportive, waterproof, and with great tread. However, with the introduction of the "Night" color option, or "black" as we regular folks would call it, Keen realized there might be a place for them in the law enforcement uniform boot market.
Out of the box my 8" soft-toe Keen Detroits felt solid without being heavy, and the leather and nylon construction was top notch. The soles are robust to say the least and the tread looks like it came from the tire of a 4x4. These oil- and slip-resistant soles continue up and over the sides, heel, and toe of each boot to further protect the wearer from rough terrain. Keen's hiking heritage isn't lost here. The leather upper and mid-foot areas are soft and clean with double stitching throughout, making the Detroit completely waterproof.
I laced up my Detroits and immediately noticed a few things. First, it uses the traditional Keen foot contour, with a wide toe-box and good arch support. I have wide feet and any time I don't have to specifically order a wide shoe I'm a happy guy.
The next was the lacing system. Keen uses a very aggressive lacing system with eyelets set far apart on either side of the foot and continuing down almost to the toes. This creates more leverage and allows the wearer to really cinch them up tight. From the ankle up there are three sets of lace hooks that snap the lace in place and prevent it from slipping. Once the lace is pulled tight and snapped into the hook, it isn't moving. In short, once you get your Detroits laced up, they're going to stay that way.
I hit the ground running (no pun intended) with a full shift in the Detroit boots. This particular night I was working a walking detail in the downtown area. This meant I was going to cover a lot of ground—concrete and asphalt to be specific. If the Detroits were lacking comfort and support it would be quickly evident here. They required no "break-in" time and I was pleasantly surprised at how great my feet felt afterward. After several hours of walking the boots showed no signs of wear and were still tightly laced.
I didn't get the chance to test their waterproof feature but I'll take Keen's word for it. The Detroits are lined with Keen's "Keen-Dry" material to wick moisture away from your foot. The Keen-Dry material worked well but their full leather construction made these boots a little too warm for my liking. Considering I tested them in the Arizona summer heat, I'd take this with a huge grain of salt. For those of you in cooler climates, this feature might be a great benefit.
If you're looking for a great hiking boot disguised as a smart-looking duty boot, the Keen Detroits are a great choice. With Keen's great reputation and one-year warranty against manufacturing defects you can be sure your pair will work as hard as you do.
Keen Detroit Soft-toe 8" Boots Specs:
Upper: Waterproof nubuck leather
Soles: Compression molded EVA midsole, oil- and slip-resistant non-marking rubber outsole
Width: Regular, wide
Weight: 22.7 ounces
Special Features: KEEN.DRY waterproof breathable membrane, lining with hydrophobic/hydrophilic 2-zone comfort technology, removable metatomical dual density EVA footbed, meets or exceeds ASTM F2892-11 EH Standards
Colors: "Night" black, earth/neutral grey