The good folks at Keen have been casually tossing out fantastic outerwear since their 2003 inception in Portland.  The Marshalls are an exciting thing to see from these guys because they’re the lightest hiker that Keen has yet produced.  I’ve splashed through puddles and smeared over granite in the Marshalls and they’ve had plenty of adventure in the last month.

Keen Marshall WP Features:

  • Weights: 15.3oz (WP Low-Rise)
  • High-rebound polyurethane midsole
  • Contoured heel lock for secure, custom fit
  • KEEN.Dry waterproof/breathable membrane (on WP models)
  • MSRP: $130


Playing in the Mud

As the industry spirals further into the ultralight craze, Keen’s newest light hikers fit this industry niche perfectly.  Innovative design coupled with lightweight construction and materials allow you to move faster, longer and your gear won’t slow you down.  At 15.3oz for the water proof model, the Marshalls stack up fairly well to the competition; both the Merrell Proterra and the Teva Wapta  are examples of water proof light hikers and both are within an ounce or so of the Marshalls.  In truth, none of these products can touch the realm of true minimalist footwear.

True to their light hiker credential, the Marshalls lean towards the light and flexible rather than the stiff and supportive.  If you pick up the hiker and give it a twist, it’ll bend just about any way you want it to.  The design of the shoes is pretty straightforward: Keen’s signature toe bumper is here in all of its bulbous glory.  The lacing eyelets are reinforced by thin, weight-conscious ribbing to help the shoe move well with your foot when laced.  When you horse on the laces you’ll find that they tighten all the way down the tongue when pulled, so it’s easy to get a secure fit very quickly.  Keen included a webbed heel strap that’s attached to the topmost eyelet; when you tighten the laces, the strap will secure your heel to keep it in place for long descents.

Note the orange webbed heel strap.

Note the orange webbed heel strap.

Young bucks like me will find them to be acceptable as a light backpacking shoe, but I have gimpy ankles from high school sports and I tend to opt for extra support.  The Marshalls play very well in a variety of situations; they’re stylish enough to not appear garish around town but they also sport the outdoor credentials to be completely at home in some pretty technical trail.  Keen’s sole is a great balance between grippiness and durability and I was equally comfortable scrambling over roots, scree and marble tile in them.  I would characterize these boots as cushy to hike in thanks to the PU midsole, but not so supportive that the trail becomes a sidewalk – these really are the midpoint between a trekking boot and the barefoot scene.

photo 5

Keen’s proprietary Keen.Dry waterproof layer does a great job of keeping water out – with the help of the full-length gusset on the tongue, you can stand in puddles with total confidence.  That being said, this is definitely not the most breathable membrane I’ve run into.  At times, my feet felt overheated while driving or walking around the block.  For the record though, Keen sent over a pair of the non-waterproof Marshall Mid rise boots and the mesh on those puppies is highly breathable.

The Marshall Mid's (non-WP) feature a highly breathable mesh.

The Marshall Mid’s (non-WP) feature a highly breathable mesh.

The Good:

  • Competitive weight – 15.3 oz is up with the competition
  • Simple, ergonomic lacing system
  • Heel strap helps during long descents
  • PU midsole cushions shock while TPU shank provides just enough stability

The Bad:

  • Keen.Dry membrane has subpar breathability
  • Fairly expensive in the light hiker realm

The Bottom Line

Keen’s offering to the light hiker crowd will definitely find many fans, thanks to the Marshall’s good looks, careful design and comfort.  The Keen Marshalls are available in water proof and non waterproof in both normal and mid-rise options, so there’s really a shoe here for everyone.  Hikers will find that the Keens are kind to your feet at the end of the day, but the Keen.Dry membrane doesn’t quite live up to eVent or a similar laminate.  Overall, a very fine addition to the light hiker scene from the good folks over in Portland – Keen.

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About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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