Keen is definitely a household brand. The funky toe-protecting sandal sentation has now turned into a powerhouse in the shoe world with footwear for all types of outdoor and casual pursuits. Check out Fat Cyclist’s recent post about how enamored he and his family are with Keen footwear. I’ve been a fan of their shoes for some time now and have had the opportunity to flog several types of shoes in their lineup.

As the Keen line has expanded, trail running and lightweight hiking shoes have become some of their most popular models. This season, a new trail shoe has been introduced, the Keen Powerline. I featured them last Fall and have been flogging them this Spring. As a dual-duty trail shoe and runner, they are an excellent option.

Keen Powerline Trail Running Shoes Review

About the Keen Powerline Trail Shoe

The Powerlines are built to be dual-duty trail runners and lightweight hikers. Definitely not a race-day shoe, but an all-around journeyman of a shoe that’s built with support and cushioning in mind. These are the kind of shoes you like to have around for the mixed-bag trail adventures. Here are a few more highlights:

  • Asymmetrical Flex Lace System
  • Forefoot cushioning system
  • Forefoot Y-flex grooves
  • Multi-directional 3mm non-marking lug outsole
  • Patented toe protection
  • Removable metatomical tri-density footbed
  • S3 Heel support structure
  • Soft flex TPU stone bruising plate
  • Mesh upper
  • Colors: Rust/Charcoal or Black/Bossa Nova
  • Weight: 13.4 oz
  • MSRP: $100

Keen Powerline Trail Running Shoes Review

Keen Powerline Trail Running Shoe Review

The Powerlines have been my companion on a handful of wet and soggy runs. So far, Spring in Utah has been a mixed bag (woke up with 12″ of snow yesterday), so I’ve been able to test these on wet and snowy trails. Overall performance has been as expected… lets dig in.

These shoes are no lightweights. At a true 13.4 oz per pair, you’re not going to want to run any trail races with these. However, with the weight, you get excellent support and decent traction in everything but snow. I’ve found these shoes to hook up very well in soft and tacky dirt and rocky terrain both uphill and down.

The Keen S3 heel provides solid support and cushioning in the heel. I felt extra-stable on off-camber trails and switchbacks, but that extra support does end up feeling a little bit clunky at times–it’s a tradeoff that many would be willing to make. Because of the overall burliness of this shoe, it also performs very well as a lightweight hiker.

One of my favorite features of the Powerline is the asymmetrical lacing system. The laces really support and cinch the forefoot of the shoe perfectly. I’ve yet to find a shoe that cradles my forefoot as perfectly as these do. The lacing system shines on the trails by keeping the foot stabilized–even on steep downhill descents.

The only bummer is that for some reason the placement of the uppermost lace loop makes it hard to adjust the proper upper lace tension. I’m always fiddling with it as it seems either just a tad loose or a tad tight.

I had to wear these shoes with midweight socks (not my first choice) because the overall volume feels high. I wore these with both the standard insoles and with Spenco Polysorb Total Support insoles–both felt just fine. Break-in period was a little longer than most running shoes, but not bad.

Keen Powerline Trail Runner Review

Good Powerline

  • Asymmetrical lacing system cradles the forefoot
  • Very supportive
  • Excellent stability and cushioning
  • Doubles as a lightweight hiker

Bad Powerline

  • Mesh upper does absorb water
  • Snow traction is poor
  • Not versatile enough for road running

Bottom Line: Keen Powerline Shoes

As a versatile runner/hiker, the Powerline is a great option. I found them to run well on dirt with excellent stability overall. I particularly like the asymmetrical lacing design as it cradles the forefoot extremely well. Don’t plan to double-task these with pavement duty, but on the dirt, they shine.

Buy Now: Find Keen Shoes at REI

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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