The KEEN Durand Polar is a waterproof winter hiking boot with 400 grams on insulation that’s rated for temperatures down to -40F below zero. If you’re new to winter hiking, you’re going to want to wear a waterproof and insulated boot like the Durand Polar instead of an uninsulated or leather hiking boot, which can absorb water and freeze. While the Durand Polar is a high boot that reaches over your ankle and up your calf, it provides better ankle support and a smaller profile sole than a pac boot, while being much lighter weight than mountaineering boots. This makes them easier to use with snowshoes or to attach a traction-aid like microspikes, that make it easy to walk on icy trails without slipping. A women’s version is also available.
If you’ve tried KEEN boots in the past and found that they run too wide, the Durand Polars are narrower and run smaller. For example, if you find the 400 gram KEEN Summit Country insulated winter boot too wide or the toe box too large, the Durand Polar is a good alternative winter hiking boot to try, with the same temperature rating. In fact, the Durand Polars feel a lot more like running shoes than boots, with a lower profile sole that makes them easier to walk in than a boot with a chunky sole.
The Durand Polar is ideals for hiking or snowshoeing on well-packed trails. It has an arch, so it’s compatible with gaiters that have a bottom strap. While it has a beefy toe cap and heel protection, the upper part of the boot isn’t protected or stiff-enough for off-trail use or hiking across rocky mountain ledges that require more ankle support and aggressive crampons.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because there’s always a weight/stiffness tradeoff in winter boots: the stiffer and more rugged a boot is, the heavier and more fatiguing it is to hike in. If you plan to hike in mountainous terrain, I’d look for a heavier boot (see our Top 10 Winter Hiking Boot Recommendations). But for hiking or snowshoeing over rolling terrain, the 25 oz (pair, on average) Durand Polar Boots will be fine.
The Durand Polar boots have a non-marking rubber outsole with widely spaced lugs that prevent snow from clumping to your boots. They also come with wool-lined insoles with a reflective coating to help prevent your feet from getting cold and a lightweight urethane shank to provide extra support and forefoot protection. The boots do lack a few more technical features like a front gaiter ring (just clip your gaiter to your laces) and rear heel ridges but are still completely compatible with snowshoes and traction-aids with elastomer binding straps.
KEEN waterproofs and insulates their boots with a proprietary waterproof/breathable inner bootie and insulation called KEEN.WARM and KEEN. DRY. These are functionally equivalent to Gore-tex or Ultra Dry waterproof/breathable layers and boots made with Primaloft or Thinsulate insulation. KEEN uses their own formulations to reduce the cost of their boots, which are made in America, and help keep their prices low.
The KEEN Durand Polar Winter Hiking Boots run about a 1/2 size small so size up to compensate. I normally wear them with a regular weight sock which still gives my feet plenty of wiggle room in the boot. Your feet will stay warmer in winter if you don’t shim out the interior of the boots with a thick sock since this can reduce fresh and warming blood flow.
While the Durand Polar Boots are soft out of the box, I do recommend you wear them for a few off-pavement hikes before taking them out for an all-day hike or snowshoeing trip. Hiking on uneven terrain stresses different parts of a boot and will help you identify any hot spots before they become a blister on a longer hike.
Disclosure: KEEN provided the author with a pair of boots for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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