KEEN Summit County Winter Hiking Boots are waterproof and insulated winter boots that are good for snowshoeing, winter hiking, and peakbagging. They have KEEN’s signature oversized toe box with body-mapped insulation to keep the parts of your feet that need extra insulation warm. Large non-marking lugged rubber soles provide a good grip on soft and packed snow, while the boots pair well with traction aids such as microspikes or snowshoes for hiking across ice and snow. The Summit County winter boots run a bit wide, so you should try them if have problems finding shoes wide enough for your feet.
If you’ve never worn KEEN shoes or boots before, the toe-box is wider than you’re probably used to. This is good for winter hiking because your toes and feet will stay warmer if blood can circulate easily through them. KEEN insulates the Summit County with 450 grams of insulation around the toes and foot and 300 grams in the uppers where you need less, since your ankle is covered by long pants and a heavy winter gaiter. The effect on toe warmth is immediately noticeable and makes the boot very comfortable to wear. KEEN insulates and waterproofs their boots with KEEN.WARM and KEEN.DRY, their in-house proprietary synthetic insulation and waterproof breathable membrane instead of licensing Thinsulate insulation or a Gore-Tex membrane. It doesn’t make any noticeable difference and helps keep the price down.
The upper part of the boot is eight and a half inches tall which is a good height to keep snow out of your boots and your ankles warm. The upper cuff and tongue provide good support but are still comfortable to wear, unlike more rigid mountaineering boots. The exterior of the Summit County is well protected with synthetic leather and heavy-duty side walls to keep rock and ice from bruising your feet. The oversized toe bumper is firm enough that you can kick into snow for more traction, while a rigid heel cap protects the back of your foot with ridges that help secure microspikes and snowshoe bindings.
The boot sole has widely space lugs that provide excellent traction and don’t fill up with snow like a regular vibram tread. They have an arch that permits use with a gaiter, although there isn’t a front gaiter ring, so you’ll have to clip them to your laces. The boots have a slight interior arch and fit more like running shoes than hiking boots. They come with a heat reflective insole covered with wool for comfort, but you can easily replace it with a Superfeet insole if you prefer more arch support. The midsole is made with a firm EVA foam to provide shock absorption and cushioning, while helping reduce the occurrence of plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, posterior tibial tendonitis and most other conditions related to excessive pronation.
The laces thread through cloth channels along the sides of the tongue and not more durable metal eyelets. There are two pairs of metal speed hooks at the top of the uppers and it’s possible to tie more advanced lacing patterns like heel locks, surgeon’s knots, and lacing windows without any issues.
The KEEN Summit County Winter hiking boots are true to size, but run slightly wide, so I wear them with a thicker wool sock to take up some of the extra interior wiggle. While they’re reasonably lightweight at 3 lbs 7 oz per pair, they are pretty chunky boots, although you quickly get used to walking in them. While they are soft out of the box and require virtually no break-in period, I do recommend you wear them for a few off-pavement hikes before taking them out for an all day hike. Hiking on uneven terrain stresses different parts of a shoe than walking on sidewalks and will help you develop the proper “boot-feel” to give you confidence in the boots when you do venture off the beaten track.
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