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KEEN Versatrail Hiking Shoe Review

The KEEN Versatrail low hiker is a mesh hiking shoe designed for casual use and easy hiking trails
The KEEN Versatrail low hiker is a mesh hiking shoe designed for casual use and easy hiking trails

Keen Versatrail Hiking Shoes

Foot Protection


The Keen Versatrail is a highly breathable and stable mesh hiking shoes with a soft tongue that cradles the foot. An external heel counter helps prevent ankle rolling on uneven surfaces.

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The KEEN Versatrail is a low hiking shoe that runs wide and has a spacious toe box. Designed for casual use and for easy day hikes, it’s a very stable hiking shoe that defies ankle rolling, but lacks the traction you’d require for more technical hikes that require rock scrambling. It’s only available *without* a Gore-tex or waterproof breathable liner, which is big departure for KEEN, since most of their closed shoes (hiking mids and boots) have always come with some sort of waterproof breathable layer. This is a good thing in my opinion, since it means your shoes can drain quickly and dry once they get (inevitably) wet.

The versatrail has little toe kick protection in front but is quite built-up in the heel area in order to enhance stability
The Versatrail has little toe kick protection in front but is quite built-up in the heel area in order to enhance stability.

The front of the Versatrail has limited toe-kick protection in front of the toes, with just a soft gray rand that wraps around the front foot box. In contrast, the rear of the Versatrail is overbuilt to help lock in your heel, providing additional ankle stability and to help prevent heel rolling that can lead to a sprained ankle. Unfortunately, the Versatrail’s heel area does not have a gaiter trap to secure a Dirty-Girl style gaiter, kind of a missed opportunity, since many serious hikers use them to keep trail debris out of their hiking shoes and trail runners.

The KEEN Versatrail Tongue is shaped like a sock instead of floating on top of your foot
The KEEN Versatrail Tongue is shaped like a sock instead of floating on top of your foot

The interior of the KEEN Versatrail is a bit unusual because the tongue fits like a sleeve or sock when you slide your foot into the shoe. The effect is quite pleasant, giving the shoe a very soft feel and eliminating the hot spots and discomfort you can feel in a low hiker when you crank down the laces.  Made out of mesh, thin, and very lightly padded, the tongue exerts very little pressure on the top of your foot, which helps increase interior volume as well as breathability.

Out of the box, the KEEN Versatrail comes with speed laces that you can pull tight instead of tying. However, if you prefer regular laces, they’re also included in the shoebox so you don’t have to source a separate pair. Personally, I prefer wearing regular laces with these shoes because I feel they provide a tighter, more secure fit, especially since the Versatrail runs noticeably wide compared to other low hikers and trail runners.

The sole of the Versatrail is designed for walking comfort
The sole of the Versatrail is designed for walking comfort and stability.

The KEEN Versatrail low hiker has a modest sole designed for comfort and stability rather than aggressive traction over rocky or wet terrain. Interior arch support is minimal and you’ll want to switch to a firmer footbed if your foot requires more support.

All in, the KEEN Versatrail is a nice shoe for casual and light trail hiking featuring excellent comfort and breathability. I was particularly impressed by the shoe’s stability and resistance to ankle rolling while evaluating it, and recommend you try it for that reason if ankle stability is a concern that is preventing you from switching from hiking boots to a lighter weight low hiking shoe.

Manufacturer Specs

  • 8mm heel to toe drop
  • Cleansport NXT™ for natural odor control
  • Dual density compression molded EVA midsole
  • Exterior EVA heel counter
  • KEEN.Zorb strobel
  • Lightweight Ariaprene tongue construction
  • Lightweight breathable mesh and synthetic upper
  • Mesh lining

Disclosure: KEEN provided Philip Werner with a sample pair of Versatrail shoes for this review.

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  1. That toe box sounds a lot like Altra’s. You’ve tried both shoes. How do they compare?

    • Both shoes have large toe boxes that is true. The Altras however are running shoes and the Keens are just hikers. That’s the main functional difference. The Keens also look normal, not like clown shoes (Altra Runners.)

  2. Just ordered a pair. Looks like they will be the perfect solution for my daily 4 mile exercise walks. Thanks for the review, Sir.

  3. For all intents and purposes, it think the Keen Versatrail will prove to be a great day hike companion.

  4. I’m curious how the sole handles rocks and roots. I’ve been using a cheap pair of trail running shoes for my day hikes and some of the rocks and roots I hit are painful. I suppose I’m looking for something between the hard sole of a hiking shoe and the flexibility of a running shoe. These look like they may fit the bill.

  5. Got a pair of these and they are great so far. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Not so sure about the bungee cord laces, though. I expect I’d be banging the end of the toebox on downhills. Is there a way to remove them other than cutting them?

    The tongue is a little shorter than I’m used to, but I like the daisy chain for the laces all the way up the tongue. Nice touch.

    I’ve been hiking in Vasque Mindbenders for ten years or so (and Blurs before that), but the latest version was too tight across the forefoot, so I decided to try the Versatrail. Luckily, Palo Alto is one of the two cities on Earth with a Keen store.

    • I got the laces off without cutting them. But can’t recall how. Try contacting keen for advice how.

      • A web search for “remove keen bungee laces” worked.

        “Push the edge of a small flathead screwdriver into the seam between the lace joint and the lace joint cap at the end of your shoelaces until the cap pops out of the lace joint. Pull the lace ends from the cap and then slide the pieces (joint and cap) from your laces.”

  6. Even though I have wide feet and am always interested in Keen shoes, I passed on these shoes when you first reviewed them. Just thought such a light weight shoe was not what I needed at the time. But then two weeks ago I say them on clearance for $60. Tried them on. The heel cup is extremely comfortable as you mentioned in your review. I liked them so much I bought another pair. I will use these shoes occasionally for easy hikes, but mostly for an everyday shoe. If you have 2E width feet, at 60$. I say go for it.

  7. Got a pair of these and i’m a little bit disappointed because i’ve felt the front size too rigid/hard, on downhill the toes being pushed in front and squized.
    I chose my size, EU 42 which is ok on flat but i have a feeling that on downhill it should be a greater size, to have much more space for toes.

    Do you think that after another trekking session it will be better or should i pick a greater size, 43 for example?

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