In 2003, Martin Keen and Rory Fuerst introduced a new shoe at a winter tradeshow. These sneaker-sandal hybrids were called Keens and drew a divisive response among shoe enthusiasts. One observer reported that it was the ugliest shoe he'd ever seen, while others saw the potential for it to completely change the outdoor sports industry. The shoes, which were given the name Keen Newports, became a surprise hit, and the new brand was given the "Launch of the Year Award" by Footwear News. Keen began to carve out a niche for its shoes--adapting designs as needed and creating new products for different types of outdoor activities. In addition to making a splash in the shoe industry, it also began supporting philanthropic causes worldwide by partnering with non-profit organizations across the globe.
Keen relocated from Alameda, CA, to Portland, OR, in 2006 and began poaching top talent from other shoe conglomerates. In 2010, the brand opened its own plant in Portland and started manufacturing the majority of its products in the United States--a decision that was recognized by the White House in 2012. Today, Keen shoes are available at more than 1,000 retail locations across the country.
Keen offers footwear in the full spectrum of kids' and adult sizes. Several different styles of shoes have evolved from the original Newport. The brand is well known for its cutout webbing patterns that resemble a sandal, alongside the beefy toe bumper often found on hiking boots. Shoes in this basic style are available for babies, toddlers, kids, men, and women. Other footwear is a little more category-specific. Products specifically for babies include soft crib booties and sandals. Kids shoe sizes are then divided into toddler (sizes 4-7), little kid (sizes 8-13), and big kid (sizes 1-6). Options include sneakers in various colors, as well as hiking boots, snow boots, and flip-flops. Keen's clothing selection for children is relatively limited, but you can find some shorts, pants, and socks.
Women have an even broader range of options when it comes to footwear. In addition to the hybrid outdoor shoes, you'll also find a range of slip-ons, wedges, clogs, ballet flats, boots, and booties. Sneakers and hiking boots are also available and classified based on whether they are waterproof, as well as whether they are intended for casual wear or work wear. Women's clothing and accessories include tees, skirts, pants, socks, hats, and handbags. In addition to its more traditional lines, Keen also continues to innovate and sells shoes with oddball designs under its Uneek label.
If it hadn't burst on to the scene with shoes that were designed to be unique and a little bizarre, Keen probably never would have taken off. Ironically, though the brand is best known for its distinctive styles, the vast majority of its catalog is much more traditional. Still, Keen's sneakers, boots, and other shoes are often considered to be leaders in their various categories because of the brand's commitment to quality. Footwear isn't exactly cheap, but most options aren't too expensive either. We give Keen 4.5 stars out of 5.