The new for 2013 KEEN Marshall Mid WP is a bit of a departure for KEEN. It mixes some of the minimalism of the KEEN.CNX lightweight collection with more tradition KEEN virtues to create an all-round hiking shoe that's lighter and less clumpy than previous shoes and mids from the brand.
It's all about streaminlining and losing weight without going ridiculously light - if you fancy that, take a look at the .CNX shoes. Up top that means a light fabric upper with strategic reinforcement both at the toe and heel and with moulded exo-skeletal reinforcement.
Underneath there's still a full-length TPU shank, but there's a bunch of flexibility in the thinly cushioned forefoot for easier walking.
While previous KEEN shoes have always felt a little clumpy on the foot and, for many users, excessively broad in the forefoot, the Marshall is definitely a lighter, spritelier beast, albeit still a very comfortable one with plenty of room for wider feet. There's plenty of internal padding for instant comfort, but not so much that the fit feels sloppy.
One thing we noticed is that the lacing system isn't the slickest flowing out there, which means you have to take the time to optimise tension on the laces for a good, snug, but not overtight fit. And even then, we still found our foot could slip forward slightly on steeper descents - that may be a fit issue, but it's worth being aware of if you're trying a pair with a view to buying.
Otherwise we loved the lightness on the feet and generally, the very flexible forefoot which gives a natural feel on softer terrain and makes for natural walking motion. There's plenty of cushioning in the heel thanks to a high-rebound PU mid-sole, which should also outlast EVA, but the forefoot is quite sparsely padded and we found that could be tiring on harder and rockier terrain if you're not used to it.
Underfoot grip is good on dry to soft terrain, but we suspect may struggle in real gloop. Then again, we've struggled to find any really soft stuff recently, so that's more of an educated guess.
Overall we like the combination of KEEN's proven design features like the characteristic toe bumper, underfoot support and natural flexing, non-marking out-sole with a slightly slimmed-down fit and lighter weight.
The slimmed-down sports coupé cousin of KEENs full-weight hiking shoes, the Marshall Mid is light, fexible and generally super comfortable. The only downs are that the wide, thinly padded forefoot takes some getting used to on harder ground and the lacing system isn't as slick as some, which can lead to a bit of internal sliding on steeper descents. Mostly though it's good news for those who like KEEN's fit but want a lighter, more precise boot. There's also a Low version.