We might as well cut right to the chase here and address the obvious; the fact that this walking boot has unusual accordion-style rubber bellows built into it. Bizarre as it might sound, this design does actually makes a lot of sense. It works.
Most boots will tend to wear out at the bottom of the tongue where the whole boot creases with each step. First the waterproof membrane nicks or wears thin and then the upper follows suit. This new Bellows Flex system is a direct effort by Keen to address that issue and in turn, to extend the overall mileage you’ll get from these.
Not only is the Bellows Flex located at that ridge above the toes but you’ll also find it around the back of the heel. Both working together, this system not only improves the lifespan of the boot but it also lowers the resistance to the natural roll of your foot, thus saving you energy with each step. Of course, it’ll make a minuscule difference on small hikes but on any big days out or multi-dayers, where minor details often really count, it could well come in handy.
Keen Ridge Flex Features
Setting aside the TPU flex system, the upper of the Keen Ridge Flex is very similar to the one found on Keen’s Targhee, one of the brand’s most popular hiking boots and a mainstay in their collection for over 15 years now.
It combines a mix of leather, synthetic mesh and foam padding around the ankle. Underneath all that, there’s Keen’s proprietary waterproof membrane (Keen.Dry) and there’s a quick-dry lining on the inside to help wick away any moisture.
The lacing system is pretty straightforward here. You’ve got webbing loops at the base leading up to a thicker strap that links with the heel and sole unit to provide that side to side torsional stability you want from a hiking boot. Then there are metal hooks up top.
Immediately underfoot there’s a removable insole, then there’s a compression moulded foam midsole and a lightweight shank which brings a nice bit of protection from sharp stuff underfoot while also aiding stability. There’s still plenty of flex to the sole unit though – enough for that long-distance comfort.