KEEN.DRY: Waterproof Your Rainy-Day Hikes
February 10, 2020Feb 10, 2020
innovation making shoes
As Portlanders, we are experts in wet. With a rainy season that — let’s face it — spans most of the year (pro tip: visit in July!), we often need to dress for showers, puddles, and muddy trails. Hoods are a must, and so are bike-seat covers, warm drinks, and waterproof shoes.
Yup, April showers bring May flowers. They also bring fewer crowds to the trails. We like both of those things a lot, so we tend to get out there in any weather. Plus, a rainy day creates its own kind of beauty and offers a new perspective from a favorite trail.
But having wet feet is not a beautiful thing, which leads us to waterproof shoes, and our waterproof membrane that lets perspiration out without letting water in. It’s part magic, part microscopic wonder.
Our signature waterproof technology is called KEEN.DRY. You might think that it’s something applied to the outside of the shoe, but it’s actually a membrane that seals out water from the inside. Imagine an ultra-thin “bootie.” There’s no place for water to get in.
KEEN.DRY works great on its own, but it never hurts to set it up for success with a few extra steps:
PFC-free water repellency: While KEEN.DRY works from the inside to prevent water from getting in, a water repellent helps rain bead off from the outside so it doesn’t soak into the material. We use a PFC-free alternative that repels water without using harmful chemicals.
Boot vs. shoe height: A mid height hiking boot will give you more protection than a low hiking shoe. With a little extra height, crossing creeks and splashing through puddles reduces the risk of water getting in through the collar.
Socks: Wool naturally wicks moisture away from the skin. So whether you’re wearing waterproof shoes or not, merino wool socks will keep your feet drier longer.
Gaiters: Waterproof gaiters aren’t just for winter. You can use them to keep rain from flowing down your legs into your socks.
“Do I really need waterproof hiking shoes or boots?” It all comes down to how and where you hike. For example, if you often backpack for days, or do long day hikes, hiking for miles with soggy feet can be uncomfortable and lead to blisters. On the other hand, if you are often doing short hikes and/or the chance of rain is low, it’s probably not that much of a risk. Obviously, if you live in Portland, Seattle, or another rainy climate, waterproof might be higher on your list of must-have features.
RELATED: Which Waterproof Hiking Boots Do I Need?
“Will my feet sweat?” You do sacrifice breathability when you choose a waterproof boot or shoe. Our KEEN.DRY bootie helps offset this by using microscopic holes that are big enough to let vapor escape without letting water in. However, if you tend to hike in very warm weather, you might consider KEEN sandals or vented, quick-dry hiking shoes.
“How is it tested?” All styles that use KEEN.DRY are randomly tested by a third party using a flex test in water. A sensor is placed inside the shoe, and the test simulates walking through the water. If at any point during the test the sensor detects moisture, a red light comes on and the test stops. Our shoes must exceed the industry standard of 15,000 flexes to be classified as waterproof. Our own standard is much higher: 50,000 flexes.
“How is waterproof different from water-resistant or water-repellent?” Water-resistant simply means a material won’t easily absorb water. Wool is naturally water-resistant, for example. Over time or in heavy rain, water can still get through. Water-repellent means that a material has been treated on the outside so that water beads up, adding an extra level of water-resistance. At KEEN, we use a water repellent that is PFC-free for less impact on the environment. Waterproof, meanwhile, means that water isn't able to seep through because of our KEEN.DRY bootie on the inside.
You can easily find KEEN.DRY waterproof boots and shoes when shopping on our website; simply check off “waterproof” under the Features section. Also, if you see a KEEN style with “waterproof” or “WP” in the name, it has the KEEN.DRY membrane.