The day started with 1,200 meters of ascent over 7Km (4,000 feet over 4.2 miles). Dan and I started strong, but we were ready for lunch when we reached Mutsuishiyama. I looked out towards the hills we would be tackling over the next few hours as I enjoyed some whole grain pita and cheese sandwiches. We were making good time, and it was a great start to our three day adventure around Okutama.
I was pleasantly surprised with my new Salomon Fellraisers. I had always worn hiking shoes, and was skeptical that a lightweight trail runner would offer enough support on a longer hike, but I was feeling strong and we were making good time. I was all smiles as we headed down Mutsuishiyama to join back up with the main trail.
POP! That was a weird feeling in my knee that I had never experienced before.
Five minutes later, I wasn’t sure that this trip was going to be as enjoyable as I had hoped. As the day went on my knee got worse and worse. As often happens when one injuries themselves, you try to analyse the injury, and figure out what caused it. Was it the shoes? There is no way that it could have been conditioning, or getting old, or having lost weight (and muscle) around the knees… It must have been the shoes.
Product: Keen Koven WP Hiking Shoes
Purchased Date: October 2015
Price: 10,000 yen
Active Life: 9 months / 5 outings and daily use
Buy Again? Unsure
+ Fairly priced
+ Wide fit
+ Water proofing
+ Customer Service
– Top lacing eyelet design
– Quality issues
– Waterproofing doesn’t breathe
I decided after the trip, which we had to cut short by a day as I just couldn’t do the distance, that I needed to go back to a more robust shoe. I decided to go with a pair of Keen Kovens.
The next trip I took was the end of December. I had worn the Keens around town for a few months to break them in, and I was confident that they were going to be a much better shoe for hiking the constant up and down trails that we get here in Japan. Again, our three day trip turned into a two day. Again, knees blew out, and the distance just couldn’t be covered. This time it wasn’t me though. I knew it was the shoes. No way it was the extra knee strengthening I had been doing at the gym.
I was happy with the Keen Koven. I picked them up at a local outdoor shop for a fair price, and they fit my wide foot right out of the box. They didn’t have a 10.5, so I had to go a half size bigger, but they fit great. I was also happy to have a waterproof shoe as we were heading into winter and I needed something for the rain and snow.
Back in June the top loop of the shoe pulled loose and I could no longer lace up the shoe. This seems like a design flaw, that a rip in the shoe would make it nearly unusable. There was no way to access the slit in the shoe wall to try and resew it, so I considered throwing it out. On a whim, I looked for the receipt and was lucky to find it. I returned the shoe and Keen decided to repair them for me. Great customer service! It took about a month to get the shoes back, but they did return, ready for another trip.
Last week I took them on a two day hike. It was hot and muggy at 98% humidity! That waterproofing that I was so excited about back in December ended up trapping so much sweat in the shoe that I felt like I was walking in a river the entire trip. My feet looked like prunes after seven hours. I was actually able to pour the sweat out of the shoes. Gross!
When I got home a few days ago I gave them a good clean, and that is when I discovered that the soles had cracked and ripped. All that waiting for the shoe to come back and it dies on the very next wear. Oh the irony! I am now trying to decide if 10 months of use, a warranty claim, and both the wettest and driest feet warrant brand loyalty, or if it is time for something new.
If I can get the smell out of them I will glue the sole and use them around town, but I am keenly aware that they may never recover from those two days of high humidity.
Update: December 2016
I decided to go with a different brand for my new pair of shoes, and now use these as garden slip ons around the yard. I just couldn’t get past the lacing eyelet design and the poor timing of them falling apart. I appreciated Keen’s willingness to sew them back together, but in the end it didn’t win me over and I wasn’t willing to shell out $150 (current price in Japan) for a new pair. Hopefully my Merrell Moabs will have a better fate.