Keen vs Merrell: Battle of the Hiking Boots Giants

The odds are, if you love hiking and do so frequently, you must have already heard of the two hiking boots manufacturers, Keen vs Merrell.

It’s common to go to an outdoor and sports store and see shelves stacked with boots made by these two giants. If you conduct a quick search on the internet, you will see entire message boards and forums filled with Keen vs Merrell threads.

Keen vs Merrell: Battle of the Hiking Boots Giants

After seeing extensive debates, discussions, and comparisons between the two, we decided to weigh in on the matter ourselves and take it into our hands to explore the pros and cons of the two.

Where on the one hand, there are hardcore Merrell fans, and there are also people on the other side who sing praises of Keen boots. If you are an outdoors and sports lover like myself, you would naturally understand the importance of finding the perfect fit for yourself. We are not necessarily looking for the most costly or cheapest one, but one that best compliments our individualistic hiking experiences.

We have discussed the various benefits both companies offer with their signature line of boots, so you can make better-informed decisions when you go out to buy your next pair of hiking boots.

But before we start on our journey to find the best hiking boots, let’s look at both the companies and what they bring to the table.


Founded by Clark Matis, John Schweizer, and Randy Merrell in 1981, Merrell has been the manufacturer of quality hiking boots for a while now and has made quite the name for itself. While Matis was an award-winning cross-country skier, Schweizer worked for a ski company, and Merrell the artisan, was crafting personalized boots. The three of them teamed up to manufacture high-quality premium hiking boots best known for their performance and design.


Keen Inc is relatively new, founded in the early 2000s by Martin Keen. With the head office situated in Portland, Oregon, the company has made a name for itself, making all kinds of footwear. The company is known for its philanthropic vision all over the world and has been making quality hiking boots for almost two decades now, gaining quite a reputation among outdoor enthusiasts.

Keen vs Merrell Comparison

Quality and Performance

What truly sets Keens and Merrell’s footwear apart is their superior quality products and consistent growth over the years. Both the manufacturers build their products from the most high-quality materials that provide you with the best experience while doing any outdoor activity.

However, if we talk about durability, Merrell hiking boots are superior; for one, these boots last you a really long time, whereas keens are prone to fall victim to everyday wear and tear.


Hiking boots made by Keen feel quite modern and feature many new elements that appeal to younger people. The shoes are made with light and breathable mesh along with waterproofing leather, allowing plentiful air in. There is also a breathable mesh lining on the outside next to the rubber outsole.

Keens are also known to have a rather broader footbed as compared to other hiking boots, however, lack in arch support.

Merrells, too are made of waterproofing leather and mesh, with streamlined upper overlays, while there are added air cushions, protective pads, nylon arch shanks, and lace closures that add to the comfort of the wearer.

One big difference between the two is that whereas Keens uses glue, Merrels go for detailed stitching of the many layers, which contributes to their long life span. Merrell’s hiking shoes also feature a special quick-dry feature, allowing plentiful air in to quickly dry the shoes.


For being a decades-old company, and a staple of hiking boots and footwear, it’s natural to understand why Merrells are as costly as they are. Whereas Keens are more budget-friendly, ultimately, it depends on your personal preference and on the pair of boots that best suit your needs. However, there are seasonal promotions offered by Merrells that you can go to buy a pair.


Keen uses a special copyrighted non-marking rubber outsole with multidirectional lugs and insoles, which are quite flexible and lightweight. On the flip side, Merrell’s footwear uses Vibrant outsoles, the market standard for hiking boots.  These outsoles help in the complete prevention of slippage and can tackle all kinds of rough terrains, from rocky passageways to snowy mountain treks.

These hiking boots feature dual-density molded midsoles, which are great for heel and arch support, making your treks a lot safer.


As far as footbeds are concerned, Keens come with flexible soles and replaceable footbeds, which are ideal for people with a broader foot frame. Merrells’ for all their footwear experience, can feel a little tight for some people and also offer no replaceable footbeds.

Water Resistance

Both companies manufacture Hiking boots that offer premium water resistance capabilities. Keen has a waterproof member and leather, it’s ideal for a wide array of outdoor activities not just limited to hiking or trekking. Whereas Merrell’s shoes are completely waterproof, letting the air flow freely inside so that the little water that does find its way in is dried off quickly. In fact, Merrell initially had found their niche in watersports activities.

Keen vs Merrell | Final Thoughts

There is no saying who is the definite winner in this whole Keen vs Merrell situation. But one thing is for sure, both companies make products that deliver what they promise. Each with its unique characteristics and features is aimed at serving different purposes and uses. Some people have had better experience hiking wearing Keens, and some have had a blast sprinting in Merrells. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal choice and needs, though superior quality speaks for itself.

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