It’s a long time since outdoor gear worn on the British hills has necessarily been designed, developed and assembled in the UK – and today very little is even made in Europe; but the times are changing.
US brand Keen is the latest company to invest in European manufacturing skills and facilities, and it has developed a site in Romania that allows them to test, design and make products specifically for the European market. Sitting at the pinnacle of the new range of footwear that will be emerging from this factory is the Keen Liberty Ridge.
Designed for more technical ground and longer backpacking trips, according to its new European manufacturers, the Liberty Ridge is a classic leather boot built with a full-grain leather upper. There is a synthetic tongue and a KeenDry waterproof and breathable membrane tucked inside.
Underfoot you get a Keen rubber outsole with quite deep lugs that are well-spaced, but you don’t get much of a heel breast compared to other boots in this price range. There is a big rubber toe rand for more durability as well as a rubber skeleton at the ankle cuff to add extra support. Stiffness in the upper and sole is very good and comparable to some of the better boots in this price range, with enough toe-to-heel and lateral stiffness to take the strain out of more uneven ground.
Putting the Liberty Ridge on, I found the fit to be particularly spacious in the forefoot, something Keen is renowned for, making this particularly suitable for those with wider feet or who just like a little more wiggle room. The ankle cuff was a little firmer than I’d have liked, but I did get used to it pretty quickly.
I found it provided a very stable foothold on every step, that extra forefoot width really making each step feel very secure. There is also a good toe-to-heel flex, which allowed a very smooth rolling gait. The lateral stiffness was good too and enabled some easy scrambling to be enjoyed in confidence. The only niggle is as that forefoot is quite wide my relatively slender feet tended to slip sideways a little more than I would like, meaning that traversing slopes was not ideal for me; but broader-footed walkers may prefer this to narrower boots of course.
On rocky ground there is enough stiffness in the sole to make jagged rocks comfortable, and enough stiffness in the upper to ensure the feet are afforded a decent degree of protection.
Upper full-grain leather; synthetic tongue
Waterproof lining Keen Dry
Sole Keen dual-density rubber
Sizes 6½-13 (men’s); 3½–8½ (women’s)
The Keen Liberty Ridge is a European-made boot that I am sure many British hillwalkers would welcome to our shores as it is well-priced and a great choice for heading across the moors, hills and mountains of the UK.
Review by Graham Thompson
Published in Trail magazine November 2015