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Hands-on Gear Review
Keen Summit County Review
Cons: Wide fit, not the easiest lacing system
Bottom line: The Summit County is a winter hiking boot that will appeal most to those with wide feet.
Keen hiking boots have long been taking home top awards for their high quality and comfort. The Summit County boot is no exception and represents a well thought out model that delivers decent warmth and water resistance. This is a boot that can easily transition between sedentary winter boot needs like snow shoveling, and active winter pursuits like snowshoe hiking. What was difficult for our reviewers to deal with was the wide fit that the Summit County has. It was difficult for most of our reviewers to find a fit that was not sloppy, even with extra socks. Those with wide feet will no doubt find this boot to be the answer to their prayers, but for most, a contender such as The North Face Chilkat 400, Vasque Snowburban II Ultradry, or Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni-Heat will fit better for winter hiking uses.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Boots for Men of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Newly updated for 2017, the Keen Summit County is a new take on the well-regarded Summit County III. Changes include more synthetic material in the upper, a new insulation blend that includes bamboo fibers, and strategically located insulation, with more placed in the toe box, and less in the upper boot. This new model does have a noticeably wider fit than previous models we have reviewed and will be great for those with big feet. Low to medium volume feet would do well to pass on this boot in favor of a narrower model.
Keen is known for using proprietary textiles in its boots, preferring to develop in-house fiber blends instead of using better-known brands like Primaloft to insulate them. In the Summit County, we find a blend of bamboo and polyester fibers called Keen.WARM. This insulation performs as well as other brands, and we did not notice our feet getting overly cold when in the snow or the ice bath, though the 400 grams of insulation found in The North Face Chilkat 400 made it the warmest in our review. What Keen has done in this year's iteration of the Summit County was to map the insulation so that key areas received more. The boot features 300 grams of Keen.WARM, but the toe box area uses 450 grams. Keen has also chosen to include a thermal footbed that is silver lined, and which better resists heat loss due to conduction than other models like the Bogs Classic Ultra Mid.
Much like the insulation used, Keen goes in-house for their waterproof lining, saving consumers money by not using name brands like Gore-Tex in favor of a waterproof/breathable membrane called Keen.DRY, which works well, and kept water and slush from getting into the boots. We also tested this during an ice bath test and by testing in the snow and rain. We rated these boots an 8 out of 10, as they have a lower flood height or less durable waterproofing finish than top performers in this metric such as the Sorel Caribou or Bogs Classic Ultra Mid.
Fit and Comfort
Since fit is largely a subjective observation, we tried to get as many people's feet into these boots as possible to reach some consensus on the Summit County's fit. The verdict is that these fit much wider than any other boot in our review. With that in mind, most with low to medium volume feet will be hard pressed to get a snug fit - even with liner socks - if they hope to have well-fitted boots for winter hiking. That said, the plush inner is soft and cushioned, and the boots are comfortable.
Ease of Use
Being able to unlace the Summit County down to the eyelets allows the user to easily slip into the boot, especially since it is so wide. It's an easier boot to put on than the Vasque Snowburban II, or The North Face Chilkat, though it is not nearly as easy to get and out of as the Bogs or Blundstone models. We had mixed feelings about the lacing system, as it was hard to tighten up the laces around the midfoot.
The dual-compound non-marking sole featured on the Summit County was one of the boot's strong suits, keeping us upright on a variety of slippery winter surfaces like snow-covered walkways and muddy trails. The lug pattern is large enough to bite into the terrain you are traveling over but not too large that it gets filled in by snow or mud and you track it indoors with you. This boot tied The North Face Chilkat with a score of 8, though was beat by a slender margin by the Kamik NationPlus.
This is the best boot in our review with those with wide feet. Sometimes difficult to find, the Summit County will give great warmth and weather protection to those who struggle to find a good fit in other models. Those with lower volume feet will find it harder to make these boots fit well, however, so should look at similar winter hiking models made by other manufacturers.
With a price of $160, the Summit County represents an average price among our analysis of the top winter boots. While nearly twice the price of the Best Bang for Buck winning Kamik NationPlus, this boot is still a decent value, particularly for those who fit its large mold.
If you have found yourself frustrated by the standard offerings in the winter boot aisle at your outdoor store, or are constantly returning boots because they are too narrow, look to the Keen Summit County to fit your winter hiking boot needs while allowing ample room for wider foot shapes.
— Ryan Huetter
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