I had a trip to Vancouver and Whistler planned for right about now. I was going to use the trip to test out the Highland hybrid sneakers that KEEN had sent for evaluation. It seemed like the perfect opportunity: no tying laces for easy off and on at the airport, thickly cushioned soles for all-day comfort, the ability to go off the pavement onto a trail, and a stylish, sneaker look. The west coast trip was canceled (obviously), but I decided to get the Highlands out, and have been wearing them for the past few weeks to walk the dogs.
Not exactly the test scenario I had envisioned, but it still covers the basics.
I like the fact that these are hybrid sneakers. They’re designed to let you leave the pavement for a trail if you choose. Yet they have a low profile and are nowhere near as bulky as typical hiking or trail-rated shoes. The outsole is a thick, high-rebound EVA with plenty of cushioning. It’s complemented by a Luftcell PU footbed. Treads are a modest diamond pattern, which is grippy enough on concrete but lacks the aggressive lugs that can make walking on the pavement (or floors) awkward.
They are quite light—according to my scale, each shoe weighs just 11.6 ounces.
The style element comes into play on the uppers. They’re made of LWG-certified leather, in contrasting layers. In the case of my sample shoes, the sneaker is primarily blue, while the tongue and trim are a contrasting tan. It’s a pretty attractive look, and KEEN offers a half dozen different color combinations if that one doesn’t suit your fancy.
Fit and Comfort
I found these shoes fit pretty true to size. They are extremely comfortable right out of the box and required no break-in period. It did take me a few blocks to get accustomed to the slight tail on the sole (it sticks out a little further from the heel than some shoes), but otherwise, the cushioned soles worked well for walking on pavement. They have a nice bounce and tons of cushioning. As mentioned, the diamond cut treads in the foam soles did a good job of gripping the pavement. There are plenty of small perforations in the upper, making the shoes breathable.
The lacing system is bungee-style locking laces. They are threaded through nylon loops so they aren’t stretching the leather. The system is secure, adjustable, and has enough elasticity to make the shoes easy to slip on and off.
When we went off the sidewalk and roads with the dogs into the parks, I found that those modest treads aren’t particularly effective on surfaces like wet grass or rutted trails. They’re fine on groomed trails—packed dirt or fine gravel—but for anything more challenging, I’d want something trail-rated.
A Few Additional Observations
I had some concerns that the soft foam treads might wear quickly, but after a month of use—mostly on concrete and frequently with an 85-pound dog doing her best to drag me around—there’s no sign of premature wear.
The one thing I was underwhelmed with was the leather “collar” around the opening. I love the contrast it offers, but the leather is single-sided and thin. It flops around when the shoes are off, and can actually get in the way when pulling the shoes on. Nothing a quick tug to get it back in place won’t fix, but it seems a little unfinished and doesn’t add anything in the way of support.
With all this leather, I wouldn’t want to get these shoes wet unless they were treated first.
If you’re looking for a pair of shoes that offer a combination of style and performance—with the ability to hit a groomed trail when needed—KEEN’s Highland hybrid sneakers are worth checking out. The bungee locking laces combined with the comfort and versatility of these shoes would make them a great choice for travel and perfect for urban exploration.
The regular price of the KEEN men’s Highland shoes is $130, but at the time of writing KEEN was offering them directly from its website at a $97.50 sale price.
Disclosure: KEEN provided shoes for evaluation but had no input into this review. As an Amazon Associate, I earn affiliate fees from qualifying purchases.