Keen Alamosa Mid
$120, 1 lb. 15 oz. (men’s size 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-12, 13, 14 15, women’s 5-11
Here’s a question that’ll stir impassioned debate in certain circles: waterproof or non-waterproof boots when backpacking? Some adhere to the belief in a waterproof-breathable membrane on a multi-day trip when your feet could get wet; others say no membrane is infallible, and non-waterproof footwear will definitely dry out faster once wet. I put this philosophical debate to an unscientific test, wearing the Alamosa Mids on a four-day, 56-mile trip in Idaho’s Sawtooths in mid-September, a time of year when cold rain or feet getting wet just from dew on trailside vegetation isn’t unusual in the mountains.
Carrying up to 30 pounds, I found these lightweight boots supportive and comfortable on days up to 18 miles, suffering zero foot fatigue and no hot spots, thanks to a compression-molded EVA and PU midsole, a plastic partial shank, and a fit that holds the foot in place from the heel through the arch but allows bountiful toe wiggle room. The mesh and nubuck leather uppers kept my feet cool and dry on warm afternoons. And to the point about lacking a waterproof membrane: When I inadvertently dunked the boots fording a shallow river, or they got damp from dew, they dried out within a couple of hours (in part because I removed them right after the dunking, poured out the water, and wrung out my socks). I’ve seen many waterproof-breathable boots eventually wet through on a really soggy trip, or from extended periods of walking on wet snow at higher elevations. In summer temperatures, your feet will sweat much more in boots that have a membrane, and those boots will also dry much more slowly than a non-waterproof model like the Alamosa. That said, boots only dry out within a reasonable time if you have sunshine or your feet are warm enough for body heat to push the moisture out. So in temps around 40° F or colder, when I expect wet conditions, I still tend to lean toward waterproof-breathable boots, and I’ll often use low or high gaiters for snow, rain, or wet vegetation (and added warmth). But for most summer dayhiking and light backpacking, the Alamosa Mid is a great choice. Fit is best for medium- to high-volume feet; I had to snug the laces tightly for my medium-volume feet.