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Keen Zionic Waterproof Mid Review

This stylish and technologically advanced boot is comfortable and lightweight, but falls short in a few key metrics
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Keen Zionic Waterproof Mid Review (It is a light and comfortable boot, though not without its issues. Is it for you? It may very well be, if you need a...)
It is a light and comfortable boot, though not without its issues. Is it for you? It may very well be, if you need a beefed up hiking shoe for non-technical trails and walks where support isn't your biggest concern.
Credit: Ryan Huetter
Price:  $170 List
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Manufacturer:   Keen
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 25, 2023
59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 17
  • Comfort - 25% 7.0
  • Support - 25% 5.0
  • Traction - 15% 6.0
  • Water Resistance - 15% 5.0
  • Weight - 10% 8.4
  • Durability - 10% 4.0

Our Verdict

The Keen Zionic Waterproof Mid is a high-tech, innovative hiking boot from a brand we have long associated with heavier, stable, and robust footwear. This new foray into the niche world of light and fast involves some pretty cool new materials and processes that we have not yet seen from Keen. Thanks to TPU-coated mesh, the upper sheds significant weight, and by using a soft and pliable midsole, we found adequate comfort when on trail. While the weight savings are noticeable, they do come at a cost. The Zionic lacks the support or stability we would want in a boot for difficult terrain or for carrying a heavy pack. But it is still a good choice for those adventuring on easier trails or with less pack weight.
REASONS TO BUY
Lightweight
Comfortable
Roomy toe box
REASONS TO AVOID
Not very supportive
Average waterproofing
Durability concerns

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Bottom Line This is an innovative boot that features some new materials to create a comfortable and light model, though it has limitationsThis flagship hiking boot is our first recommendation for a hiking and backpacking boot, achieving remarkable performance in all terrain types and conditionsThis is a high-performance boot that eats up demanding off-trail terrain thanks to its above-average stability and tractionThis inexpensive boot is super comfortable and is a great all-around optionThis heavy leather hiking boot is a budget friendly and offers great atability
Rating Categories Keen Zionic Waterpr... Salomon Quest 4 Gor... La Sportiva Ultra R... Merrell Moab 3 Mid... Timberland Mt. Madd...
Comfort (25%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
4.0
Support (25%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Traction (15%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
Water Resistance (15%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Weight (10%)
8.4
4.5
8.0
6.8
7.0
Durability (10%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Specs Keen Zionic Waterpr... Salomon Quest 4 Gor... La Sportiva Ultra R... Merrell Moab 3 Mid... Timberland Mt. Madd...
Measured Weight (per pair, size 11) 1.98 lbs 2.90 lbs 2.08 lbs 2.36 lbs 2.31 lbs
Upper Performance ripstop mesh with TPU overlays Leather and nylon AirMesh, microfiber, TPU Pigskin leather, mesh Full-grain leather
Width Options Regular Regular Regular, wide Regular, wide Regular, wide
Waterproof Lining KEEN.DRY Gore-Tex Gore-Tex extended comfort Waterproof membrane TimberDry
Boot Type Lightweight hiker/day hiker Midweight hiker/backpacking boot Lightweight hiker/day hiker Midweight hiker/backpacking boot Midweight hiker/backpacking boot
Last Board/Shank Stability shank 4D Chassis Nylon molded flex TPU Molded nylon TPU shank
Midsole Direct-attach, air-injected PU EnergyCell Injection-molded MEMlex Super Rebound Compound EVA
Sole Nonmarking, high-traction TPU Contagrip TD FriXion XF 2.0 Vibram TC5+ Rubber

Our Analysis and Test Results

By using modern materials and construction, Keen has made one of their lightest and most comfortable pairs of hiking boots yet. With coated ripstop mesh, the upper is light, pliable, and comfortable straight out of the box. Underfoot, the Keen LuftCell midsole construction is soft and cushioned, absorbing trail impacts. However, we found deficits in support, water resistance, and durability to be directly tied with these weight savings.

Performance Comparison


keen zionic waterproof mid - casual hikes on pretty mellow terrain or trail systems are really...
Casual hikes on pretty mellow terrain or trail systems are really where this lightweight boot shines.
Credit: Ryan Huetter


Comfort


These are hands-down the most comfortable Keen boots we have slipped into, mainly due to the soft and malleable performance ripstop mesh upper, which easily conforms to the foot. It is simple to snug the laces up and get a customizable fit, though, as with many Keen boots, the Zionic Mid trends on the wide side. We also appreciate the additional padding surrounding the ankle area; the low-top version of this shoe does not have it and is nowhere near as comfortable.

keen zionic waterproof mid - the plush cushioning of the keen luftcell midsole actually did...
The plush cushioning of the Keen LuftCell midsole actually did really well keeping our feet happy bounding over hard surfaces and paved paths.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Support


You can't always get what you want in a pair of hiking boots, and while we found the Zionic to offer above-average comfort and a marked improvement in this metric for their brand as a whole, these boots were a departure from the support we have long appreciated from Keen in their hiking footwear.

The LuftCell midsole is well-cushioned and provides good underfoot support when working down firm trail surfaces, although the midsole is soft and has very little torsional rigidity. Ankle stability in lighter-material boots is best achieved through compression, and with only one set of laces hooks that are positioned high on the ankle cuff, we were not able to find a secure fit that made us feel confident while in uneven or rough terrain, or with any significant pack weight. These will best serve the day hikers who desire a bit more ankle support than a normal shoe but who are not looking for a full-on hiking boot.

keen zionic waterproof mid - lateral stability was one area that we were disappointed - we felt...
Lateral stability was one area that we were disappointed - we felt uneasy bounding from rock to rock on this off-trail hike.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Traction


The Zionic features 4mm deep, multidirectional lugs that are made of a proprietary TPU compound that is meant to be non-marking. In dry conditions, we found them to be best, with enough bite to tear into loose slopes but also enough surface area contact and flex in the sole to conform to slabs or smooth surfaces. In wet terrain, this boot did fairly well, although there was some side-to-side slippage due to the orientation (or lack thereof) of the lugs towards the outsides of the foot. The outsole material is rather soft, so it will do better in situations requiring stickiness rather than offering stable, firm edging control.

keen zionic waterproof mid - the 4mm traction lugs are deep and well-spaced, giving good grip in...
The 4mm traction lugs are deep and well-spaced, giving good grip in most all conditions.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Water Resistance


The Zionic Mid uses the standard KEEN.Dry waterproof liner to give these boots their water resistance. The liner itself works as advertised and kept our feet dry for up to 3 minutes when submersed while brand new. However, leakage occurred along the seam between the upper and outsole and only continued to get worse as the boot saw excessive wear in this area. Expect good short-term waterproofing and protection in quick submersions, as well as really fast drying times once they are inundated, but don't expect these to remain watertight for their entire lifespan.

keen zionic waterproof mid - the zionic waterproof mid does a good job at keeping water out on...
The Zionic Waterproof Mid does a good job at keeping water out on these quick crossings, but ended up wetting out after more use and longer submersions.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Weight


While not the lightest boots in this review, the Zionic deserves an honorable mention for breaking the 2-pound barrier, one of only a handful to do so. These boots will not weigh you down and feel very light and airy on the feet at a measly 1.98 pounds in a men's US size 11. As usual, weight savings come at a cost, and we found the balance between weight and support to be less favorable than in other lightweight models.

keen zionic waterproof mid - a thin outsole and very light upper materials were two of the places...
A thin outsole and very light upper materials were two of the places this boot achieved such a low weight.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Durability


The Keen Zionic Mid is made up of light and rather flimsy materials. Due to that and the way they are constructed overall, even use on mild terrain resulted in signs of wear and tear. Other users have complained about sole delamination and tearing of the ripstop mesh material. The biggest issue we found was the connection between the upper and outsole, which began to separate and allow water in after little use.

keen zionic waterproof mid - the tpu coating on these boots began to come apart over time, and...
The TPU coating on these boots began to come apart over time, and delamination between the upper and outsole allowed water in. These boots will show their age quickly if taken into rough terrain.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Should You Buy the Keen Zionic Waterproof Mid?


This is a pretty good-looking, lightweight hiking boot that feels more like a shoe thanks to its thin and flexible materials. It is the least expensive of the boots in our lineup that weighs under 2 pounds, though you can get a lot more support and durability for slightly more money.

What Other Hiking Boots Should You Consider?


For the lightest hiking boot that still offers a generously wide fit, we love the Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid 2. If you want to spend just a few more dollars, still have a supremely light boot, and gain way more support, it is hard not to recommend the Salomon X Ultra Mid 4 Gore-Tex.

Ryan Huetter