Reviews You Can Rely On

Keen Zionic Speed Review

This lightweight hiking shoe is high-tech and offers enough support to be a good pairing with well-maintained trails
gearlab tested logo
Keen Zionic Speed Review
Credit: Ryan Huetter
Price:  $145 List
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Manufacturer:   Keen
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 3, 2023
50
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#18 of 18
  • Comfort - 25% 5.0
  • Support - 20% 4.0
  • Traction - 15% 6.0
  • Water Resistance - 15% 3.0
  • Weight - 15% 7.8
  • Durability - 10% 4.0

Our Verdict

The Keen Zionic Speed is definitely the lightest hiking shoe that we have seen from this brand, which is well known for their durable, comfortable, and supportive shoes and boots. By utilizing new construction methods and modern synthetic materials, there is a substantial weight savings from the models we are used to seeing from Keen. TPU-coated mesh and micro air cell midsole construction allow this shoe to tip the scales at just over 1.5 pounds for the pair. Unfortunately, that weight savings occurred at a cost, namely comfort and stability. We were not too impressed with this shoe overall, but some diehard Keen fans may find it to be what they are looking for.
REASONS TO BUY
Good traction
Supportive midsole
Very light
REASONS TO AVOID
Uncomfortable around ankles
Poor stability
Not waterproof

Compare to Similar Products

 
keen zionic speed
This Product
Keen Zionic Speed
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price Check Price at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$179.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$160 List
$119.99 at REI
$108.46 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$51.91 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
50
79
75
75
63
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Bottom Line Surprisingly light for a hiking shoe, it wears more like a trail runner and similarly sacrifices comfort and stabilityUnbelievably comfortable and supportive, these awesome hiking shoes can do it allThis is the definition of a solid hiking shoe, and is a perfect choice for those not wanting to compromise on off-trail performanceThis is the definition of a solid hiking shoe, and is a perfect choice for those not wanting to compromise on off-trail performanceThis inexpensive but good quality hiking shoe is a perfect choice for just starting out on the trails
Rating Categories Keen Zionic Speed Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX Salomon X Ultra 4 G... Salomon X Ultra 4 G... Columbia Crestwood
Comfort (25%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Support (20%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (15%)
6.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
6.0
Water Resistance (15%)
3.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
3.0
Weight (15%)
7.8
5.9
6.9
6.9
6.5
Durability (10%)
4.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
Specs Keen Zionic Speed Hoka Anacapa 2 Low GTX Salomon X Ultra 4 G... Salomon X Ultra 4 G... Columbia Crestwood
Measured Weight (per pair, size 11) 1.58 lbs 1.96 lbs 1.76 lbs 1.76 lbs 1.82 lbs
Upper Mesh with TPU overlays Recycled mesh Synthetic, textile Synthetic, textile Suede leather, mesh, webbing
Lining None GORE-TEX Invisible Fit Gore-Tex membrane Gore-Tex membrane None
Flood Height .75 in 3.0 in 3.25 in 3.25 in 1.5 in
Last Board/Shank Stability shank Not specified ADV-C chassis ADV-C chassis Not specified
Midsole High-rebound EVA EVA (30% sugarcane) EnergyCell EnergyCell Techlite
Outsole Nonmarking TPU rubber Vibram Megagrip rubber Contagrip MA rubber Contagrip MA rubber OmniGrip
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular, Wide

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Keen Zionic Speed is crazy light compared to the average weight of a pair of hiking shoes. It offers reasonable comfort thanks to the soft TPU-coated mesh on the upper. The midsole uses a KEEN LuftCell micro air pocket technology, which gives it good cushion, although we found the floppy fit to impact both comfort and stability. The Zionic has a coating on the mesh, but it is not waterproof at all. This may make it more desirable in hot climates where waterproof membranes are too warm.

Performance Comparison


keen zionic speed - when sticking mostly to easy trails, these shoes do fairly well...
When sticking mostly to easy trails, these shoes do fairly well. Rocky and uneven slopes are right on the edge of their comfort or ability level.
Credit: Ryan Huetter


Comfort


The Zionic Speed is a minimalist hiking shoe design that radically departs from the normal footwear we tend to see from Keen. We like that they have expanded into this lighter and often more comfortable hiking shoe style, as not everyone needs a super burly shoe for their local trails. Slipping into the Zionic, the fit feels wide (although many Keen aficionados have complained that they are too narrow) and floppy due to the construction. Even when laced up snugly, we felt the sharp, unpadded edge of the ankle cuff digging in.

Slipping into these shoes is also a bit of a task. Because there is no padding around the lip of the ankle, it is easy to feel your sock sticking on this edge. We also did not care for the lack of a tongue gusset, making it very easy to fill our shoes with dirt and debris as we walked loose trails.

keen zionic speed - notice how far down the tongue gusset is - we often ended up with a...
Notice how far down the tongue gusset is - we often ended up with a lot of dirt inside after hikes.
Credit: Ryan Huetter


Support


The Keen Zionic has a responsive, cushioned midsole and utilizes design characteristics such as Keen Contoured Fit to attempt to create a shoe that is light, supportive, and well-fitting. We were disappointed that it was not nearly as supportive as we hoped. So much of support and stability comes down to fit, and we could never find a snug enough fit to make the flimsy upper mesh material secure around the foot, which led to a lot of unease about rolled ankles.

keen zionic speed - the low ankle and soft material just don't give adequate stability...
The low ankle and soft material just don't give adequate stability for technical hiking terrain.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Despite there being a stability shank, we did not find this to increase torsional rigidity to the point that we'd recommend this shoe off-trail.

Anywhere that lateral stability is required (like a lot of hiking situations!), we found the Zionic Speed to be lacking.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Traction


Traction is one area that the Zionic held their own a bit better. With a soft proprietary rubber blend, these shoes have good grip on smooth surfaces thanks to enhanced surface area contact through the large horizontally oriented 4mm deep lugs. That said, we found them to slip a bit laterally, especially in wet or loose sediment. Edging was one area where we found these shoes to be deficient, as there just isn't enough stability to feel comfortable being on the edge of the foot in steep situations.

keen zionic speed - the soft rubber compound is actually pretty good, and for on trail...
The soft rubber compound is actually pretty good, and for on trail use we think the lug pattern works pretty well.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Water Resistance


The Zionic Speed are not waterproof, as they are not made of waterproof materials, nor do they have a waterproof/breathable membrane. The upper mesh material is treated with a plastic TPU overlay which may keep a very light mist from inundating the shoes, but they get soaking wet as soon as you truly step into water. Note that the model we tested, the Speed version, is not waterproof, but a waterproof versiondoes exist.

keen zionic speed - much deeper than the outsole and these shoes are going to soak right...
Much deeper than the outsole and these shoes are going to soak right through.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Weight


The Keen Zionic scored really well when we took them to the scales, as they weigh a measly 1.58 pounds for a pair of size 11 US. Still, while we appreciate a lightweight hiking shoe, this one saved weight in the wrong places and left us opting for other models that are heavier but have more support and comfort.

keen zionic speed - crazy light, but pretty minimal for a hiking shoe, the zionic is one...
Crazy light, but pretty minimal for a hiking shoe, the Zionic is one of the lightest shoes we reviewed.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Durability


Made of TPU-coated mesh uppers and soft rubber outsoles, these shoes have a lot weak materials exposed that could be affected by rough terrain. It is usually the case that when you opt for lightweight materials, durability suffers, and this is definitely the case with the Zionic. For exclusive use on simple trails, this may not be as much of an issue, though in our testing, we found that the connection between the sole and upper around the thin and narrow toe cap began breaking down.

keen zionic speed - breakdown of the materials after only a couple of uses.
Breakdown of the materials after only a couple of uses.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Should You Buy the Keen Zionic Speed?


We found that this was an okay hiking shoe but not a great one. There are some reasons you may like it, like lightweight comfort for on-trail use, but it does not offer as much value as similarly priced shoes.

What Other Hiking Shoes Should You Consider?


If you want a pair of lightweight shoes that offer way more in terms of support, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex only cost a little more, and for slightly more weight but incredible value, the inexpensive Columbia Facet 75 OutDry has a waterproof lining, is more supportive, and still feels like a running shoe.

Ryan Huetter