Keen Durand Polar Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Durand Polar is new to the OutdoorGearLab winter boot test and has unseated the North Face Chilkat 400 as our Editor's Choice Award winner. It impressed us across the board despite losing a little ground for its less confident traction. That said, the Durand Polar is our highest rated winter boot for its impressive warmth, waterproofness, comfort, and versatility.
The Durand Polar is an impressively warm winter boot. They are rated to -40 degrees and feature 400g of KEEN.Warm insulation. This insulation is proprietary and lightweight, made with charcoal bamboo. Since we'd never heard of charcoal bamboo before we did a quick google search. It revealed that charcoal made from bamboo is often used to enhance properties like odor absorption and thermal radiation. In any case, Durand Polar boot's insulation is impressively warm and soft.
Keen also includes a comfortable thermal footbed in the boots with a soft wooly top and a thermal foil barrier that is intended to reflect heat back at your feet. It seems to work as these boots kept our feet warm in all situations during testing.
In our ice bath heat retention testing, we found that the Durand Polar lost the least amount of internal temperature, with a drop of only 15.2 degrees in 12 minutes. For comparison, the internal temperature of the Kamik Greenbay dropped by 17.4 degrees, the North Face Chilkat 400 by 19.8 degrees, and the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV by 23.0 degrees.
To test their warmth further, we also did a side by side submersion test with our feet in both the Durand Polar and the North Face Chilkat 400. After a full 8 minutes submerged in our slurry of ice and water, our feet were barely chilled in either boot. While we couldn't determine a clear winner in this test, the Durand Polar's ice bath win earned it the highest score in this metric.
Keen calls the Polar a waterproof boot, and they mean it. These boots have a proprietary KEEN.Dry waterproof membrane and they aren't just water resistant. They are completely waterproof. In our submersion test, we stood in these boots in five-inch deep water for a full ten minutes, and our feet stayed completely dry.
Obviously, this an extreme test of a winter boot's waterproofness, but the Durand Polar passed with flying colors. This is especially impressive considering the amount of nylon used in the boot's construction and the number of seams throughout. They also have a 9-inch tall shaft height, but a gusset in the tongue brings the maximum puddle immersion depth down to 6.75 inches.
For comparison, during the same water submersion test, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV, which also claims to be waterproof, began leaking water through the seams along the tongue after only 2 minutes. On the other hand, our Top Pick for Winter Hiking, the North Face Chilkat 400, also impressed us with its complete waterproofness. The other top-rated boots for waterproofness are the bulky Sorel Caribou and the slip on Bogs Classic Ultra Mid, both of which are completely impermeable to water.
Fit and Comfort
We found the Durand Polar fit quite well. They run a touch on the small side in comparison to many of the boots in our test, but our lead tester found them true to size. That said, Keen is aware that their sizing can run a bit small and they recommend ordering a 1/2 size up on their website. This is especially important if you like to wear thicker socks. With that in mind, the Durand Polar fits a bit narrower and shorter than some of the other models in our test. Assuming your feet are an average width or narrower they should be pretty spot on, especially if you size up a 1/2 size for length.
The Durand Polar is among the most comfortable boots in our test. The insulated lining is very soft and conforms quickly to your feet. The footbed also does wonders to enhance the comfort of these boots. It is both cushioned and nicely contoured, with adequate arch support and a shape that cradles the foot comfortably from toe to heel.
With a maximum shaft height of 9 inches, the Durand is moderately tall, but the uppers aren't very stiff and don't tend to chafe or rub like some of the stiffer boots tested. This is true even during extended periods of walking or hiking. The lacing system has 8 points of attachment resulting in a snug, secure, and comfortable fit. The only other boots we tested that can compete with the fit and comfort of the Durand are the North Face Chilkat 400 and the Kamik Nationplus.
Ease of Use
Like most lace-up boots, the Durand Polar scores a bit lower than the slip-on models in this metric. As a general rule, slip on boots don't offer the precise fit that lace-up models achieve. They sacrifice performance and versatility as a result. If you're looking for a boot that can do it all, like the Durand, then be prepared for the task of tying/untying and tightening/loosening the laces every time you put them on or take them off. That's just the way it goes.
As lace-up boots are concerned, these are relatively easy to deal with and comparable with other similar models in our test. The laces on top of the foot are threaded through four metal D-rings, then there is a fabric loop below a set of three metal hooks that lead to the top. Yhe Durand is easiest to slip on and off when the laces are loosened most of the way to the bottom.
Tightening the laces is as simple as pulling tension on them sequentially up through the D-rings and the fabric loop before crisscrossing them up through the metal hooks and tying them at the top. Testers found this process to be on par with the Keen Summit County, and both of these boots proved to be easier to get in and out of than the North Face Chilkat 400 and the Vasque Snowburban II which have slightly less user-friendly lacing systems.
Our traction tests revealed one of the few weakness in the Durand Polar's otherwise stellar performance. Despite having an aggressive looking tread design, the sole just doesn't have the bite and grip of our top performing models in this metric. The somewhat softer rubber compound and the rounded edges, especially on the perimeter of the sole, seem to make these boots less grippy than the competition.
When walking sidehill across firm snow or straight up or down steeper inclines, we found ourselves slipping more than we like to as these boots don't quite edge in confidently. This was especially apparent when we tested the Durand side by side with the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV. With the Durand on one foot and the Bugaboot on the other, we found ourselves gripping on one side and slipping on the other. This direct comparison showed just how different the traction is between these two boots in the same firm snow conditions.
The traction of the Durand is reasonable for most applications, including winter hiking on packed snowy trails, although these wouldn't be our first choice for icy conditions. We would pair these boots with something like YakTrax if we knew we would be experiencing lots of ice on a hike. These boots also pair well with snowshoes for hiking if the snow is deep.
Our Top Pick for Hiking, the North Face Chilkat 400, had more impressive traction all around, with more bite and sharper edges around the outside of the sole. As mentioned above, the Durand couldn't compete with the tenacious grip offered by the unique sole design of our Top Pick for Traction Award winner, the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV.
The Durand Polar is a versatile boot that is good for just about everything. This boot is equally at home doing chores around the house or running errands around town as it is going for a winter hike or snowshoe adventure. They are very warm, and among the most comfortable boots, we tested. Their impressive waterproofness also makes them great for a range of conditions, from cold, dry snow to wet and sloppy. They may be a little less confidence inspiring in especially firm and icy conditions than some of the competition but are top performers in every other regard.
With a retail price of $200, the Durand Polar is one of the most expensive products in our test. It may be hard to justify shelling out the extra cash, but we still feel this is a good value considering the these are our Editor's Choice Award winner.
Keen makes them in the USA and the quality craftsmanship and attention to detail is apparent in this good-looking, completely waterproof, warm, and super comfortable boot. These boots can do it all, and will likely last you for several years while keeping your feet warm and dry all winter long.
It was a close battle for the top step of the podium in our winter boot tests. In the end, the Durand Polar just barely bested the North Face Chilkat 400 to become our new Editor's Choice Award winner. The Durand is an incredibly versatile model that is good for everything from chores around the house, errands in town, playing in the snow, or winter hiking and snowshoeing. It received very high marks for comfort, warmth, and water resistance, losing ground only for their less confident grip on firm snow and ice. That said, this boot is good for just about everything and will keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable in the process.
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