Chris Ermides

Wedge boots are popular with ironworkers because there isn’t a heel or outsole lugs present to get hung up on something and cause the wearer to trip; a reasonable thing to want when you’re a few hundred feet in the air and there’s a web of steel between you and the ground. As a carpenter, I appreciate wedge boots because I can kick the dirt out of them easily before walking into a home I’m working on. I also like that these wedge boots don’t mar wood floors or tile.

I started wearing wedge boots about 10 years ago. My first pair was the Red Wing 8” Classic Moc style 877. I liked the ankle support, but found it hugely unnecessary at that height. Unfortunately, just when they were getting really comfortable, the outsoles wore down and I couldn’t find a good cobbler around to replace them. I was disappointed, especially because they were incredibly expensive ($290).

The Danner 6” Bull Run Cristy's.
Chris Ermides The Danner 6” Bull Run Cristy's.

I moved on to a pair of Danner 6” Bull Run Cristy’s – cheaper by comparison at $210. I liked the look of these boots better than the Red Wings (and, incidentally, better than the Glendales in this review). The Danners wore nicely and quickly got that glove-like feel you want from your boots. I also like being able to tie/untie them easily with the speed hooks around the ankle. But that area digs into my ankle a good bit if I’m working low to the ground or floor, which we’re eventually doing in this industry all the time. So they aren’t my favorite on days like that. And unless I wrap the laces around my ankle, they untie themselves from the speed hooks often.

When I was offered an opportunity to try out Keen’s Glendale WP soft toe, I decided to take it. I was hoping for more support than the Danners and more comfort on the days I’m wearing knee pads for extended lengths of time. I will say that I haven’t put nearly as much time or miles into these as I had the Danner or Red Wings, but I have been wearing them on and off for the past six months – enough to break them in and have a good sense for their comfort. There are some things I really like about them, and some things I don’t like.

The Construction
The first thing that I noticed when I picked them from the box was their weight. Out of curiosity, I put them on a scale: nearly 2 lbs each (1lb 15oz to be exact). For comparison sake, I weighed my Danners, which I used to think were heavy. The Danners weighed in at 1lb 11oz – so not significantly less, but noticeable enough when they’re on my feet. I admit that I was reluctant to put the Keens on given their weight, but once I did I was pleasantly surprised.

The padded leather upper was a nice change from the leather-only uppers I was used to. And I noticed more room in the front part of my foot and around the toes than previous boots I’d worn. This, I later learned at a KEEN Utility media event, is due to the type of Last they use (a Last is the form boot companies use to build around – sort of like the model foot). KEEN Utility’s Last is larger in the toe area than other companies’.

The rubber outsole is wide which provides stability under foot. They are also oil and slip resistant as well as non-marking. Welted construction means that these outsoles can be replaced, but that likely won't need to happen too quickly unless you work on pavement all day; these outsoles seem to be quite durable.
Chris Ermides The rubber outsole is wide which provides stability under foot. They are also oil and slip resistant as well as non-marking. Welted construction means that these outsoles can be replaced, but that likely won't need to happen too quickly unless you work on pavement all day; these outsoles seem to be quite durable.

I also noticed that these boots were incredibly stiff when first out of the box. The stiffness certainly indicates a seriously solid boot. And they’re not so stiff that they don’t eventually break in – they have. The upper is made of leather that feels thicker than the other boots I’ve owned. The rubber outsole is wide, which feels stable and solid under foot. And while I can’t quantify this, the rubber outsole feels stronger than other vibram outsoles I’ve worn; I never stepped on a nail but the boot meets or exceeds ASTM F2892-11 EH Standard, which includes puncture resistance of 270 lbs. Other boots meet this standard, as well. The rubber outsole also doesn’t wear as readily as other boots I’ve worn.

Like the Red Wing and Danner boots, the Glendales feature a welted outsole. Welted outsole construction means that the outsole is stitched to the welt around the perimeter of the shoe. While this style makes for a stiffer boot that’s more expensive to make, it’s also incredibly durable and repairable. So you can replace the outsole on these boots, which is a great feature.

I really like the rubber toe cap because it protects the toe from wear when I'm working on my knees. When I was installing baseboard and tile, I really appreciated the added protection. The toe didn’t seem to wear hardly at all, certainly compared with the leather boots I’ve owned. And although the boot doesn’t include a steel toe (there’s steel toe version, though), the rubber caps do offer more protection than boots that don’t have them.

The Bottom Line
The Glendale WPs are super-comfortable, but they’re heavy enough that if throwing your boot is your choice of means for getting someone’s attention, be careful because these might be considered a weapon. And while you wouldn’t want to wade into deep water with them on (see weight, above), they are completely waterproof. They feature KEEN.Dry, KEEN’s proprietary breathable, waterproof membrane. I can wear these things all day, even in the swampy New York summer heat, and have reasonably dry socks by the end of it; my feet don’t sweat nearly as much in these as with the other boots I’ve worn. If you’re looking for a comfortable wedge boot that will last and is breathable and waterproof – and you don’t mind the weight – these are worth a shot. I typically wear a size 11, which was true for these as well. At $170, they won’t break the bank.

Approximate weight per shoe: 1lb. 15oz.
Weather: Wet – waterproof
Gender: Men
Features: Electrical Hazard (EH), Metal Free, Soft Toe, Waterproof, Welted
Upper: Leather
Lining: KEEN.Dry waterproof breathable membrane
Rubber: Non-marking rubber outsole
Measurement Note: Our measurements were taken using a Men’s size 9 US (42.0 EU). Measurements may vary by size.

Chris Ermides is a senior editor at Tools of the Trade.