KEEN Ridge Flex hiking boots

Step It Up: KEEN Launches ‘Bellows’ to Improve Hiking Boots

Easier, more durable, and longer-lasting, KEEN’s new hiking boots boast perks for hikers everywhere.

The latest tech in the footwear industry won’t make shoes faster or lighter, just better — according to KEEN. The brand told us it will add its Bellows Flex technology to hiking boots to make them “more efficient.”

Basically, the boots will bend more easily in flex areas, like the base of the tongue and at the ankle. KEEN claims this tech also results in greater durability and overall comfort. Bellows Flex currently exists in the brand’s work boots. But it will debut in KEEN’s hiking boots in January 2021.

KEEN Bellows Flex: All About The Tech

At its core, the Bellows Flex technology is a pliable TPU insert in the forefoot area of a shoe. It doesn’t look like much, but the brand says these accordion-like ridges actually accomplish a lot in terms of efficiency.

Each shoe will have the inserts added at common high-wear points, like the upper toe-flex area. The brand claims this will not only make steps easier but will also reduce wear and tear in those areas.

“When the foot is in motion, the forefoot compresses. And when combined with overlaying materials used in conventional boot construction, it creates flex points,” said Erik Burbank, KEEN chief brand officer. “These not only consume energy but can lead to boots failing.”

KEEN bellows flex overlays
The flex technology in KEEN Tempo Flex (left) and Ridge Flex boots (right)

The material required less energy to flex during testing (completed by a third party), making it easier for the wearer to take a step. This also increases the durability in areas that tend to break down over time.

When KEEN tested against similar boots in the hiking category, the Ridge Flex required 60% less energy to bend on average. (KEEN didn’t disclose which other models were tested.)

What’s more interesting to us than “easier steps” is the durability component: a pair of hiking boots (an expensive investment) could last much longer with this tech that protect against high wear.

KEEN’s new technology will debut in two models: the Tempo Flex hiker-sneaker and the more conventional Ridge Flex hiking boot. Both the KEEN Tempo Flex ($150-160) and the KEEN Ridge Flex ($160-170) will launch in January online.

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Mary Murphy

Mary Murphy is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and serves as the leader of Lola Digital Media’s DEI Committee.

She has been writing about hiking, running, climbing, camping, skiing, and more for seven years, and has been on staff at GearJunkie since 2019. Prior to that, Mary wrote for 5280 Magazine in Denver while working as an outdoor instructor teaching climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and mountain biking at Avid4Adventure. Based in Denver, Colorado, Murphy is an avid hiker, runner, backpacker, skier, yogi, and pack-paddleboarder.