Merrell vs Keen: Who Makes the Best Outdoor Shoes & Sandals

Are you an avid backpacker or hiker? If so, you’re probably aware of how important it is to have proper outdoor gear. This is particularly true for footwear – it is our hiking shoes, boots, and sandals that take most of the beating. Choose the wrong shoes and you’re bound to be in pain and not able to enjoy your outdoor adventure. This is part of our series of posts on the best hiking shoes and best hiking shoes for women.

And when it comes to hiking footwear, Merrel and Keen are among the industry’s biggest names. No matter which outdoor store in the U.S. you pay a visit to, you’re guaranteed to bump into footwear and other apparel made by one of these companies.

As brands that make similar styles of footwear and have a similar reputation, Merrell and Keen are often compared by people shopping for hiking gear. Before spending $100 or more on boots, shoes, or sandals made by one of these brands, it’s nice to know what makes each of them special.

While Keen and Merrel have a lot of similarities, there are still some key differences that can make or break the deal when choosing between these two brands. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at these differences to help you decide which brand’s footwear is better suited to your needs.

Are Merrell Shoes Good Quality?

merrell hiking shoes

Background on Merrell

Merrell has been around for quite some time – the company was founded all the way back in 1981. It’s a result of the collaboration of John Schweizer, Clark Matis, and Randy Merrell, who teamed up to create high-performance boots and sell them at affordable prices – Amazon.

Due to its enormous success, Merrell was acquired by Wolverine World Wide, a famous footwear manufacturer, in 1997 and has been operating as its wholly-owned subsidiary ever since. Nowadays, Merrell is an outdoor wear sensation and a brand that maintains four core values – versatility, durability, design, and comfort.

Technologies Used by Merrell


For waterproofing, Merrell uses a technology called M Select Dry. In simple terms, this is a lightweight layer of water-resistant material whose purpose is to keep the wearer’s feet dry and warm during every season.

Another great thing about M Select Dry is that it’s a very breathable layer. A hiking shoe using this waterproofing technology releases inner moisture produced by sweating and makes hiking in warm weather much more comfortable.


Merrell is well-known for using Vibram outsoles. Made out of quality rubber, Vibram outsoles are great performers on all types of terrain. They are exceptionally durable, slip-resistant, and provide the necessary stability on uneven surfaces.

For winter sports enthusiasts, Merrell offers boots and shoes with special Arctic Grip outsoles. As expected, these provide excellent traction on snow and ice. In addition, Arctic Grip outsoles come with color-changing thermochromatic lugs that indicate the ground’s temperature. Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?


In the battle called Keen vs Merrell, the latter one undoubtedly takes the cake when it comes to insoles. Contoured to form perfectly to the wearer’s feet, Merrell’s Kinetic Fit Base insoles are flexible, intuitive, and protect your feet from the ground beneath you.

Manufactured from EVA materials with a memory foam liner, these insoles also provide advanced heel lock and absolute arch coverage. Another footbed often used by Merrell is called M Select Fit.Eco+, and this one also offers zonal heel and arch reinforcement.


In terms of insulation, Merrell uses its proprietary M Select Warm technology. It utilizes soft, lightweight material that’s quite thinner than that found in shoes of other brands.

Unlike thicker layers that often lead to overheating and discomfort, these exceptionally thin layers aim to reduce the bulk in the shoes while still keeping your feet warm.

Odor Control

Hiking shoes made by Merrell often use the company’s proprietary M Select Fresh technology. Special antimicrobial agents are infused straight into the lining of the shoes, where they break down odor-causing microbes in order to keep your feet fresh.


Both Keen and Merrell are companies committed to using up-to-date sustainability practices – there’s no doubt about that. To keep up with the newest energy efficiency guidelines, these two brands recycle and update their equipment at all times.

In Merrell’s case, the most interesting thing is that buying a pair of their hiking shoes sporting Vibram soles allows you to “resole” them once the original soles are worn through. The benefit of this practice is quite obvious – it saves you from buying a new pair of shoes.


Comparing Keen vs Merrell in terms of style is a challenging task – everyone has a different idea of how their hike shoe should look.

As far as we’re concerned, Merrell is the brand that puts more effort into the design and looks of their hiking shoes and hiking boots. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with their sandals, as they’re quite plain-looking and often come in just a couple of different colors.


Merrell hiking shoes and hiking boots are often accompanied by a 1-year warranty. Their sandals, on the other hand, typically come with a very limited warranty, covering a period of only 3 months.


In terms of price, Merrell seems to be a more affordable brand, as the prices of their footwear rarely leave the $140 – 210 range. This, of course, depends on the shoe you’re looking to buy, i.e. its material, performance, and features.

A Popular Choice – Merrell Moab 2 Vent

Merrell Men's Moab 2 Vent MID Sneaker, Castle/Wing, 10 M US

Out of all Merrell hiking boots, Moab 2 Vent seems to be the most popular choice. Resembling work boots in their durability and performance, these shoes are also well-cushioned, comfortable, and very breathable.

In fact, a lot of people consider Moab 2 Vent to be the best shoe for hiking if you’re on a tight budget. While inexpensive, these shoes certainly provide great value for the money. However, keep in mind that they’re not waterproof or suitable for aggressive hiking – Merrell has other options for the more demanding hikers.

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A Popular Choice – Merrell Sandspur Oak

Merrell Men's Sandspur Oak Sandal, Dark Earth, 12 Medium US

When it comes to sandals, however, Merrel’s most popular offering seems to be Sandspur Oak. Available in three different colors, these sandals sport features such as lycra neoprene lining, hook & loop closure, as well as M Select Grip outsoles.

While not as rugged as your regular hiking shoe, this sandal looks and feels very durable. It’s comfortable right out of the box and can endure hundreds of miles of trail and road. Just make sure to avoid rough terrain while you’re wearing these sandals.

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Are Merrell’s Shoes and Boots Worth the Price?

In short – yes, they are!
It’s pretty safe to say that this brand provides an extensive range of footwear with excellent overall performance and quality. Merrell shoes, boots, and sandals use materials and technologies endorsed by millions of camping, backpacking, and hiking enthusiasts worldwide.

So, once you consider their price options and the wide range of their products, you’ll undoubtedly be able to find a Merrell hiking shoe, boot, or sandal that suits your needs. If you want to check out other brands similar to Merrell, read out Oboz vs Merrell comparison as well.

Is Keen a Good Shoe Brand?

keen hiking shoes

Background on Keen

Keen was launched back in 2003 by Martin Keen, a sailor who often wore sandals on ships and decided to remedy the problem of stubbing his toes on deck by launching his very own footwear brand. Almost two decades later, Martin Keen’s self-named company is a world-famous manufacturer of sandals, shoes, boots, socks, hats, bags, and other outdoor accessories. See prices on Amazon.

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Keen is a fast-growing business that regularly donates to non-profit organizations. What’s more, it’s a brand with a pioneering vision and one that’s always finding ways to innovate.

Technologies Used by Keen


When comparing Keen vs Merrell, one vitally important feature to look at is the type of waterproofing technology each brand uses. As we already said, Merrell’s waterproofing technology is called M Select Dry, and it works wonders.

However, the same can be said for Keen’s “Keen.Dry” technology. In simple terms, this would be a water-resistant membrane that stops the moisture from getting inside the shoes. What’s more, this membrane is also very breathable – it keeps the feet dry by releasing the vapor from the inside of your Keen hiking boots. The waterproofing alone makes Keens good hiking shoes.


Keen’s answer to Merrell’s use of Vibram soles is called All-Terrain Traction Outsoles. Behind this impressive name hides a technology that allows hikers to keep their feet firmly planted on all kinds of terrain – from pavement to loose gravel.

Keen’s outsoles that utilize this technology are typically made out of non marking rubber and come with multi directional lugs. As such, they give you the grip you need on any surface imaginable.


As we already said, comparing Keen and Merrell in terms of insoles is an easy task – Merrell is a clear winner with its impressive Kinetic Fit Base insoles.

However, the Metatomical Footbed present is almost every Keen hiking shoes and boots is a great solution as well. While not the best on the market, these insoles have an anatomical design, form to the wearer’s feet, and provide the necessary support exactly where it’s needed.


As far as Keen is concerned, the best hiker shoes are those using their innovative “Keen.Warm” insulation technology.

Incorporating charcoal bamboo into the shoe’s insulation layer, this technology keeps the overall weight down while also fighting bad odors with its special antimicrobial properties. “Keen.Warm” layers come in varying thicknesses, which typically depends on the temperature rating of the hiking shoes using them.

Odor Control

Unlike Merrell shoes, which use M Select Fresh technology, a hiking shoe made by Keen will use odor control technology called Cleansport NXT.

However, Cleansport NXT works in a way that’s very similar to M Select Fresh – it bonds special microbes to the surface of a sandal, boot, or shoe. There, the microbes activate when they come into contact with odor-causing bacteria and break them down.


When it comes to sustainability, Keen’s goals are similar to those of Merrell. The company is doing its best to meet all environmental standards during the manufacture of its products.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that, over the course of the last two decades, Keen has donated close to twenty million dollars to various charitable organizations.


Pitting Keen vs Merrell when it comes to style makes little sense. Both companies manufacture and sell some of the best looking hiking shoes on the market.

However, when compared to Merrell’s shoes and sandals, we think that it’s pretty safe to say that the outdoor footwear made by Keen sports a more utilitarian look. However, the company offers more color options when it comes to sandals.


Keen’s warranty policy is a bit more basic than that of Merrell, whose warranty deals differ from product to product. Almost all Keen footwear products are accompanied by a simple 1-year warranty.


Both Keen and Merrell can be considered as affordable brands, especially when compared to names such as La Sportiva or Arc’teryx. However, Keen’s products tend to cost a bit more than Merrell’s, although this depends on the type of footwear you’re looking to purchase. If you are interested in Keen, check out our Oboz vs Keen comparison as well.

A Popular Choice – Keen Targhee III

KEEN - Men's Targhee III Waterproof Leather Hiking Shoe

Many outdoors enthusiasts consider Keen Targhee III to be the best hiking shoe in its price category. Just like Merrell Moab 2 Vent, this model also features the durability and ruggedness of work boots while also being lightweight and comfortable.

In addition, Keen Targhee III comes with the already-described “Keen.Dry” waterproof membrane. Furthermore, it sports a burly rubber toe cap, a wide fit, and multi directional lugs that provide excellent traction and stability. It’s worth noting that the company also offers a more breathable, non-waterproof model, which is more suitable for warm and dry conditions.

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A Popular Choice – Keen Newport H2

KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandals, Black, 11 US

One of the best and most popular sandals made by Keen, Newport H2 is something special. Besides its impressive non marking outsole with multi directional lugs, the model also features a polyester upper material that’s very easy to keep clean.

Other characteristics worth mentioning are the secure lace capture system, a TPU stability shank, as well as the Metatomical Footbed that supports the wearer’s arches. Once we combine these features with the model’s non marking rubber outsole, we get a pair of hiking sandals whose excellent performance is hard to match.

If you decide to go with one of the pairs of sandals I reviewed in this post, keep in mind that you will need to break them is. This post on breaking in Chacos should also apply to Keen and Merrell sandals.

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Are Keen’s Shoes and Boots Worth the Price?

Keen is a company that utilizes cutting-edge technologies and premium materials to create shoes, boots, and sandals that perform well on all kinds of terrains while still being relatively affordable.

In our opinion, Keen’s prices are fair and their products are worth trying out – it’s a popular brand for a good reason.

Do You Need Waterproof Hiking Shoes?

When you’re shopping for a new pair of hiking shoes, climate and terrain should be important considerations. If you’re someone who often hikes in snowy, rainy, and generally wet/moist areas, getting waterproof footwear should be your top priority. Water-resistant shoes and boots will allow you to confidently cross shallow bogs and wade through ankle-deep streams.

Fortunately, both Keen and Merrell offer footwear that uses waterproofing technologies to keep the wearer’s feet dry in wet conditions. While not as popular as all-present Gore-Tex, Merrell’s “M Select Dry” and Keen’s “Keen.Dry” membranes are more than capable of preventing the moisture from getting inside one’s shoes and boots.

Keen vs Merrell – Which Shoe Brand is the Best?

So, Keen vs Merrell – which of these brands is a better choice? Since both of these offer products at similar prices and use advanced technologies in their manufacture, giving an answer to this question is all but easy.

A lot of budget-oriented hikers consider Merrell hiking shoes to be the best option out there. Furthermore, Merrell is a brand that offers a guarantee of reliability, with affordable prices of their shoes having no negative effect on their performance or quality. In other words, Merrell is a more “safe” purchase, so to say.

Keen, on the other hand, is a brand that focuses on novelties and innovation. As such, it’s an ideal choice for outdoor enthusiasts who like experimenting. If you’re often looking for footwear that offers unusual, different features, you won’t make a mistake by going with Keen.

All in all, there’s no clear winner in the battle called Merrell vs Keen – you won’t regret purchasing either brand.

6 thoughts on “Merrell vs Keen: Who Makes the Best Outdoor Shoes & Sandals”

  1. I spent many months during both my 30’s and 40’s living with unexplained and painful limping (Doc says stress) – a good friend said ‘we’ll fix that’ and walked me into buy Keens … limping and I walked out … without a limp and have never had pain or limped since. Keen footwear is all that I will wear.

  2. I walked the Camino in Keens Targhee 111. My friend wore Merrels. Neither of us developed blisters or foot problems. Her Merrels fell apart in Muxia. My Keens are still going strong a year later through many shorter hikes.

  3. Hi Leslie, i am somewhat surprised you gave Merrill hiking shoes so much recognition, i used them in the Camino Frances and found they fall apart far to quickly, specifically around the heel. I didn’t even get a full Camino Frances walk out of them before i noticed them breaking up. I returned them after my pligamage to the merrill outlet retailer, not satisfied they did not survive who was quick to replace them. But however the same thing happened, but it just took a little longer, again they replaced them and again the same thing happened. When i suggested they may wish to look at their manufacturer, they are made in Vietnam, the indication response was we sell to many to really care. I would never buy them again, nor would i reccomend them to anyone else. Photos available should you wish of them falling apart on the trail.

  4. I think that most of these shoes are comparable, and I have tried many. But I wear Keens because the for-foot on the Keens seem to be a bit wider. I cannot wear a different size and still get the accurate fit that Keens give.

  5. I live in the UK. For 25 yrs I have had Keen Targhee 3 and 2 shoes. They are the most comfortable walking shoes I have ever purchased ( not tried Merrell). There are two BUTS to this praise. Apart from my first pair of Targhee 3 shoes every other pair has not been well put together i.e. two pairs of T3, those with the wide rand around the sides, were replaced because the rand delaminated. Though assured that this fault was being dealt with a later pair developed same problem. T2 purchased in May ‘23 had the back part of sole detached from inner bed. Mended it myself as occurred 24th Dec..
    Last year’s price was a little over £100, now they are retailing at £200 and more. I cannot afford any more Keen Targhees. So am now exploring what Merrell wide fitting can do.
    Thanks for this site.


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