When it comes to outdoor adventures with your friends or family or even solo trips into nature to get away from the buzz of the city, having quality gear is essential. And while it’s certainly important to wear proper hiking clothes and to have a spacious, versatile backpack, most people tend to forget about the importance of footwear.
Wearing proper hiking footwear is particularly important if you’re often heading out into the great outdoors during the colder part of the year. In wet, freezing weather, a pair of good hiking shoes or hiking boots will keep your feet warm and dry.
However, this kind of footwear isn’t that convenient when it comes to summer hikes – not only is it too bulky, but it also doesn’t allow one’s feet to breathe while traversing miles of dusty trails in the hot sun. So, what can one wear to avoid these issues? You can always put on your flip flops, but you’ll be killing your feet by doing so and suffer for a few days afterward.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this problem, and its name is hiking (or sports) sandals. Due to their open-ended design, hike sandals are breathable, extremely packable, and also weigh a lot less than your regular hiking shoes or hiking boots. In addition, hiker sandals are a lot sturdier than flip flops – they come with thicker soles and provide the much-needed support you need for hiking.
And when it comes to sandals for hiking, most people often turn to trusted brands, two of which are Teva and Keen. With both of these companies having dedicated followers who swear by Teva or Keen sandals, it can be quite challenging for newcomers to decide which brand to actually go with.
If you’re one of them, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll be comparing Teva and Keen sandals in a couple of different categories, and also take a closer look at their best-known models. Keep reading and find out which one of these two brands suits your needs the best:
A Brief History of Teva
Teva, one of America’s most famous footwear manufacturers, was launched all the way back in 1984. However, its true inception took place two years earlier – in 1982.
As the story goes, the brand was born when Mark Thatcher, a resourceful river guide, created the world’s very first sports sandals on the go. With the help of California Pacific, a renowned shoemaking company, Mark managed to sell some 200 pairs of his innovative sandals within the first year.
In 1984, the demand for this ingenious footwear was so high that the heads of California Pacific decided to claim rights over the Teva name, stating that Mark was only a simple worker in their company. As expected, Mark immediately sued California Pacific and managed to win the case, which allowed him to establish Teva as his own brand in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Two decades later, Mark decided to sell Teva to Deckers Outdoor Corporation. Nowadays, this company manufactures Teva footwear in El Salvador, China, and Vietnam.
A Brief History of Keen
Currently based in Portland, Oregon, Keen was founded two decades later than its competitor – in 2003. However, just like in the case of Teva, the company’s true beginnings go back a couple of years earlier.
The brand’s birth took place when Martin Keen, a passionate sailor, grew tired of stubbing his toes onboard ships he was spending so much time on. In 1999, Martin managed to solve this problem by coming up with something as simple as a rubber toe bumper. Nowadays, this straightforward but practical innovation can be found in most of Keen’s products.
Together with Rory Fuerst, who is the current president of the company, Martin launched Keen in 2003 and took the world by storm. In just a couple of years, Keen became a household name when it comes to outdoor activities like hiking, but also kayaking, rafting, and similar water sports.
One of the company’s very first and most popular products was the Keen Newport sandal (which we’ll be taking a closer look at later), which is now the company’s symbol. Building on its success, Keen became a globally known manufacturer of sandals, sneakers, boots, shoes, and other footwear.
Just like its competitor, Teva doesn’t manufacture only sandals but also flip flops, sneakers, as well as hiking shoes and boots.
An important thing to mention here is that the leather they’re using to manufacture these products is certified by the LWG (Leather Working Group), an organization whose goal is to uphold sustainable manufacturing standards in the leather industry.
Furthermore, the company also conducts LCA or the Life Cycle Assessment. As the name suggests, the goal of this evaluation is to identify and assess all potential environmental effects that can take place during the product’s life cycle.
For that matter, people who decide to go with Teva’s sandals are actually reducing their carbon footprint, whether they’re aware of that or not. In addition, the company is making all of its straps from recycled polyester.
Just like Teva, Keen also uses the finest materials available to manufacture their sandals, shoes, and boots. In most cases, the company’s footwear will be made to withstand the wear and tear that comes with demanding outdoor activities, from white-water rafting to rough-terrain hiking.
All of Keen’s facilities use special testing machines to ensure sustainability and durability over time. Due to their own, thorough quality controls, Keen’s testing process goes far beyond regular industry standards. In addition, they use the Higg Index to measure the overall progress and guide new improvements.
Most of the midsoles found in Keen-made footwear will be made out of EVA or PU materials. While both of these materials offer comfort for daily use, your choice should depend upon what you’re planning to use your Keen footwear for.
Other technologies and materials they use include “Keen.Dry” (a proprietary waterproof membrane), “Keen.Warm” (a proprietary insulation technology), PFC-free water-repellent materials, hydrophobic mesh linings, as well as the non-marking rubber outsole.
One of the most important things to consider before purchasing a pair of sandals is their intended purpose, i.e. what you’re planning to use them for. For example, do you need a pair that won’t tire your feet even if you walk in them for hours on end? Or, do you need hiking sandals that will protect your feet from rough terrain but still let them breathe?
Another important thing to pay attention to are the unique features of each sandal. If you’re planning to do a lot of hiking, closed toe models are your best bet. This is particularly true for those who often traverse rocky ground or walk through tall grass. If that’s your case, go with Keens, since there aren’t that many closed toe Tevas.
However, those who are planning to spend a lot of time on their feet also need to take comfort into consideration. If you need a pair of sandals that are both comfortable and provide sufficient support, pay special attention to cushioning. Antibacterial features are also important, as they keep the footwear odorless when you’re hiking for miles on a hot July day.
However, none of these things matter if you need a pair of sandals for the beach. If that’s the case, a simple pair of flip flops are your best choice. And, as we said in the intro, a hiking shoe or a boot is a much better option than a sandal if your outdoor adventures take place during colder months.
The purpose and performance of your future sandals are equally important. Even if they’re as comfortable and protective as regular shoes, a pair of sandals won’t be of much use to you if they offer zero traction and lousy support.
Fortunately, both of the brands we’re comparing here are famous for the quality of their footwear. Both Teva’s and Keen’s designers know how to do their job – they put a lot of thought into features most customers don’t even know they actually need.
For example, Keen’s patented toe-protection technology can be a real lifesaver when you’re traversing rocky ground. And just the same, Teva’s Microban technology is extremely convenient when it comes to keeping your feet dry and your sandals odorless.
One of the most important things to pay attention to when it comes to performance is the outsole. Taking a closer look at this part of the footwear is the easiest way to find whether a particular shoe or sandal can or can’t offer good traction and grip. Never go for a sandal whose outsole is entirely flat. Instead, opt for a pair of sandals with outsoles that are suitable for the type of activity you’re planning to use them for.
For example, the outsoles of hiking and sports sandals should be equipped with 2 to 3mm deep lugs. If possible, these lugs should be multi-directional – this lessens the chances of getting a sprained ankle and gives you superb traction on all kinds of surfaces. Fortunately, both Teva and Keen offer sandals with excellent outsoles – you won’t end up disappointed by going with either brand.
However, those looking to purchase a pair of everyday sandals shouldn’t be concerned about performance that much. For such individuals, comfort is the most important aspect. If you’re one of such people, pay special attention to the footbed of the model you’d like to buy. To keep your feet comfortable, the footbed needs to be soft and well-cushioned.
The final aspect of performance is the support offered by a particular sandal. While they’re not as supportive as shoes, sandals can and should provide plenty of arch support if you’re planning to use them for exploring the great outdoors. Therefore, a model featuring two thin straps certainly isn’t your best choice. Such a sandal would be good enough for casual activities, but wouldn’t fare that well on rugged terrain.
Generally, a sandal made by Keen will provide better support than the one made by Teva. This is due to the fact that Keens typically include more straps. In fact, a Keen sandal will often look like a regular shoe that was cut on all sides to become more breathable. And that’s precisely what you need for summertime hiking.
It’s hard to stress enough how vital it is to find a sandal that fits perfectly. To get the maximum out of their performance, you’ll want to get a pair that you’ll be able to adjust in any way you want.
Think of it like this – no matter how good of a driver you are, you can’t really drive properly if your car’s seat is too far back. If you’re unable to adjust the seat in a way that suits you, you won’t be as comfortable, and that’s bound to affect your driving.
The same rule applies to your footwear, whether it’s a boot, shoe, or a sandal. If the sandal is way too spacious and doesn’t grip your feet well, you can’t really expect it to provide sufficient arch and ankle support.
The good news is that both Keen’s and Teva’s models can be purchased in half-sizes. However, if you’re someone who often struggles to find that perfect fit, Tevas are your best bet. Most of the models made by this company come with highly adjustable straps, so it’s pretty easy to get a sandal that fits like a glove.
Keens, on the other hand, are not that adjustable. This is mostly due to the fact that they rarely feature as many straps as Tevas.
For the quality they offer, Teva’s prices are quite reasonable. On average, their sandals come with price tags ranging from $25 to $100. Their shoes, on the other hand, often reach $150.
As far as we’re concerned, Teva’s footwear is totally worth the price – not many products offer the same support, comfort, and stability.
When it comes to Keen-made sandals, their prices vary. However, most don’t leave the $50-$150 range. Unlike its competitor, Keen is well-known for making quality hiking shoes, too, and these typically reach prices of $200 and above.
Keen’s sandals may not be the prettiest on the market, but they undoubtedly provide durability and comfort you’ll need for your outdoor adventures. As such, they’re a worthwhile investment.
Teva Men’s Katavi Outdoor Sandal
One of Teva’s most popular offerings, Katavi 2 delivers high-quality construction at an affordable price. In our opinion, it’s a fantastic choice for casual everyday users who want to save money but don’t want to sacrifice performance and comfort.
In fact, Katavi 2 may be the most comfortable men’s hiking sandal in its price category. It comes with a plush EVA foam footbed that you can find in a regular hiking shoe – you won’t have to worry about blisters. In addition, the model’s heel strap does a great job of locking the foot’s rear part while the two frontal hook and loop straps provide the necessary support and stability.
Another thing we liked about Katavi 2 is its outsole. Sporting Teva’s proprietary Durabrasion Rubber, it is more than capable of gripping rough, uneven terrain. Finally, the lightweight, low-profile design of these shoes turns them into a good option for ultralight backpackers.
Teva Men’s Terra Fi 5 Sport Open Toe Sandals
Unlike the previous generations of this model, Terra Fi 5 is much sportier and sleeker. However, the classic Teva design is still here – these nimble shoes are comfortable, water-friendly, and extra grippy on tricky terrain.
Just like most of Teva’s footwear, Terra Fi 5 is comfortable straight out of the box. With a design that’s somewhere between flip flops and hiking shoes, this sandal conforms to the wearer’s foot and provides a sufficient amount of cushioning. While this spongy and flexible footbed isn’t that great when it comes to stability, your feet will stay comfortable even after a whole day of walking.
Besides the easy-to-use and highly adjustable straps, Terra Fi 5 also sports Spider Rubber outsoles that “bite” angular rocks with ease. All in all, it’s a solid all-around sandal and a suitable choice for travel, rafting, but also casual everyday use.
Teva Men’s Omnium 2
A closed-type sandal, Teva’s Omnium 2 model looks like your regular hiking shoe whose sides have been cut to ensure breathability. However, Omnium 2 also resembles hiking shoes when it comes to durability, versatility, and capability to traverse rough terrain with relative ease.
In addition, wearing these sandals feels almost like wearing regular trail-running shoes. This is mostly due to the presence of a protective toe box that allows confident trailblazing and bushwhacking. Its outsoles, on the other hand, perform well on all types of terrain, turning these sandals/shoes into a fine option for those who “live on the trail”.
As a hybrid between sandals and shoes, Omnium 2 is very versatile, but it doesn’t fare that well when it comes to water. Once they get wet, they don’t dry as quickly as we’d like them to. Still, It’s one of Teva’s best offerings for people who need something both protective and breathable for their feet.
KEEN Men’s Newport H2 Sandal
Out of all models we’ve analyzed here, Keen’s Newport H2 sandals are probably the most famous. Once upon a time, it was these sandals that launched Keen into the stratosphere and turned it into one of the world’s most popular footwear brands. The latest iteration is still one of the most impressive shoes of its type that you can find on the market.
Resembling regular shoes in its design, Newport H2 comes equipped with a stout sole material that is both light and resilient. Add to that a full coverage around the wearer’s feet and a reinforced toe box, and you get a pair of versatile sandals that can easily withstand miles of abuse.
Time and time again, Keen manages to prove why it’s one of the most renowned names in the footwear industry. Besides the excellent construction quality we’ve mentioned above, these sandals are also quick-drying, incredibly stable, and impressively grippy. What more could one want?
KEEN Men’s Arroyo II Sandal
Just like Newport, Keen’s Arroyo II sandals also boast a closed-type design that makes them look like standard hiking shoes. This doesn’t make them only incredibly durable, but also very comfortable and versatile.
One of Keen’s best offerings, Arroyo II comes with a leather upper that keeps the feet locked in. Together with the model’s backbone, the uppers of this sandal are precisely what makes it so similar to Keen’s full shoes. In terms of traction, these sandals aren’t the best option on the market, but you shouldn’t have any problems with traversing moderately challenging terrain.
While it takes some time to get used to the fit and design of these sandals, their cushy interior is guaranteed to keep your feet comfortable no matter how much time you spend on the trail. The only thing we didn’t like about Arroyo II is that it holds water – these sandals are best when used in dry conditions only.
KEEN Men’s Clearwater CNX Sandal
Stylish, light, and nimble, Keen’s Clearwater CNX model is capable of handling a wide variety of tasks – from something as simple as running errands to all kinds of crazy watersports. In other words, these sandals will handle just about anything you throw at them, and that’s not the only great thing about them.
Besides being extremely versatile, Clearwater CNX cradles the wearer’s feet and comes equipped with a midsole that offers a comfy squish. These sandals particularly shine when it comes to water crossings. Since they’re equipped with protective frontal bumps, you’ll never have to worry about mashing your feet against pointy rocks.
As far as we’re concerned, the only not-so-great thing about these sandals is that they’re not as airy as they look. Their tight fit, resembling that of the standard hiking shoes, makes them quite a lot hotter than many open-toed models available on the market.
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Teva vs Keen – The Verdict
Comparing one footwear brand vs the other usually means that, in the end, you have to choose the winner. So, which one of these brands is the best? Whose sandals should you ultimately get?
Like in most cases, the answer to this question will depend on what you’re looking for. Let’s keep it simple this time:
If you’re in a need of inexpensive sandals but don’t want to sacrifice quality, Teva is your best bet. In addition, this company offers a wider variety of models than its competitor – there’s something for every type of activity.
If you’re a bit more serious about hiking, go with Keen. Their sandals are better suited for tricky terrains and are typically longer-lasting due to their durable construction.
If you want to go with another alternative to Tevas, check out my Keen vs Chaco sandals comparison.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.