Review: Keen NXIS Evo Hiking Boot

The fast and light version of Keen’s bestselling hiking boot

Feature type Review

Read time 5 mins

Published Feb 21, 2023

Will Appleyard
Will Appleyard Diver, mountaineer, climber and paraglider pilot, Will communicates his passion for adventure through his photography and writing and is the author of several books.

Our Verdict

An extremely lightweight hiking boot. So much so that you could actually run in it. Best worn on mild terrain, it’s soft underfoot but provides good ankle support. Fully waterproof, it’s great in the wet, but with a wide foot box, the NXIS EVO is best suited to wanderers wider in the toe.

RRP £139.99
KEEN.DRY Proprietary waterproof, breathable membrane
Features Compression-molded EVA removable midsole, for long-lasting comfort

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Cushioned sole with a lot of bounce
  • Waterproof and warm
  • Wide forefoot (if that suits your feet)

Cons

  • Soft sole if its not what you’re after
  • Wide forefoot (if that doesn’t suit your feet)

What I’m Looking For

For the last few years, I’ve always gone with La Sportiva or Scarpa trail or approach shoes when in the mountains. I only use boots (with a stiff sole) when at some point in the day I may need to fit crampons, otherwise, it’s shoes every time. Most of my weekends are spent sport climbing at the moment, and so I wear something light that can go into my backpack once at the base of a route after the approach.

Like anyone, I’m looking for a quality sole and a good fit. Of course, we all have different shaped feet and I would say that mine fall into the standard to narrow category. I like bright colours too.

Firts Impressions

Pulling these boots out of the box, I expected them to be much heavier than they were. They’re super light (417.9g according to the KEEN website). I’d prefer a brighter colour choice than the olive-green pair I’ve tested, however I have discovered that there are a couple of louder options available when looking at the options online.

Around the ankle and eventually looping into the top of the laces, they’re manufactured with a thin cord system, to draw the boot in all round when pulling on the laces. I’m a little dubious of such ideas, because if that cord breaks, then the shoes, unless reparable, are rendered virtually useless. That said, I’ve no idea of its strength, so it’s probably unfair of me to cast any doubt at this stage. KEEN call this their KonnectFit heel-capture system – designed  for a locked-in feel.

They’re cut quite low for a boot, so almost a semi/demi-boot. I like that style as it offers support but also allows movement, reducing bulk. It’s the best of both for those after a bit of ankle support.

The Test

I thought I’d ease myself into this test, opting for a pretty gentle dog walk at first. Nothing too heavy, just a stride around the local woods on reasonably flat ground in the Plain of Vic, Catalunya.

The soles from the off had a pleasing bounce too them and although a little wide in the toe area for me wearing thinnish socks, they felt like they fitted well on the heel and ankle. Again, as per my first impression during their unboxing, they were noticeably light on the foot. And so, because of this plus point, I thought I’d then test them as a piece of approach footwear in Mallos de Riglos, Northern Spain, later carrying them in my backpack once in my rock shoes.

The trails leading to all of the climbing routes in Riglos are narrow, loose and steep, profanity inducing scree paths that wiggle through shoulder high bushes. Here, in the main, the going under foot is slippery regardless of what you have on your feet, especially when descending. Although the soles of these boots are nice and bouncy on smoother ground, on scree and rough, lumpy loose paths I felt the press of every stone that I trod on. For this kind of terrain, or all terrain as KEEN note in their features description, the soles seemed a little too flexible for my taste. The soles did however do a splendid job on the rock while we dealt with several rappels off a route in Riglos.

Although the soles of these boots are nice and bouncy on smoother ground, on scree and rough, lumpy loose paths I felt the press of every stone that I trod on

To explore their insulation, we spent a wintery night up on the hill with the telescope in northern Catalunya. My feet remained comfortably warm all evening in these boots and so there is definitely a star awarded for that quality. They’ve been used a fair amount now around the sub-Pyrenees by our house and my partner’s brother has stomped about in them during a weekend of snow here. He absolutely loves them where as I would say that I like them, but for me, my preference is still to wear trail shoes over hiking boots.

Finally, are they waterproof?  Does Keen’s own waterproof, breathable membrane work?  Well yes, it seems to. Certainly, in wet snow in any event.

Who Are These Boots For?

The NXIS EVO boot is definitely better suited to those wider in the forefoot area or enjoy a bit more wiggle room up front. With such flexible, soft soles, it’s also going to suit those who prefer a fair bit of give in the sole but still looking for good ankle support.

If you’re prone to cold feet, then for you these boots would be a welcome purchase. They’ll suit those wetter days on the hill where you’re likely to face a bit of rain and mud.

What Stands Out

Weight

These boots are really light. Certainly not a clumpy boot and despite their lightweight, they’re still great for colder days.

Soles

Although bendy, the soles do have decent depth in their tread, namely KEEN’s 4mm multi-directional lugs for traction

Laces

Good sturdy laces too, which I have found to be something of an oversight with other brands – they stay tied and won’t be snapping in any hurry.

Toe Protection

Generous outer toe protection, which make them great for the kind of scrambly approaches we have here and also the rappels.

Value For Money

Despite my squidgy sole gripe, I do think they sit well in their price range. They appear well made and their tech spec/features list is a long one.

BASE Bottom Line

Perhaps not a boot designed for big brutal mountain days, or extremely rough and demanding terrain, but they certainly have a fair place on the hill and countryside owing to their lightweight design, grip warmth and water resistance.

The bounce in their soles and featherlight design would work well for long Pennine Way style peaty paths and accessible trails and will be a great option for many. For me, I think I’d still lean towards a smaller approach shoe for this category of boot, but for plenty of people that added ankle support is a must. If that’s you, this boot could be the perfect option.

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