Constant readers may remember the last pair of boots I reviewed. They were tall, reached up past your ankle, and featured an aggressive outsole. The San Antonio, if you allow me, is a step in a different direction.
As an Eagle Scout, I've worn my fair share of hiking boots. You needed a bit of outsole with ridges and trenches deep to keep grip in whatever terrain we'd traipse through. They also have to be comfortable. Lugging the extra weight of the second pair of shoes on a week-long trip to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota wasn't going to be worth it.
I also worked my way through college as summer help for a major company's distribution center/warehouse picking product off of shelves and working whatever odd job they needed me to help with that day. It's a safe bet that you'll drop plenty of items; "toe safety" was always a note during safety meetings. (I remember the debate of whether or not "steel toe" boots were actually safer or not. Is that discussion still happening?)
To me, KEEN's San Antonio shoe seems to have been born from the cross-section of those two mentalities.
• Meets ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75 EH standards
• Aluminum toe
• Synthetic upper Oil-and slip-resistant
• Non-marketing rubber outsole
• Dual-density compression-molded EVA midsole
• Removable, metatomical PU footbed
• MSRP: $130
The first thing you'll see is that it doesn't exactly look like the typical boot. In fact, it's one of the most shoe-looking boots I've ever worn. It is difficult to know by looking at them whether or not you're wearing a pair of regular sneakers instead of safety shoes. I'm not offbase either. In its release, KEEN writes, "The boot is, to-date, the lightest weight safety-toe work shoe in the KEEN Utility product line and offers the comfort and feel of a sneaker with the protection of a work boot." They aren't pulling any punches by calling them lightweight. Even with the aluminum toe protection, my 10.5 regular's weighed a mere 7 ounces.
Yet, even then, I feel it's the outsole that sells the non-tactical image the most.
The San Antonio model I was sent was in Gargoyle/Blue Opal. It also comes available in a black/silver. I don't believe it was the intent of the manufacturer's to incorporate it, but if you do look close to the stitches and laces, one can see a thin Blue Opal line throughout. This may not have been intentional, but is appreciated.
However, that's where the sneaker image ends, the rest is safety and functionality.
I was lucky enough to happen to wear these boots during some 100% humidity days, so I'm thankful for the Cleansport NXT lining inside for odor protection. KEEN also incorporates a TPU shank for midfoot support. After breaking them in for a bit the comfort level increases, you'll notice the padding just beneath your ankle bone - the height of these mid shoes goes up to 6" at the high point and down to about a 4.75" low at the heel. This allows for a good range of movement, but not enough to allow you to easily hyperextend your ankle.
For extra comfort, KEEN cleverly put in a removable, custom PU footbed. Most times shoes have these glued down and only replaceable once they wear out. The company seems to know that whoever will be wearing these, they'll be wearing them a lot. If you need a bit more arch support? Installing your favorite insert is just one step easier.
My San Antonio's were regular, but there's a wide option as well. That said, I found there to be plenty of room for my feet inside. Once laced tight, there's a firm hold onto your heel allowing a bit extra room near the toe for air. You're foot isn't being squeezed here, only held to place to move when it needs to and not wobble when it doesn't.
The shallow tread is oil and slip resistant. Walking on wet concrete after a downpour of rain as well as trying to run on soaked grass during that downpour was surprisingly steady. There are wide channels with even deeper narrow trenches built in that allow fluids to flow through and out your step. There are very light grips on the raised treads - a checkered pattern for the middle, a horizontal strip perpendicular to your step on the toe and heel.
While the San Antonio has more of an athletic angle, if you're looking for a work boot with more of a classic look, try the KEEN Baltimore (MSRP $140 to $150). It features a full-grain leather upper with KEEN's KEEN.DRY membrane for lightweight, breathable and waterproof protection. The Baltimore shares a lot of features with the San Antonio like the TPU shank and safety standards. It comes in a brown, black or a Classic Wheat in both soft and steel toe variants.
The KEEN San Antonio "booshoe" as one reviewer online called them are available now at MSRP $130. They may not be the traditional "tactical" image nor the typical shoe you'd buy at the mall, they may just be leaving some footsteps right in that mid-ground between the two extremes.