Snow.Guide Ski Editor Rob Stewart took an early season trip to the 3 Valley’s just after the first heavy snowfall of the winter and tested out the new Polar Durand boots in conditions that really took them through their paces.
American shoe manufacturer Keen have been talking about the fact that their Polar Durand walking boots are European made – this is clearly an important marketing point when promoting the boots and our first impressions are that the quality is extremely high with a solid attention to detail that doesn’t push them over the edge into any kind of ‘style over substance’ category.
They look both smart and rugged at the same time – able to handle long lengths of time outdoors in the most extreme conditions, whilst not looking out of place in the bar later on that evening.
That was the first thing I liked about them. I find many outdoor snow boots are great for being outdoors, but they are just too much anywhere else. These really seem to strike a balance between handling everything you throw at them but you don’t feel the need to rip them off immediately when you step indoors.
Sure they are warm (400 grams of Keen.Warm insulation) – I took a 40 minute walk up through the snow from the lower part of Val Thorens right to the top, deep snow pretty much all the way and the temperature was minus 15 degrees centigrade. If anything, my feet were too warm when I finally sat down for my well-earned beer.
Again, not looking out of place in the bar.
But what I think impressed me the most was the lack of moisture on my feet. This is something I’ve struggled with in the past and not only can it cause discomfort, blisters and of course in extreme cold conditions the possibility of frostbite, but also leaves a nasty odour after a few days of wear. After one week of wearing the Polar Durand, they smell just the same as when they came out of the box (well, almost anyway). I’m not saying these boots are frostbite proof of course (throw some icy water on your feet and stand for hours in sub zero temperatures in any boots and you’ll be in trouble), I’m simply saying that my feet were dry and that is a massive plus.
The ‘Keen.Dry’ waterproof and breathable membrane seems to work really well and this is clearly a serious contender to other brands of waterproof/breathable materials.
What about comfort? The 7 riveted lace up structure wraps nicely around the ankles and provides some support – they are not heavy boots at all, and for winter hiking in deep snow they will carry you along way. I used them to go for breakfast in the morning with my ski socks on and yes, they were a little too warm but I didn’t do the upper laces up and it was fine. I’d normally choose something lighter for breakfast but you can get away with it.
I’m trying to think about how comfortable they really are and I can honestly say they are one of the most comfortable shoes I’ve worn.
I also travelled through the airport with them (have now done two trips – 4 airports)….only once did I have to take them off and it was easy enough, a little more time consuming than an ordinary pair of shoes but no big deal.
The ‘Dual climate non-marking rubber outsole’ seems to grip well enough, although I did go flying over onto my backside once on a road when I walked onto some serious black ice and wasn’t prepared. Nothing would have prevented that from happening (maybe crampons) – scary when that happens and it could have been much worse than it was. But the point being, apart from that unavoidable incident I was slip free and I certainly didn’t lose confidence in the boots after that fall.
Anything I didn’t like? I think for some, the plain dark colours might not be elegant enough for some**, but for me I like the fact that they completely blend into your normal clothes and you wouldn’t know you were wearing such a serious piece of foot kit below you jeans.
It will interesting to test the durability of the boots, I’ve only spent 6 days in between skiing, sleeping and eating, walking around in them. I don’t think there will be any issues with that, just stating that I have tested them over a short period of time.
Conclusion – pretty much the perfect après ski come trudging around in snow boot versus heading up into the mountains for a serious hike set up you can get. I’ve avoided the pun so far, but I can’t resist saying that I’m very, very keen to get out there on the snow with them again this winter.
**according to the manufacturers: ‘A cosy faux fur collar on the female specific model gives an extra luxurious finish and a touch of extra flair in cold climates’.