Keen Zionic Collection Redefines Hiking Footwear

You're not alone in noticing the surge of hikers hitting the trails lately, seeking the serenity of the great outdoors. Hiking is a popular choice for outdoor recreation, but it's not as simple as grabbing any pair of shoes and a water bottle. If you've experienced sore feet and legs post-hike, you know there's more to consider.

Keen, an iconic hiking brand, recognized a trend in the hiking community, particularly among new hikers, who often hit the trails wearing athletic sneakers ill-suited for the terrain. In response, Keen has launched the Zionic line, its fastest and lightest hiking shoes to date, as part of the Fast and Light Collection.

The Zionic Collection introduces two new silhouettes: a hiking shoe and a mid-height hiking boot. These models incorporate recycled PET mesh and feature a lightweight foam midsole for improved responsiveness. A full-length nylon plate minimizes energy loss with each step, catering to those accustomed to running shoes.

Prioritizing weight and agility, the design aims to meet the needs of new hikers. The men's Zionic Hiking Shoe weighs 12.35 ounces, and the Zionic Hiking Boot is 16.93 ounces, providing a lighter alternative to traditional hiking footwear. These shoes deviate from the brand's classic design, lacking the oversized rubber toe cap seen in other models and featuring laces reminiscent of running shoes.

Will Schuh, Keen's senior manager of product management and merchandising for performance footwear, to delve into the collection's innovation and the inspiration behind it.

Keen has a rich history on the trail. What inspired the creation of the brand's lightest shoe yet, especially after two decades of performance footwear.

While Zionic is a new addition to our product line, we've been gradually moving in this direction, notably with the launch of the NXIS in 2021. At Keen, we've always regarded hikers as athletes, or what we call "Outside Athletes." Just like athletes, hikers demand gear that enables peak performance on the trail, and we prioritize this when developing new products and innovations.

With Zionic, our team pushed for a lighter and faster hiker, largely in response to the increase in younger Outside Athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hiking has experienced significant growth over the last five years, with an average annual growth rate of seven percent, according to research by OIA. The pandemic further boosted participation, with Mintel's 2021 Outdoor Leisure Report indicating that 16 percent of hikers began their activity during that time.

Our observation revealed that many of these new hikers were ill-equipped for the trail, wearing athletic sneakers not designed for such terrain. We made it our mission to cater to this audience by developing a capable hiker that offers athleticism, agility, and lightweight design. The result of our efforts is the Zionic.

Did Keen implement any specific material innovations in the Zionic that hadn't been used before?

As we crafted the Zionic, we integrated several innovations from recent models, creating a platform that we consider the pinnacle of Keen's innovation. The full-length nylon plate, featured in the Zionic, was first introduced in the WK400, released earlier this year. The lightweight and durable performance mesh was a crucial innovation in the NXIS in 2021. The Zionic is the first model in our trailhead line to include a 3D-printed TPU overlay on the mesh, ensuring lightweight, rapid, and minimal-waste construction.

At Keen, we make deliberate choices about the materials and methods we use as responsible shoemakers and stewards of the planet. This ensures that the Zionic excels in sustainability. The shoes incorporate recycled materials and feature an eco anti-odor footbed that avoids pesticide use. Importantly, they do not contain any forever chemicals (PFAS), a commitment we made several years ago and continue to uphold.

The Fast & Light Collection comprises three key models: NXIS, Wanduro, and the flagship model, Zionic. Zionic is available in mid and low waterproof models for wet and muddy terrains, along with a vented Speed model designed for arid climates. Like the NXIS, the predecessor to Zionic, both models exude athletic characteristics, but the NXIS provides a more traditional Keen fit profile, reminiscent of classic hikers like Targhee.

Available in Mid and Low waterproof variants, the Wanduro follows the same fast and light design principles, featuring a flexible textile upper and all-terrain outsole suitable for transitioning from backcountry to blacktop seamlessly.

Keen continues to innovate and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of outdoor enthusiasts.