Review of the Keen Gypsum Hiking Boot

Updated on May 25, 2016
The Keen Gypsum in the Niagara Falls Gorge.
The Keen Gypsum in the Niagara Falls Gorge. | Source

A New Tough Hiker From Keen

With out of the box comfort, outstanding support, and creek parting waterproofing, the Keen Gypsum answers my call for a new hiking boot. Though my shoe rack runneth over, as a compulsive hiker, I'm always on the prowl for a new boot for backcountry adventures. In this review of the boot, I'll give you an honest breakdown of its performance over the last few months.

I must admit that I'm a bit of a Keen addict, owning more pairs than any man really should. When I saw the Gypsum pop up on their website, I knew I had to make it mine. I lusted over it, like a lonely man with a mail order bride catalog.

You see, Keen is one of those companies you have no choice but to love. From their environmental advocacy to their recess initiatives, they are more than a shoe company to many people. Keen offers insight to the way life should be lived.

The Gypsum comes in two styles: low and mid. As I prefer the flexibility of a low cut shoe, in this test I only review the low version of this boot. There is likewise a women's style of this shoe. As my feet will never have the anatomical distinctions of a woman's foot - I didn't test that one either.

The question is, will this boot hold up to my abuse and become my new favorite hiking companion for tackling the trails?

Exceptional grip on this boot.
Exceptional grip on this boot. | Source

Gypsum Specifications and Features


  • Materials: Waterproof leather and breathable mesh nylon upper
  • Weight: 2 lb 5 oz
  • Usage: Hiking, light backpacking
  • Sizing: The Gypsum generally runs 1/2 size smaller than standard.
  • MSRP: $130.00


  • Keen.Dry waterproof breathable membrane
  • 4mm lug outsole
  • Non marking rubber sole
  • Torsion stability shank
  • TPU heel stabilizer
  • Keen.Zorb Strobel absorbs impact
  • Removable foot bed

The Keen Gypsum on the left goes toe to toe with the time-honored Targhee.
The Keen Gypsum on the left goes toe to toe with the time-honored Targhee. | Source

Gypsum versus Targhee

I've been wearing the Keen Targhee for about six years now, wearing through multiple pairs on my treks in the great outdoors. At first look, the Targhee and the Gypsum look similar, but there are some differences that I found.

Some reviewers call this new offering from Keen, the Targhee III. I like to call the Gypsum a beefed up version of the Targhee. You see - the Gypsum has been hitting up the gym and drinking protein shakes by the gallon to get this beefy.

When I first tried the Gypsum on, I could tell three major differences between it and the popular Targhee.

  1. The stiffness of the upper.
  2. The rigidity of the midsole.
  3. The construction of the tread and heel cup.

Though the Gypsum is heavier than the Targhee, you get a boot which offers more stability and durability.

If anyone has ever had problems with the sole delamination on the Targhee, the Gypsum's outsole is designed with a tenacious durability. With several months of use, there is no sign of chunks of tread coming unglued.

I still love the lightweight responsiveness of the Targhee, but for a heavier duty hiking boot, I would opt for the Gypsum. Of course, you could always be like me and buy them both.

Walking through mud and water in the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge with the Gypsum.
Walking through mud and water in the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge with the Gypsum. | Source
Hiking through wet red clay - don't worry - it washed off.
Hiking through wet red clay - don't worry - it washed off. | Source
Yes, I am wearing the Gypsum in the picture.  After walking in water 6-inches over the top of the shoe, my feet did get wet.
Yes, I am wearing the Gypsum in the picture. After walking in water 6-inches over the top of the shoe, my feet did get wet. | Source

Field Testing

Those of you that follow my product reviews, know that I extensively test each item before reviewing it. I've walked in this boot for five months in various conditions, temperatures, and activities.

Casual Use:

Though developed for hiking, Keen makes a funky looking shoe that fits my personal style. Even on their website, the boot selection guide shows you how their shoes look with jeans. As we all know - we don't wear jeans for hiking. If you don't know why we don't wear jeans, check out my article "Why Cotton Will Kill You on a Hiking Trip."

Plus, I live in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area and we have fantastic winter weather. During the winter, which can last from October to May, our footwear must adapt to the climate.

Though we don't always need insulated boots (as mucking through the mall with a pair of Sorel Pac boots is not comfortable) our shoes must be waterproof and have great grip on snow and ice. I think that a hiking boot like the Gypsum fits the bill quite nicely.


As someone moderately obsessed with hitting the trails a couple times a week, I purchased this shoe primarily for day hikes. Though I own several mid-height hiking boots, I generally prefer the open flexibility of a low hiking boot.

According to my trail logs, I have logged about 270 hiking miles in these boots. Most of my day hikes are between 8-12 miles, though I will pull a 20-miler every now and then.

Some of the places I hiked were:

  • Niagara Gorge
  • Royalton Ravine
  • Zoar Valley
  • Iroquois Wildlife Refuge
  • Finger Lakes Trail
  • Conservation Trail
  • Allegany State Park


For those of you not familiar with the distinction between hiking and backpacking. Backpacking is just like hiking, except that you carry overnight gear and camp out instead of returning home.

I had to wait until the snow cleared the forests to use a low and uninsulated boot like this for backpacking. I used the Gypsum on a three-day trek along the Finger Lakes Trail.

Over those days in the woods, I walked about 35 miles through wet and muddy spring paths. Judging by the winter deadfall along the way, most of these hadn't seen trail maintenance yet.

I carried a small pack with about twenty pounds of gear, food, and water. Now that the snow is melting from the Adirondacks, I plan on using the Gypsum for hiking up there next.

The tread is holding up just fine.
The tread is holding up just fine. | Source
Rock hopping while hiking in the Gypsum.
Rock hopping while hiking in the Gypsum. | Source
Side cutting a scree slope while wearing the Gypsum.
Side cutting a scree slope while wearing the Gypsum. | Source

How Does the Boot Perform?

What kind of fit does it have?

I wear a lot of Keen shoes for one reason, and that is because I love the way they fit my feet. I have a medium arch with a wide squarish forefoot. My foot width ranges from EE to EEEE, depending on style and brand.

Though I know some people with standard width feet wear Keens, they tend to fit folks with wide feet the best.

Most people agree that this boot fits about 1/2 size smaller than your regular size.

Is it comfortable?

Though you know immediately while trying on the rainbow of boots at your local outfitter whether it is comfortable or not, it's hard to know how comfortable it will be at the end of a twenty-mile hike.

The compression molded EVA midsole is fantastic for long hikes absorbing the shock of repetitive foot strikes. Though I usually switch out my insoles, I am still using the footbeds that came with the Gypsum. They seem to do a pretty good job of cushioning my feet.

Is it supportive?

Though many people don't look for stability in a low hiker, a lower boot can offer a great amount of support and protection as long as your heel is locked securely into place.

Keen's innovative lacing system pulls a webbed heel strap that secures your foot to the heel cup. Even while walking on rough rocky terrain, I have no fear of ankle inversion.

The thermoplatic urethane plates provide torsion control while hiking on rough and uneven terrain. I can't side-cut too many hills in most light boots, but I was able to push on (without pain) in the Gypsum.

Is it waterproof?

Shrouded in Keen.Dry technology, the Gypsum is both waterproof and breathable.

I was able to submerge this boot multiple times in ankle deep water without getting wet. Granted, all boots will soak through eventually - a hiking boot is not a wading boot. My main concern in waterproofing is that it keeps me dry while walking through wet grass, the occasional puddle, and moist mud. If I'm going to cross a stream, I'll switch into my Crocs.

Though the boot breathes well, all boots with a waterproof barrier are going to be a little warmer than those without. As a sweaty-footed individual, breathability is always a concern. Still, even after a long day of hiking, my socks weren't soaked from my own sweat - so the boot gets props for breathability too.

Is it grippy?

Like all Keen boots (at least the ones I have tried) the tread offers excellent traction on rock, mud, and even ice.

While hiking in the Niagara Gorge, I like to smear my way up and down rocks angled at a fairly high pitch before hopping to the next boulder. One wrong step and you are looking at a broken ankle or a swim in the Niagara River. Luckily I didn't fall or go swimming.

However I don't think the harder and more durable tread on the Gypsum is as grippy as that on the Targhee - there is always a trade off.

Is it durable?

Though a high-end full leather hiking boot will last you for years, most of those you can't wear out of the box. However, when you wear a lightweight boot you can't expect it to last more than a few years.

I have been getting about a year and a half on a pair of Keen Targhee boots before retiring them to lawn mowing duty. I can see myself getting a longer hiking life out of the Gypsum.

The classic keen rubber toe guard is great for rock kickers and root trippers. Just having that protective rand, a signature of their classic Newport sandal, can save you from a stubbed toe. I tend to think that it contributes to the overall durability of the boot too.

The nubuck leather uppers have proven quite durable with only one mar in the leather. I think I scratched it on an old piece of barbed wire. However, the damage is only cosmetic. It makes me look tougher while using this boot casually.

Overall Impression

4 stars for Keen Gypsum Boot

In Review

In five months of mucking about in this boot, I am quite happy with the Keen Gypsum. It is waterproof, durable, comfortable, and offers the support I need for long days on the trail.

I am so pleased with the low cut version of the Gypsum that I plan on purchasing the mid-version too.

Detail of the Gypsum's rigid heel support.
Detail of the Gypsum's rigid heel support. | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • Will the Keen Gypsum hiking boots stretch a little bit more after a while?

    Yes, I did find the Gypsums to stretch a little bit after wearing them for a while and breaking them in.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      23 months ago

      Hows the gypsum on backpacking carrying 20 lbs?

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      3 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Another excellent article. And I love Keens. Definitely going to get a pair for upcoming hiking adventures.

      Thanks for the great info.


    • profile image

      Zhou dao Lung 

      3 years ago

      Bought the Gypsum.

      I am a lite hiker so mostly wore them as a casual shoe.

      After 1.5 years, the lugs are almost smooth, the heel cup is worn and collapses into my heel and 3 lace loops torn through.

      Tough hiker. Don't think so.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I purchased a pair of Keen Targhee 2s about 6 months back. My experience is similar o many others here in that the soles rapidly began to part company with the uppers and are showing signs of wear- far too soon in my opinion for a "hiking boot" that has seen daily use but little heavy duty action.

      BUT, the biggest issue for me was having bought a pair of boots to keep my feet dry working outdoors to discover that they were as waterproof as a paper bag... First outing walking in moist grass with no rain and no puddles/stream crossings or any real exposure to water and I had wet feet.. Thanks Keen for 6 months of suffering with damp feet..

      They do look great, they are very comfy, but they are totally useless for intended purpose.

    • Outbound Dan profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Human 

      7 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      You are quite welcome. After wearing these boots for a year, the Gypsums are still going strong. I'm about to order a second pair.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      7 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thanks for the advice. My husband wear the Gypsums for work everyday.

    • Outbound Dan profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Human 

      7 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Mmmm, the one thing I can tell you is that our feet and boots change over time. The calluses on our feet can erode or change in a manner of months. What use to be an area of impenetrable thick skin is now a site for hot spots.

      Boots also change, through swelling, shrinking, and stiffening. My friend had a pair of asolos that one day were no longer comfortable no matter what we tried. He ended up getting new boots.

      Thanks for reading andyglean!

    • Outbound Dan profile imageAUTHOR

      Dan Human 

      8 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      I've had great luck with Keens over the years and so have many other people. Try them on and see if your feet love them.

      Thanks for stopping by Bankscottage!

    • bankscottage profile image

      Mark Shulkosky 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Since you know I hike rather than backpack, I'll have to give the Keen's a try. I prefer low cut anyway and wear them all the time. I walk a lot a work so hiking shoes seem to make sense to me. Also, since most of my hikes are day hikes, the low cut shoes usually serve me well.

      Another useful, quality Hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)