Family Handyman Approved: Keen Utility Red Hook Work Boots

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A work boot that feels more like a sneaker.

I love work boots. I’ve gone through a few brands over the 10 years I’ve worn a pair of them daily, and all of them have been heavy and stiff. The hard soles, steel safety toe and all that leather give you a workout with each step.

Keen Utility came up with a different kind of work boot. Their Red Hook Boots are a cross between a work boot and a pair of sneakers. I had to give them a try.

What’s Different about the Keen Utility Red Hook Boots?

The Keen Utility Red Hook Boots are a tough work boot with an athletic shoe feel. They’re great for those whose feet ache from moving on hard surfaces all day long and want a more springy step while keeping their toes safe on the jobsite. They look great and are much lighter than traditional work boots.

How We Tested It

Keens Utility BootCourtesy KEEN Utility

I started wearing these Keen Utility Red Hooks over the summer while working on the Family Handyman Getaway project. Over the last six months I’ve walked across lots of different surfaces on projects for Family Handyman and at my home — metal and asphalt roofs, deck joists, ladders, mud, rocks, puddles, snow and the concrete floor in our work shop. Basically, I’ve thrown everything I could at these boots.

Keen Work Boots Performance Review

The Red Hooks were a lot different than the work boots I’ve worn the past 10 years. The soft sole felt strange at first. But after a day of walking on uneven or hard terrain, my feet and hips appreciated the extra cushion-y support. The experience is much more like an athletic shoe than a work boot.

One thing that didn’t take any getting used to was their weight. The Red Hooks feel half as heavy as my other boots. After a full day of work, that’s a big deal.

Toward the end of summer I built a fence around my yard. Though hot and humid out, my feet stayed dry and comfortable. Two things kept my feet from becoming soaked with sweat and unbearably hot: The breathable material in the padded upper, and Keen Utility’s proprietary Keen.Dry membrane that lets moisture escape.

The carbon fiber safety toes are one of my favorite features. Carbon fiber isn’t as cold as steel in frigid weather, and it makes the boots lighter. The steel toes of boots I’ve worn in the past featured a symmetrical cap, but the Red Hooks offer right and left versions to fit the shoe — and your toes — flawlessly.

If Keen Utility puts out a Red Hooks V2, I’d suggest two improvements. Add a shank inside the sole for better protection against stepping on nails during remodeling, demolition or framing work. And switch to a non-flat lace. That’s easily done with an after-market lace, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled hooking the flat lace into the upper lace hooks.

As far as durability goes, I’ve put them through the paces of my day-to-day and weekend work and they’ve held up great. That’s because the Red Hooks are wrapped in leather with a tough outer material at the toe, heel and sides where the boot sees more wear and tear. I’ve walked across asphalt shingles and wood piles and stomped through snow with nothing more than normal scuffs and scratches.

At $180, these Keen Red Hook boots aren’t cheap. But if your feet crave an athletic shoe-like feel with work boot safety features and you get two or three years out of them, I’d say you’ll be happy to have these on your feet for that price.

Why You Should Buy These

I’ve developed a soft spot for these boots. They’ve found a place next to my stiff and heavy work boots. If you’re in the market for a new pair and want to try something closer to an athletic shoe, these are right up your alley.

Where to Buy Keen Red Hook Work Boots

Keen Utility BootCourtesy KEEN Utility

The Keen Red Hook Boots are available at many online retailers and stores that carry the Keen brand.

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Mike Berner is an Editor at Family Handyman who traversed countless job sites in work boots.

Mike Berner
Mike can build any complicated project. He also reviews tools with a keen attention to detail and creates projects for every level of DIYer. He learned some of his craft when he was a schoolteacher, but more as a builder. When he’s not building or remodeling something, Mike has two young kids that keep him on his toes.