Most great ideas and innovations start start as the solution to a basic, personal problem; in the case of KEEN shoes, it was Martin Keen’s desire to sail while wearing a sandal, but without exposing his feet to hazards on deck. The result, the Newport sandal, would serve as the first product of Martin’s new company—KEEN—that he launched in 2003. This sandal introduced what would become Keen’s signature footwear feature: the oversize rubber toe bumper. Additionally, the Newport’s innovative bungee cord closure system allowed for a close, sneaker-like fit that made it safer and easier to scramble around a racing boat.
Sailors weren’t the only ones to take notice. From its start in 2003, KEEN grew quickly as its protective ‘hybrid’ sandal design was adopted by paddlers, hikers, travelers, and others looking to enjoy the freedom of sandals without sacrificing the protection of a closed-toe shoe. The Newport water shoe’s exceptional traction, support, and remarkable comfort further endeared it to this growing market.
The expansion of KEEN’s product line into four seasons was a natural progression. Rugged, protective hiking boots and shoes, warm and waterproof winter boots, casual shoes for all tastes, and, of course, a full range of water-friendly sandals now comprise the majority of KEEN’s offerings. Stylewise, this footwear runs from KEEN’s bread-and-butter wider-cut, ultra-supportive designs to the more minimalist and lightweight offerings in its sporty CNX line. In addition to footwear for men and women, KEEN serves up shoes and sandals for children in fun, fresh colors; kids love the look, and parents appreciate the famous KEEN protection against stubbed toes.
As KEEN continued to flourish, it not only moved its headquarters to Portland, Oregon, but it also grew in new directions, with clothing and accessories like backpacks, purses and totes, and socks. The common thread was a dedication to comfort, durability, and purpose-driven design. Along the way, the company stayed focused on innovation, on incorporating environmentally responsible products and processes, and on developing products that would encourage people to get outdoors and give back. KEEN calls this philosophy Hybrid.Life.
From its inception, KEEN has emphasized an awareness of social issues and corporate responsibility. The company was first able to put its philosophy into action during the 2004 Asian tsunami disaster, offering substantial support to relief efforts. The company’s active Hybrid.Care program partners with nonprofits around the world to inspire responsible outdoor participation, support land and water conservation, and lend a hand when disaster strikes.