Keen Shellrock WP Trail Shoe SPOTLITE REVIEW

With its eVENT softshell upper, the Shellrock seems like it should be the perfect lightweight trail shoe for wet conditions, but my field testing revealed very mixed results.

Overall Rating: Below Average

I had high expectations for the Keen Shellrock WP. The specifications were there, and I was looking for a very comfortable, breathable, supportive, grippy, and waterproof trail shoe. It turned out to be a very mixed bag, performing well in some ways (comfort, breathability, traction on rock), and disappointing in others (waterproofness, stability, lack of traction in loose materials).

My rating of BELOW AVERAGE is based on the shoe’s lack of waterproofness, lateral stability, and traction in loose materials. Hikers considering this shoe expect it to be waterproof as claimed. However, for unknown reasons, the Shellrock’s eVENT softshell upper readily allows water to enter.

About This Rating

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by Will Rietveld |

Overview

The Keen Shellrock WP is the first lightweight eVENT trail shoe we have reviewed. Its specifications sound perfect: eVENT softshell upper, light weight (13 ounces/shoe, men’s 9), good midsole support and cushioning, and a sticky rubber outsole. The color is bright red, so it definitely stands out in a crowd. How much of a standout is the Keen Shellrock on the trail, in a variety of conditions?

Keen Shellrock WP Trail Shoe SPOTLITE REVIEW - 1
The Keen Shellrock WP features an eVENT softshell upper, and will be available in July 2007.

An increasing number of manufactures are bringing eVENT lined waterproof/breathable trail boots and shoes to market, and Backpacking Light has been anxious to give them a try to see how well they perform. With Keen’s recent announcement of the Shellrock WP at the Winter 2007 Outdoor Retailer, the temptation was too great, I had to give them a try.

Theoretically, a waterproof/breathable trail shoe should be more breathable than a waterproof/breathable hiking boot or insulated boot, because there is only one thin layer of fabric over the membrane. A direct laminate eVENT softshell construction, like the Keen Shellrock, should be even more breathable.

Besides its eVENT softshell upper, other features of the Shellrock include Keen’s distinctive rubber toe bumper, heel support and stabilizer structures, midsole structures and cushioning to avoid stone bruising, a dual traction outsole, and a molded tri-density footbed.

Trail shoes typically incorporate a lot of different materials and technology to provide support and stability, but the bottom line is how well they perform on the trail. In the case of the Shellrock, the results were mixed. Size 12 fit my wide feet very well, and I found them very comfortable to wear on a good trail while carrying a light pack. The midsole construction protected my feet from sharp rocks quite well.

Keen Shellrock WP Trail Shoe SPOTLITE REVIEW - 2
The Keen Shellrock’s sticky rubber outsole (left) provides good traction on rock, but the shallow tread is only moderately aggressive and lacks traction on loose materials. The shoe flexes easily (right) but still has an adequate midsole TPU plate for rock protection.

Off-trail performance was mixed. The shoes provided good support in the instep and forefoot areas to avoid toe jamming on steep downhills, but their lateral stability on steep sidehills was only so-so. The outsole has sticky rubber that provided good traction on rock, but the tread is only moderately aggressive, and I wished for more traction when hiking on loose materials. The shoes have an excellent toe bumper and side rand that effectively protect the fabric upper. The face fabric on the uppers is quite durable, I acquired a few minor snags in the face fabric from downed trees and brush, but there are no cuts, punctures, or abrasions that might damage the eVENT membrane underneath.

The shoes’ breathability is quite good, as one would hope for from an eVENT softshell construction. The Shellrock was quite comfortable to wear while hiking on a dry trail in 80+ °F temperatures, and I had little moisture accumulation from sweat in my socks. So, in my opinion, the eVENT softshell construction did deliver an extended comfort range.

Keen Shellrock WP Trail Shoe SPOTLITE REVIEW - 3
I tested the Shellrock in late winter and spring while hiking in lots of wet snow, mud, water, and wet vegetation.

Now for the bad news: the Shellrock is not waterproof as claimed. On some trips I walked in wet stuff the entire time, and on other trips I walked in and out of wet conditions. In every case, the water quickly soaked the outer fabric and soaked through the membrane and dampened my socks. On a few occasions my socks were totally soggy. While other Gore-Tex lined shoes and proprietary waterproof/breathable shoes I have previously tested took some time for the water to soak through, or they leaked only under certain conditions (wet snow for example), these eVENT lined shoes quickly and consistently wetted through. For example, when I walked through wet vegetation, my feet would become damp within minutes. Once the interior of the shoes got damp, they were slow to dry out, but (in my opinion) not as slow drying as Gore-Tex shoes I have tested.

Keen Shellrock WP Trail Shoe SPOTLITE REVIEW - 4
To verify my field observations, I did an immersion test on the Shellrock where I stuffed a towel inside a shoe and weighted it down in a pan of water so that the toebox was covered. After one hour I removed the towel and weighed it to determine the amount of water soaking through. The towel was sopping wet and contained 27.3 ounces of water! The shoe itself absorbed 5.3 ounces of water.

So, unfortunately, the waterproof claim for the Shellrock was a disappointment. The Shellrock is NOT waterproof as claimed; it’s water-resistant at best.

Keen Shellrock WP Trail Shoe SPOTLITE REVIEW - 5
The Shellrock’s skicky rubber outsole really grips on rock (left). I even wore them while fixing a solar collector on my metal roof! I found it necessary to wear short gaiters with the Shellrock (right) most of the time to keep snow and debris out of the shoes. The shoes are wet in the photo.

Overall, the Shellrock seems to be most at home on a good trail with gentle to moderate grades. Its performance off-trail is good, but not exceptional, owing to a lack of torsional stability and a more aggressive tread. Breathability is notably good in dry/warm conditions. Waterproof it is not; I was disappointed to find that its eVENT membrane readily wetted through, consistently resulting in damp socks. Could it be that eVENT is simply too porous to perform well as a waterproof/breathable membrane in footwear? Time will tell.

Specifications and Features

  • Manufacturer: Keen Footwear (http://www.keenfootwear.com/)
  • Year/Model: 2007 Shellrock WP
  • Style: Low-cut waterproof/breathable trail shoe
  • Materials:: various synthetics
  • Midsole: TPU plate, heel motion stabilizer, and shock absorbing foam
  • Outsole: Forefoot flex grooves, sticky rubber for traction
  • Sizes Available: Men’s 7-14, women’s 5-11
  • Weight: measured weight men’s size 12 is 17 oz/shoe (482 g), manufacturer specification 13 oz/shoe (369 g) for men’s size 9 and 10.8 oz (306 g) for women’s size 7
  • MSRP: $120

Citation

"Keen Shellrock WP Trail Shoe SPOTLITE REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/keen_shellrock_wp_trail_shoe_spotlite_review.html, 2007-07-19 03:00:00-06.

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