KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX Technology
WORK BOOTS AND WORK SHOES WITH FLEX.
KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX is a revolutionary technology that allows a boot to bend and flex where it’s needed most, up-to 3x easier. Make the day a little more comfortable with work boots that move with you, never against you. In this article, learn more about how this technology can vastly improve your work boot experience, then find out more about the KEEN Utility series offering this benefit.
Leather Work Boot Pros
Historically, leather has been an extremely popular boot making material, especially for work boots. It has many benefits when used in footwear, including an ideal combination of suppleness, structure, abrasion resistance, and breathability. When used in work boots on a jobsite, leather becomes part of the essential personal protective equipment worn by workers, alongside safety glasses, gloves, a hardhat, and long pants. It’s a second skin, quite literally.
Leather Work Boot Cons
Leather also has some downsides when used in work boots and other footwear. As a natural hide product, it functions best when kept clean and moisturized. If you’ve spent any amount of time wearing work boots on the job, you know that the number of times you’ve sat down at the end of a workday to actually clean and condition the leather uppers of your boots hovers somewhere between 0 and 1. Probably really close to 0, if we’re being honest. Therein lies the problem - it’s rare that leather gets properly taken care of every day.
After a little while, the leather in work boots will dry out and lose flexibility and suppleness. Over the bulk of the boot upper, this isn’t a terribly huge issue. However, at the flex zone above the base of your toes, usually right at the point where the laces end, dry leather does become a problem. Because of the constant motion and flex of this area of the boot (it acts as a live hinge, after all), it’s prone to cracking and splitting when the leather dries out. A boot that cracks and splits here usually can’t be fixed and would have to be replaced.
In addition to the obvious problem of the leather cracking and splitting here, another issue exists that’s a bit tougher to notice because it’s subtle. As noted above, the part of the boot that flexes the most, right above the base of your toes, is a live hinge. This means that the boot relies on the inherent pliability of leather to absorb and release the boot flex created when you walk, bend, kneel, etc. over its whole lifespan.
Since it’s a single layer of thick leather, it adds a tiny bit of resistance with every step. Imagine how many steps you take in an average workday. Now multiply that by the days per week you work, and so on. That’s a lot of steps! Even with a minor amount of resistance per step, the aggregate amount of resistance experienced over the life of the boot is significant. After all, that’s energy that could be put to use somewhere else, either at work or at home when your shift ends.
KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX: The solution has arrived.
With many years of jobsite experience under their belts (or maybe under their feet?), the boot designers at KEEN Utility came up with a technology that solves for the inherent shortfalls of leather in the part of the boot that flexes the most - KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX. Imagine an accordion, with the sides of the airbox needing to remain pliable over the long term for easy playability, yet rigid enough to efficiently move lots of air around so the instrument can make noise. The flexible bellows shape accomplishes both of these things.
After taking inspiration from this and from other hinge-type shapes, KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX was born. This technology is a TPU insert that is sewn into the boot, right at the base of the laces. As a tough yet flexible synthetic material, it will never dry out and crack like leather can.
By introducing a strategically located, purpose-built flex area into the boot, two things are accomplished. One: the boot lasts longer and a common point of failure is eliminated. Two: bending, flexing, and knee-down work become easier, as the bellows shape is built to move. As a matter of fact, compared to other work boots, KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX-equipped styles deliver up-to 3x more flexibility than several work boots within the general work category.
OK, now I know what KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX is. What boots have it?
Portland Work Boots
At your job, do you bend, crawl, climb, or crouch often? Maybe you’re a diesel mechanic, an electrician, or a plumber that needs to shimmy, slide, and finagle your way through the workday? If so, the Portland work boot is for you.
Featuring KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX, a carbon-fiber safety toe, a KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane, and a comfortable air-injected Luftcell midsole, this boot moves with you to get the job done. Plus, it’s available in an all-black colorway to blend into the dirtiest, greasiest job sites.
Troy Work Boots
Do you still need more flexibility? Perhaps your job requires you to bend and twist in tight areas? The newest iteration of KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX, available on the Troy work boot, adds more side-to-side articulation. This is possible due to the inclusion of multidirectional flex grooves in the KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX panel. The ultimate function is to make twisting motions much easier.
Like the Portland, the Troy incorporates a KEEN.DRY waterproof, breathable membrane to keep you dry and a carbon-fiber safety toe to keep you protected. A notable difference is that the Troy is built with LuftCell heel support, which embeds an air-injected core into firmer surrounding foam for the ultimate in support and shock absorption.
KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX in the future
Right now, KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX is only available in the Portland work boot and the Troy work boot. Keep an eye out for future footwear releases that utilize this flex-enhancing, energy-saving technology to make your workday a whole lot easier.
How does KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX work?
Think about an old pair of leather work boots you’ve had that might have dried out, cracked, and split at the place where they flex the most. That’s what KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX is designed to prevent. This technology adds a TPU flex zone between the toe and the laces, allowing the boot to bend with much less resistance. Get easier articulation and long-lasting durability, so you can focus on your work, not your boots.
DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO THE SAME FLEXIBILITY.
All of our KEEN.BELLOWS FLEX products are built with the same basic technology, have the same abrasion resistance on the bellows itself, and provide you with the same increase in flexibility where it’s needed most. What’s the difference? The 2nd generation, available on the Troy, provides a new level of articulation.