Last Updated on August 16, 2022
Finding the right balance of work shoe comfort and ruggedness isn’t easy. As Family Construction Coordinators for the self-help non-profit Florida Home Partnership, my colleague Gaspar and I find ourselves replacing our footwear often after a few weeks’ or months’ wear and tear. From sneakers to Wellington-style boots and everything in between, we’re always on the lookout for the best footwear for the jobsite. We are constantly on our feet as we work beside families who build each others’ brand-new homes. So we were eager to try out the Keen Utility Atlanta Cool ESD soft toe work shoe when the opportunity knocked. We’ve had them on our feet for several weeks now and have a good idea of what you can expect.
Editor’s Note: Check out our best work boots review article for our favorite products for all applications.
Features Worth Noting
Having both the men’s and women’s models, we agree that the Keen Utility Atlanta Cool is a stylish work shoe. There’s enough ruggedness in the men’s look and a colorful nod to my feminine side on the women’s to make us both happy. Both of us would love to see an all-black option added at some point, though that seems to be designated for the steel toe models at the moment.
Lace ’em Up
Keen’s Secure-Fit lace capture system resembles the bungee laces that many runners and triathletes prefer. There’s a good reason for it – they make tightening the laces a simple process and allow your feet to slip in and out easily.
Gaspar really likes the Secure-Fit lace capture system. It leaves no risk of the laces untying and that’s great for a guy who is used to Wellington boots with no laces at all.
I was initially a little skeptical that the system could tighten the laces as much as I prefer them. That concern was alleviated right away, though I noticed that they did loosen slightly over the course of the day. Gaspar’s, on the other hand, stayed tight to his comfort level all day.
One of the major benefits of this system comes when Gaspar and I need to inspect the inside of a home that’s pretty much done with the interior work. We’ve both been around long enough to know how irritating it is to clean up the mud and dirt someone else tracked in and Secure Fit makes it easy to leave all that at the doorstep rather than slipping on shoe covers or carrying a cordless vacuum.
Wondering what the “ESD” is in Keen Utility Atlanta Cool ESD Soft Toe Work Shoes? That would be for “electrostatic dissipative.” Yeah, I’d rather just say ESD. The more familiar Electrical Hazard (EH) rated footwear is designed to reduce the flow of electricity through the shoe and into the ground and is a designation only safety footwear can have.
Both safety and non-safety footwear can carry the ESD rating. This protection is designed to keep static electricity from accumulating on your body. To do this, the shoe intentionally conducts the building energy in the insole, lining, and cement to transfer it into the ground. Neither designation is a requirement for the kind of work we do, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
Keen Utility Atlanta Cool ESD’s Other Notable Features
- Dual-density EVA footbed
- Contoured heel lock
- Cleansport NXT natural odor control
- Reflective webbing
- Fabric loops to help with putting them on and taking them off
- Cement (glue) attached outsole
- Meets or exceeds ASTM F2892-11 SD standards
- Steel toe model also available
On The Job
Carrying the Weight on My… Feet
I was a little hesitant looking at the design online. It didn’t have anything to do with the style or colors, but the fact that they resemble some of the hiking boots I’ve worn that have proven to be too heavy and uncomfortable. However, I knew the real test would be wearing them on the jobsite. Despite the large outsole, Keen Utility Atlanta Soft Toe Work Shoes feel really light on my feet.
The outsole – which is designed with Keen’s non-marring slip-resistance – has a sturdy, aggressive tread. It’s molded up and around the toe in the classic Keen style that looks a little bulbous but leaves extra room in the toe box.
Like all work boots and shoes, the outsoles are harder than sneakers or tennis shoes. Keen’s Torsional Stability Shank is integrated inside, but my feet acclimated quickly to the additional support. I was able to move and work securely on all of the terrains we encountered. From mud and sand to concrete and gravel, the shoes are stable and comfortable on all surfaces.
Fits Like a Glove
One of the biggest headaches for any online footwear purchase is hoping to get the correct sizing. It’s multiplied when that footwear is what you’re going to spend most of your day in 5 or 6 days a week. I’m a women’s 8.5 wide and Gaspar wears a men’s 9 wide. This must be the year that the Cubs win the World Series and the Apocalypse follows because both are a perfect fit!
Breaking ’em In
I initially felt some discomfort around the back of the collar around my ankle/Achilles area. However, that was just a matter of transitioning to socks that come up above my ankles. It’s not the style I normally go for in a low-cut shoe if I can get away with it, but I have to go with the flow, right?
Aside from wearing the proper socks, there’s really no break-in period to speak of. Keen Utility Atlanta Cool ESD Work Shoes are pretty much ready to go to work right out of the box.
When it Rains…
The mesh lining is hydrophobic, which is a fancy way to say it resists water. The nubuck leather upper also resists water. These light-duty boots are designed to be ultra-breathable. The trade-off is they won’t be waterproof, but the design does pull moisture away from your feet to help dry them faster.
We both found the mesh in the Keens to be very breathable but it does allow the aforementioned moisture to get in. Walking through wet grass made our feet damp. Sometimes we have to work in the rain and you’ll want to have a waterproof pair of boots for days like that. The upside is that in dry conditions, the shoes breathe extremely well and keep our feet cool and comfortable.
The Bottom Line
Keen definitely nailed it with the light-duty, lightweight, breathable Keen Utility Atlanta Cool ESD Soft Toe. It’s an easy recommendation for Pros and tradesmen that don’t require a safety toe. Those that do need the steel toe should certainly consider the Atlanta Cool model that includes them.
Keep in mind that breathability trumps waterproof with this design. If you’re constantly working in wet environments, you’ll want to pass. While the current versions are stylish, both Gaspar and I agree that we’d like to see an all-black version available in soft toe. For those that enjoy the outdoors even when you’re not at work, it’s easy to see the Atlanta Cool pulling double duty as a light-duty hiking boot.
Keen Utility Atlanta Cool ESD Soft Toe Work Shoe Specifications
- Approximate weight per shoe: Men’s – 15.7 oz (women’s unlisted)
- Upper: Leather
- Lining: Hydrophobic mesh
- Footbed: Dual-density EVA
- Outsole: Oil and slip resistant non-marking rubber outsole
- Ratings: ASTM F2892-22 SD
- Price: $125 (men’s and women’s)