The Keen Utility Baltimore Steel Toe Work Boot is technically a Spring 2018 initiative, but it’s hitting retailers early. Keen tells us that “the Baltimore blends classic work boot style with rugged construction and best-in-class comfort.” Doing what we do, I have plenty of work boots to choose from, but the look is what really caught my eye first. Hey, I’ll admit that I want to look good whether I’m on-site or in the shop. But are these new Keen work boots more than just a pretty package?
Editor’s Note: Check out our best work boots review article for our favorite products for all applications.
Keying in on the style factor, Keen talks about classic work boot styling. I went with brown since I tend toward natural colors more and the tan outsole offsets it better than a black one does in my opinion. You can also go with wheat or black for the upper (black has a black outsole).
The first thing I noticed when I opened the box is that the toe cap doesn’t seem quite as pronounced as usual. Some of Keen’s work boots look a little bulbous on the end between the protective cap and wide toe box. These don’t suffer nearly as much in that department.
Overall, the Keen Utility Baltimore has the look of a boot that is just as comfortable on the trail as it is on the jobsite—and I like that.
I’m in a weird place when it comes to work boots – I wear a 12-1/2. Within the work boot industry, that’s a size you’re unlikely to find. If the boot trends on the large side, I can wear a 12. But if it’s true to size, I need a 13. You can be confident ordering your normal size with the Baltimore. The 12 is about a half size too small for my foot, so a 13 is best in my case, meaning they fit true to size.
When it comes to securing the upper to the lower, Keen uses a direct attach method with a polyurethane midsole. It’s in the middle between the weaker cement (glue) bond and the tougher welting. It’s a nice middle ground and Keen puts it all together at the $150 price point where you typically find cement construction from other premium boot manufacturers.
I always give new shoes a quick bend in the sole when I take them out of the box, and there’s a noticeable difference on these. A quick walk around the shop confirmed my initial impressions.
The upper takes advantage of double and quadruple needle stitching to hold it together. It’s unlikely you’ll see a separation there. The lace hooks are riveted in place and are strong enough that they won’t bend unless you’re really abusive.
Waterproof is a misnomer for work boots. What we mean by waterproof is that the material is waterproof, not that the boot prevents water entry. Once the water reaches the tongue, it has a way in and will find it if you keep your foot underwater.
When the inevitable water makes it in via rain, puddle, stream, or sweat, the KEEN.DRY membrane will wick moisture away from your foot and allow the vapor to escape over time. It’s not a replacement for a truly ventilated work boot, though. So far, the combination of a wicking sock and the boot is leaving my feet raisin-free at the end of the day. And with how much my feet tend to sweat, that’s not a simple task.
When your feet get wet, they breed bacteria. We notice it in the form of odor. Keen’s Cleansport NXT fights against the odor naturally to keep our boots from having to spend the night on the porch.
The Keen Utility Baltimore uses steel for its safety toes. Like all Keen Utility safety toe boots, there is a left and right specific safety toe so it conforms to the natural shape of your foot better.
Once the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed for conforming to work boot safety requirements on your jobsite, comfort is what will make or break your boot. There’s a lot that goes into making a boot stable and resistant to jobsite puncture in the form of pretty tough material. And tough usually isn’t comfortable for footwear. Keen adds a metatomical footbed to offer extra cushioning, especially as you move toward the heel. It’s a critical move since the majority of the midsole and outsole is pretty dense. While there is some cushioning built into the heel area of the boot, you’ll appreciate the removable footbed.
If you could get away with the comfort of hiking boots on the jobsite, you would wear those instead. But you need additional support and stability. Keen uses a TPU shank, multi-directional outsole lugs, and a 90° heel to help achieve better stability. For work boots, the Baltimore finds a nice balance between comfort and stability.
The Keen Utility Baltimore work boots will run in the $150 range from most retailers, though some online prices may be lower. That’s pretty solid for a direct attach construction boot. Keep in mind you’re also getting the full-grain leather upper and a host of comfort and stability features that you find in Keen’s high-end boots as well. It’s a premium work boot that finds a more reasonable price point among its competition.
The Bottom Line
The Keen Utility Baltimore is a true-fitting steel toe work boot that carries most of the features you’ll find in the brand’s high-end boots. The direct attach construction is a nice middle-ground for durability and the price is down to a level that’s more reachable for Pros looking to move into the premium work boot segment.
Keen Utility Baltimore Features
- Height: 6″
- Weight: 29.4 oz
- Full-grain waterproof leather upper
- Left and right asymmetrical steel toes
- KEEN.DRY Waterproof, breathable membrane
- TPU shank for midfoot support
- Removable metatomical PU footbed
- Multi-directional lugged outsole
- 90 degree heel
- Cleansport NXT natural odor protection
- Meets ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 M I/75 C/75 EH standards
- Moisture wicking textile lining
- Oil and slip resistant outsole