The first KEEN shoes were invented to develop a sandal that could also protect the toes—they feature a signature thick black bumper covering the toes. They found a ready market in sailing and other outdoor and water activities. KEEN Footwear now offers shoes for many outdoor activities as well as casual shoes.

KEEN has been a fast-growing company since its inception. The company was named 2003's "Launch of the Year" by the shoe industry's leading trade publication, Footwear News, which also identified it as a hot brand to watch.[3] As KEEN has grown, there have been many changes, including the addition of a variety of footwear styles to their previous assortment, growing their casual business quickly, adding cold weather footwear, and a line of bags and socks. In early 2006, the company relocated its headquarters from Alameda, California to Portland, Oregon.[2] At the same time, Kirk Richardson joined the company as its president after a 27-year career in management at nearby Nike, Inc.[4] As of October 2008, Richardson is leading KEEN's corporate social responsibility efforts and James Curleigh joined the company as CEO after 12 years as CEO at Salomon Sports North America.

In reaction to the 2004 Asian Tsunami, KEEN took their marketing budget and donated it in total to relief efforts.[6] This gesture turned into their long-term Hybrid.Care program, where they partner with organizations whose vision they share, including The Conservation Alliance, 1 KG More, Leave No Trace, and Big City Mountaineers.

In 2009, the 100-employee company had estimated sales of $130 to $140 million.[1] The company opened a plant in Portland in 2010 to begin manufacturing some of their products in the United States.


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