Keen Sandals – 7 month, 5000 mile review
When Laura and I embarked on our trip, we both decided to bring only one pair of footwear. Although it seems daunting to decide on the “perfect shoe” for an around-the-US bicycle tour, for us, the answer was pretty simple. We were going to bring our Keen sandals. We had gone on several bike tours the last few years from the Oregon coast, wine country in California to the desert of Joshua Tree. In our experience, Keens offered the most versatile and perfect footwear for varied riding and camping conditions.
Shoes (like panniers, pedals and every bit of bike kit) is a very contentious issue. We decided to go with sandals because they shed water easily and dry out faster. We were expecting a wet winter and needed footwear that could withstand wet conditions. The Keens, unlike other sandals, also had a strong rubber toe box. This keeps you from stubbing your toe on rocks or tent pegs while hiking or walking around camp.
The other crucial decision we made was to go with plain Keens and not cleated ones. We reasoned that since we were going to do a fair amount of exploration off the bike, we didn’t want to deal with clicking cleats. From a maintenance point of view as well, having regular flat pedals means there’s nothing to break. No springs to jam and no cleats to wear out. If worst came to worst, we could replace our pedals from the largest chain of bike shops in the country – Walmart (sad, but true).
So far, after 7 months on the road, the Keens have performed admirably. They have dried after storms, they’ve protected our toes and they’ve been largely hassle free. We think we made the perfect choice, for us, in terms of footwear. We’ve worn them on hot days without socks and on snow days with wool+neoprene socks.
We have noticed some variance in durability between some models. Laura had a pair of leather Keen Newports and I had a pair of the canvas/synthetic Keen H2s. Both are nearly identical in shape and appearance but after thousands of miles of pedaling and marching through dirt, mud and snow the weaknesses of my H2s became apparent.
On the H2s, the rear strap is a 3 piece affair. With enough bending, the stitches popped and the 3 pieces separated which I repaired with a Speedy Stitcher. Laura’s Newports had a one piece rear strap so there was nothing to come apart. The footbeds were also very different. Laura’s had a more cork-like footbed (think Birkenstocks) that were successful in fighting odor. My H2s had a plastic/rubber footbed that made odors worse. What would happen is the area under my arch would sweat and attract dirt and bacteria and it would just be suctioned on to the rubber footbed. On more than one occasion, Laura would give me grief about taking my sandals off in the tent.
If you have the extra money (it isn’t a whole lot more), it is worth it to purchase the leather Newports (look for the one-piece rear strap and cork footbed) over the canvas H2s. That said, the H2s are great in their own right, but if I were to have only one shoe, I would choose the leather Newports – its a no-brainer.
Once we were in Big Bend country, we got replacements (both leather Newports) and our feet are as happy as can be. If you’re looking for one shoe for your around the world/US tour, we highly recommend Keen Newports.