When I first took my Keen shoes out of the box, they were like no other pair of shoes I had ever seen in my life. In fact, they were even more unique than the name suggested. I decided to myself they were the coolest pair of shoes I had ever owned. With a corded upper layer all around the foot, I hoped that they would have all the benefits of sandals, but without losing the advantages of other sporting footwear.
Branded as a perfect shoe for a variety of different sports, I had high hopes that these shoes would be ideal for my current trip cycling around the world. Currently, I can only spare the space/weight for one pair of shoes so that shoe must be perfect for cycling, strong enough for trekking and climbing, comfortable enough for exploring a city on foot, and suitable for those occasional moments where you have to ford a river. So far, I’ve worn them for the last 10 weeks, and my life on the road has definitely been a gruelling test for them!
Comfort of the UNEEK Shoes
The shoe is made of pieces of cord wrapped and tied around each other; this means that lots of parts of the shoe move, which made me slightly worried about rubbing. My friend and I did both suffer from blisters for the first two weeks – I began to worry I might have to rock the socks and sandals look for the rest of my life – but after we had worn them in slightly, blisters became a forgotten thing of the past.
The fact that the upper shoe moves around is now a bonus, because the snug fit makes the shoes feel very flexible and not restricted in the way you are with normal shoes, to the extent that when running or walking it often feels like I’m not wearing shoes at all. This is heightened by the fact that the shoes are fairly lightweight.
The shoes fasten using an elasticated bungee lace, with a draw cord. This system is quick to tighten or loosen, and feels much more comfortable than shoe laces or velcro. The elasticated cord helps tighten the areas which you need tightening, while leaving you with some space in areas you need less tight. As a result, this great design helps ensure a comfortable, snug fit all around the foot.
Inside Tip: The shoes are running about a half size too small, so be sure to order half a size bigger to ensure a snug fit!
The open air design of the shoes was one of the big advantages for me as much of my trip will be in hot, desert countries. Every time you move your foot, whether it’s to take a pedal stroke or a stride, air flows freely around the toes and feet, providing pleasant refreshment. The only downside of this is the fact that stones and bits of sand do seem to work their way into the shoe over time, but can’t seem to get out as easily, providing minor frustration at having to stop and empty the shoe out.
UNEEK Shoe: Is it an All-Round Sports Shoe?
As mentioned above, the shoes are very flexible, but they also seem to balance that very well with strength and sturdiness. I have found them to support the foot well, and the rubber sole to provide a surprisingly good grip, even on some pretty steep and rocky treks. Similarly, I have worn these shoes in relatively fast-flowing rivers and lakes and had no issue with slipping around in them. The rubber sole and cord are both dry very quick to dry, ensuring that wearing them in water is not a problem in fair weather.
The shoes are very durable; after all, there is not actually much to them apart from a rubber sole and two lengths of cord, which means there is not much to go wrong. Despite intensive use, mine are showing very few signs of wear, and I don’t envisage switching to another pair of shoes anytime soon!
Designing a pair of shoes that attempts to deliver to such a wide range of sports is a risk. But this doesn’t appear to have been a problem for Keen UNEEK shoes. My favourite thing about the shoe is that while open, providing ventilation for hot, sweaty feet, they also fit very snugly, like no other pair of shoes I have worn in my life, with support all around the foot. This is no mean feat in a shoe made uniquely out of cord. I have found them to be a very comfortable pair of shoes (after they have been worn in for two weeks), and superbly suited for a wide range of adventures.
Please note that this article was written in partnership with Keen but despite this, all opinions are ours and remain completely unbiased.
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