Guest Article: Keen Commuter Sandal by Alan Barnard

Alan Barnard runs Recumbent Blog…really nice photos if I may add. He sent me his review that should get commuters’ attentions.

keen commuter

Cycling sandals have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and for good reason: they’re comfortable, light, convenient, and walkable. I’ve been wearing Shimano sandals for the past 18 months and I find them to be far more comfortable than traditional cycling shoes, both on the bike and walking about. As Sheldon Brown put it, “These are my very favorite footwear. In the summertime I go for weeks on end without ever having anything else on my feet. Far and away the most comfortable cycling footwear ever.“

I too love my Shimano sandals, but I always felt they’d be better with a closed toe box (a la Keen) to keep my toes a little warmer in the winter and provide some protection in the event of a crash. Consequently, I was excited when I caught wind that Keen was coming out with a “Shimano Killer�? cycling-specific sandal.

Called the Commuter, Keen’s new bike sandal features a full length SPD compatible plate, a thermoplastic urethane cleat tap plate, and an upper that is nearly identical to Keen’s ever-popular Newport H2. (The Newport H2 is half sandal, half trail running shoe, with open straps and a treaded sole similar to traditional sandals, but with an enclosed toe box for protection.) The Commuter goes a step beyond the Newport with a stiffer sole and more compact tread pattern to narrow the overall profile, resulting in greater crank clearance and a more positive pedal/shoe interface (don’t let the narrower outsole scare you; both sandals are built on the same men’s “D�? width last).

The narrower profile is key. My Brompton is outfitted with platform pedals (a necessity due to the nature of the little folding beast) and I found the Newport outsole to be far too wide, with crank interference on the inside and a feeling of tipping off the pedal to the outside. The Commuter, on the other hand, with its narrower profile and stiffer sole, perfectly mates with a standard width platform pedal. There’s also ample clearance with clipless pedals, even on low “Q�? cranks like I have on my Tour Easy (this was a bit of a problem with the Shimano sandal). So, whether you’re of the clipless persuasion or, as Grant Petersen puts it, you prefer to pedal “free�?, the Commuter is a good fit.

Even with an enclosed toe box, the Commuter feels more like a sandal than a shoe. It’s well ventilated and the upper is supple and easily adjustable using Keen’s unique “bungee cord�? lacing system. They can literally be slipped on and off in seconds while being plenty secure for road riding. You do pay a price for the Commuter’s cycling-specific features. Even though it’s not a bad sandal for short walks and even a bit of light (very light) hiking, the wider and more supple Newport is far better for long walks and more demanding conditions. That said, the Commuter is probably the most walkable cycling-specific shoe on the market.

The Commuter successfully combines the ease of use, comfort, and walkability of a sandal with the stiffness and toe protection of a cycling shoe. Because they’re built with the same high quality and attention to detail that is typical of all Keen products, they should provide many seasons of trouble-free use. And who knows, with their enclosed toe box, you might even be able to get away with wearing them around the office!

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  1. Russ Roca

    Thanks for that review. I’ve been eyeing those and may spend my dividend and 20% off at REI on those puppies for this summer’s touring season….


  2. Ghost Rider

    Our friend (and recent commuter profile) Mike Davison has an article on his blog about these sandals, too. Check it out: — about the 4th article down.

    As a Florida resident and an owner of like 50 pairs of sandals, flip-flops and other beach footwear, I still have room in my collection (and heart) for a pair of those Keen beauties!

  3. Moe

    Sweet, I can put Crank Bros on my cruiser!

  4. Mark From Iowa

    But can it sell in Iowa????? Iowa has been the state with the most sales of shimano sandals for years now. They are very popular with the RAGBRAI crowd that they have become standard equipment for new riders. If it can outsell in Iowa, it can beat shimano.

    Oh, I bought a pair at the bikeworld expo in Des Moines. so far so good, but zero miles due to ice and snow. Maybe today.

  5. Russ Roca

    I’m getting a pair today!

  6. meli

    Ive seen those shimano sandals on this super cool old timer, I dont think I could sandals, but its a great concept. I guess I could do it if I was in Austin TX, and Chaco sandals came with an SPD pair. Oh that’d be ultimate great comfyness.

  7. street

    I’ve was bugging keen to make a cycling sandal based on the H2 a few years ago so this is awesome news.

    I have 2 pairs of Keen Newport H2 sandals, and they are fantastic. I still get a few funny looks every now and then when I wear them to work, but its mostly people asking where they can buy them.

    I also have a pair of the Nike Havasu sandals and although they have lasted longer than I expected – they are too narrow for my country bumpkin feet. They are also completely worthless as sandals to walk around in.

  8. Rod

    I’ve gone through 3 pair of Keen H20 sandals and can thoroughly recommend them. I wear them for everything from going out with jeans to running cross country and they are wet at least twice per day (I run through water areas with them). I even wore them on a date once (I never got a 2nd date so perhaps that was pushing my lucky sandals). I have seen the new cycling keen sandals and noted the main difference that they are narrower and stiffer on the sole (less flex). I don’t use cleats or cages for cycling (I have cannondale octopus pedals on a bad boy) and have found they are ideal for everything.

  9. burnhamish

    I had a pair of Lake SPD sandals for several years. My problem was that the sizing was wrong for my foot, and the straps were not lined. The size I got was “43/44” and my toes bumped up against the raised lip at the end of the sandal. The next size up was “45/46” and seemed too long (I returned them in favor of the smaller ones). I wished there was a “44/45”. Ultimately, I cut the lips off the sandals to relieve my toes, but they never did feel right.

    After getting Keen Newports and LOVING them, I found their commuter sandal. Looks narrow, but feels just fine, and is U.S.-sized! Great cycling shoes (for what I use them for) until the snow falls upon Michigan.

  10. Mr. Reeee

    I’m hooked on Keens and was hoping they’d release clipless capable biking sandals. I tried a pair of the new Keen Springwater bike shoe, which uses the same last as the Commuter and even with my EEE feet, they felt okay.

    I use Time ATAC clipless pedals on both my bikes (a Rhygin mountain bike and Birdy folder). As a New York City cyclist, a MAJOR concern is how the sandals will hold up while UNCLIPPING. Do the uppers stretch or pull?

    I’d hate to NEED to bail and not be able to unclip easily and quickly.

    Has anyone tried them with clipless and have word on this?

  11. Robbie in Austin

    I just purchased a pair of the Keen cycling sandals precisely because my Sidi Zephyr carbon road shoes were too narrow.

    My left foot is slightly bigger than my right, and my Sidi shoes caused my left big toenail to turn black and fall off after riding in last year’s MS 150 (total distance of the Houston to Austin ride is actually just over 18o miles).

    I tried on a pair of the Keen’s at REI and they immediately felt more comfortable than my Sidi shoes.

    So far I have put about 80 miles on them and while the left shoe feels slightly tight in one spot, it does not cause the same pressure on my big toe and has been fine on circulation.

    I’m using them with my Crank Brothers eggbeater pedals, which are the pedals on my mountain bike and road bike — two bikes, one pair of shoes = awesome.

    So far, very happy. I’ll know more after next weekend’s 2009 MS 150 ride.

  12. Peter T

    Purchased a pair of these from the US at Christmas on the basis of this review. Have commuted (15KM each way) with them for the last couple of months in Sydney, Au.
    Absolutely love them and my other SPD Shoes have not come out of the cupboard since they arrived. We probably have great summer weather for them here in Sydney. About to go through my first winter with them. Will see if they last.

    Peter T.

  13. Peter T

    Me again. Well I didn’t wear the sandals all winter, but some spring again they were out of the cupboard and back on my feet. Now in my second summer of daily commuting and love them (even wear them around the house). About to convince my commuting buddies that they are what they need for Sydney summer…
    Peter T.

  14. Raiyn

    In Putin’s Russia – Game cheats you!

    (The post above mine is advertising cheat codes for the games listed. DO NOT CLICK ON HIS LINK!)

  15. Mark

    cool, but used stuff much cheaper:)

  16. Peter T

    Wow… 3 years later and the Keene Sandals are still going strong. Where them all year apart from winter for the last couple of years…. Great sandal & don’t even need the second pair yet!

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