The fit and function of sandals have advanced so much that people now wear them for a wide range of activities. While sandals have long had a foothold in the hiking and paddling worlds, they're now stepping into a new realm -- cycling.
In warm weather when you want the lightest most airy shoe you can get, a cycling sandal like Keen's Commuter is a great way to go. The Commuter has a recessed platform so the cleat is flush to the sole. You can walk around comfortably on concrete or asphalt without having to worry about your balance. And with its signature Keen toe protection, the Commuter is a nice alternative to an all-over cycling shoe that'll make your feet sweat in hot climates.
Right out of the box, a pair of SPD cleats (sold separately) screws into place within just a few minutes. A mounting plate is tucked right under a removable insole that fastens with a strip of Velcro. A couple of minor adjustments to insure proper placement and they're ready to go. Sizes top out for women at 11 and 15 for men, full sizes only after 13.
At first glance, the Commuter looks to be a dead ringer for Keen's best-selling style, the Newport. Set them side-by-side and it's hard to tell one from the other. But on closer inspection, you'll notice that the Commuter is not as wide. So if you like the big toe box common to most Keen sandals, you're bound to be disappointed. The Commuter offers a much snugger fit, and the profile is similar to that of most cycling shoes.
We wore Commuter sandals during a few 60-mile rides, averaging 18 miles an hour, and they performed admirably. However, our tests revealed that the shoe is bet suited for more casual rides rather than hardcore outings.
As our testers prepared to ride, we were impressed with the way the cleats clicked in and out cleanly with a quick flick of the ankle. Once set in the pedals and riding on flat roads, the Commuters offered every bit of support you'd expect with a full-featured cycling shoe. But, when we began to climb hills, we discovered a problem.
On a steep climb, one tester felt his feet slide a little with each upward stroke, and the sandals felt a tad insecure. He cinched the sandals tighter, which helped some, but they continued to slip. A second tester also felt his feet slip, though not as noticeably, and he was unable to totally eliminate the issue by tightening the sandals. Though we'd all prefer not to climb hills, when the route demands an up-tick in the effort to get over the next rise, you want to know that your shoes have you covered. For some more serious riders, this might be a deal breaker. A true cycling shoe should fit, so that your foot and the pedal are one. A secure fit means you can pull with one foot and push with the other on every rotation. That's especially important when negotiating hills, when you're putting all your muscle behind moving forward as you climb. The Keen Commuter just isn't that kind of shoe.
But let's face it. A serious rider is going to wear a dedicated cycling shoe, not a sandal. Just as you wouldn't wear Newports as your primary footwear on a long backpacking trip, you'll just as likely not wear the Commuter exclusively on an extended bike tour or on race day.
For a bit of relief from your main bike shoes on a hot day or for casual, recreational cycling, the Commuter is a solid choice for your next warm weather ride.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $115
For more information:www.keenfootwear.com