With more and more folks commuting to work these days, there are plenty of cool pieces of gear to help that effort. One of the challenges faced by urban commuters is the shoe conundrum. If you’re used to being clipped-in, you definitely don’t want to sacrifice agility and power by going with flats.
So, it may require extra planning and a stash of clothes in the office to avoid pedaling your bike in your loafers. Or, there are other options, such as the Keen Commuter sandals, which offer the look and near-comfort of the Keen Newport sandals in an SPD-friendly package. They’re not going to replace your Sidi’s, but in a pinch, they are pretty darn versatile little bike sandals.
About the Keen Commuter Sandals
As the makers of some of the most popular and versatile sandals on the market, it was only a matter of time before they put their two and two together to make the first usable bike sandal. The Commuters are essentially a narrowed-down and stiffened Keen Newport sandal. The famous toe protection adds to the comfort and usability of these sandals–nobody likes to get stabbed by a branch between their toes.
With the simple bungee cord lacing and sturdy webbed straps, the Commuters are 100% Keen sandal. But, the full-shank SPD plate and removable footbed turn these into bike-friendly treads.
A few features of the Keen Commuters:
- Full-length SPD-compatible plate (in sandals… cool!)
- Newport-style uppers (low-key styling)
- Removable metatomical footbed (for easy washing)
- Non-marking outsole (for pickup basketball games)
- MSRP: $115
Keen Commuter SPD Bike Sandals Review
I thought I’d put these sandals to the test on both my normal trails and around the neighborhood. Like any bike shoes, it’s important to get the cleats installed correctly to avoid tread/pedal interference for easy clip in and out. With the commuters, this was easy. Just remove the plate cover and drop in the cleats. With my Crank Brothers Candy pedals, I had no interference problems and am running them without spacers.The cleats are well-seated in the sandals and have provided a secure interface with my pedals.
The Commuters do have a full-shank nylon SPD plate in them, so they don’t quite walk as well as my Newports. But, they do the trick and are way more comfortable walkers than my Specialized MTB shoes. Plus, my wife won’t get too upset should I traipse through the kitchen since the cleats sit just below the tread level, hence no click clack on the hardwood.
The profile of these sandals is also slightly narrower than the Newports. This is necessary to provide the right bike/shoe interface. You don’t want your feet sliding sideways when pedaling nor do you want your shoes to interfere with crank arms or chain/seat stays throughout the pedal stroke.
I’ve taken these out on the singletrack and they perform admirably. I won’t be replacing my dedicated MTB shoes, but for the casual rider or for summer bike trips that might include stream crossings, these are money. The other nice thing about the commuters is breathability. My feet get hot and sweaty, but with the Commuters, things keep nice and cool both with or without socks.
Riding around the neighborhood with the kids is where I love the Commuters. I definitely don’t want to slip on my MTB shoes just to cruise around the park. And, with the Commuters, I can slip out with the kids in a few seconds and still have a solid pedaling platform.
Now the Commuters aren’t perfect. I’ve had a couple of tip-overs on the trail because I couldn’t get the shoe to release from the pedal. The issue is that even though the sandals feature a fairly snug fit, there’s still more play between your foot and the sandal than with a sturdy bike shoe. My typical twist-out angle gets exaggerated because of that extra slop, so I’ve had to plan my step-outs a little more carefully. With increased use, this may not be a problem though.
- Versatile sandals for casual MTB or commuting use
- The most walkable SPD-compatible shoes I’ve worn
- Cleats sit below treads
- Ventilation galore
- Rivers, lakes, oceans and mountain biking with the same shoe
- Removable footbed for easy cleaning
- Keen toe protection keeps your tootsies protected from certain death on the trail
- A little slop in the foot/sandal interface takes a little extra to release
The Bottom Line on the Keen Commuter Bike Sandals
These sandals are great to have around. Like I said, my favorite application for these sandals is pedaling around the neighborhood, but I pounded out several singletrack assaults with the Commuters just fine. I appreciated the breathability of these shoes and loved the walkability. If you’re into multi-sport adventures that involve water and mountain biking, the Commuters are great. Or, if you’ve got a job where you can sport these sandals, you can go from bike to work and back to the bike without a hitch.