May 5 -- Go here for the follow up Keen Commuter SPD Sandal review.
I have fat feet. In general, the cycling industry does not offer much for SPD-compatible shoes for fat-foot-folk like me. For the last few years I've been a Shimano sandal guy. I like the Shimano sandals because they allow me wear a bulky wool layer with a gortex sock for winter riding. This combination has worked well for me down to about 25 degrees for about 1.5 hours. Good enough. I use the sandals year round, and so far I've resisted buying the $200+ winter SPD boots.
Generally, the Shimano sandals are good. The complaints I have about the Shimanos are:
- While they allow my fat feet to be happily fat compared to other cycling shoes, the designers of the Shimano sandal assumed narrow-footed users. There's not enough strap/velcro to hold the front of the sandal on my foot and it's especially insufficient when I pile on the thick wool and gortex socks.
- They fall apart. Especially the plasticy weird support piece on the inside of the heel. This always comes unstiched and I must snip it off. I've also spent more time than I think I should stitching up the sandals where seams have come unraveled.
- Velcro gives up the ghost eventually. As the sandals get older, the straps just stop holding. This leads to nerdy fixes like this.
Finally -- and this can't really be registered as a complaint -- relating to the design of the Shimano sandals, they just don't hold up to the way I want to wear them. Often my rides take me tromping through mud, streams, snow, etc. When I'm off the bike, I submerge the sandals on a pretty regular basis when I tour or take longer rides in the summer.
So that's the backstory. About a month ago, I was excited to learn that Keen had an SPD compatible sandal this year: The Commuter ($120). I've tried the Keen water sandals (the H2) and loved the space in the foot bed. The new SPD sandal solves most of my complaints about the Shimano too: the way the Keen tightens up uses the single-stretchy shock cord, which can be easily replaced if it gives up the ghost. In addition, the construction of the Keen sandal looks like it expects mud, water, and other crud to be a large part of its life.
The Keen sandal is a much better walking sandal than the Shimano. There's a bit of spongy-spring that feels nice. And they're plenty stiff for riding. The fact that the sandal feels so comfy off the bike is a bonus feature in my mind for everyday sandals.
Finally, the toe cap on the Keen is a great benefit, not really as a guard against stubbed toes, but as a wind block. The toes are always the first warn you that you have the wrong shoes on. THe lack of a windblock is the Achilles heel (heh) of the Shimano design for winter riding.
So what's not to like? Uh.
Well, there's a big one here: the width! The Keen folks make the same crappy assumption that all cyclists have narrow feet. This foot bed is super narrow and they only come in one width. Errg!
These sandals on my fat feet are good for one layer of middle-weight wool socks. So I can't layer the thick wool and the gortex. This cuts them out of my winter rides and out of the cold and rainy rides. And that is a damn bummer, because if these sandals used the same foot bed as the H2, these would be on my feet every day of the year, as my Shimanos are now.
The other benefits of these sandals will make them a great fair-weather sandal for me, and I'd probably buy them again, but I plan on sending a piece of email to the folks at Keen to try and persuade them to offer the 2009 model with the H2 foot bed as well. This is where I plan on sending my feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go here for the follow-up Keen Commuter SPD Sandal review -- 3 months later