The Keen Clearwater sandal is the latest all-purpose sandal from the CNX family, designed to be lightweight, but still retain the characteristic proven features of Keen footwear. A sandal that in many ways is the middle ground between barefoot technology, a lightweight walking shoe and a flip-flop. I challenged the shoe on my visit to Geneva where I tried a host of activities on dry land and around water.
- £75 / 238g per shoe
- Lining: Microbe shield treated hydrophobic mesh
- Upper material: Washable polyester webbing
- Lightweight PU midsole with 4 mm drop, metatarsal ridge and contoured arch
- TPU stability shank,
- Lace capture system with 2 mm bungee lace,
- Microbe Shield treated footbed
- Outsole: Non-marking rubber with multi-directional flex grooves and razor siping
- Weight: per shoe: 238 g (UK men’s size 8), 214 g (UK women’s size 4.5)
There's no doubt about it, I'm a real skinflint when it comes to 'holiday footwear' - spending over a fiver on a pair of sandals is a serious rarity for me. That said, the thin soles, poorly constructed uppers and lack of protection of a pair of cheap sandals became painfully obvious after giving the Clearwater CNXs a whirl.
At £75 they are definitely high-end in terms of price but what you get is a really versatile bit of footwear that's a basic walking shoe, a fast drying wet shoe and a product so light that you barely feel them on your feet. The CNXs are designed to offer the protection and durability of former Keen sandals despite reducing the weight to a mere 283 grams - I feel they've delivered on most levels.
Firstly, they were by far the comfiest sandals I've ever worn wet or dry, while walking on the flat or varied terrain. The Microbe Shield treated footbed and hydrophobis mesh made the skin-on-fabric contact very pleasant, giving me comfort for long periods.
This technology as well as the 4mm drop in the midsole almost molded them to my feet as apposed to rubbing against the hard rubber footbeds of old. Also, the laces is one thing they've certainly improved on with this bungee lace system that allows you to adjust the tightness at any point and in turn adding more stability.
One other point worth making is that the distinctive Keen toe bumper - it's part of the outsole - means you don't have to be paranoid about stubbing your toes on inconvenient rocks - win!
Flex And Grip
The outsole gives the sandal flexibility with the multi-directional flex grooves while the razor siping gives you grip on most surfaces, particularly the wet rocks along the coastline. In fact, I can't think of anything better shoe to wear once you've stepped on dry land after a water-based activity like SUPing (Stand up paddling), pictured above.
Easy To Carry
One of the most attractive features of the CNXs are their overall practicality and with that I mean their super lightweight construction. I carried them around for over three days in my day sack and not once did they cause any storage issues or felt like they added extra baggage.
Fairly importantly as well is the speed at which the CNXs dry - as long as you don't stuff them straight in your bag after using them in water. The low banks of the footbed also allow for better drainage after you've completely submerged the shoe, so great for river crossing etc.
They make a great backpacking companion too, ideal for swanning around the campsite, bunkhouse or hostel on a warm summer evening, but barely noticeable in your pack during the day.
Once you're home, a serious plus for the CNXs is that they're machine washable so although they do have odour resistant technology, you can bung them in the wash and keep them nearly as fresh as the day you got them.
For someone that doesn't really spend too much time wearing sandals due to a lifetime of wearing very poorly designed cheap pairs I was thoroughly impressed by the Clearwater CNXs. I suppose it's a little harsh calling them a quality holiday shoe but I really feel like that's what they're intended for. They're great for inbetween activities when you may still be a little damp from the water or just fancy something to potter around in.
That said, they're also a good call for stashing in your pack for all-round summer backpacking trips, where they double as versatile all-rounders for river crossings and evening campsite wear.
The £75 price tag is undeniably a little steep for a pair of sandals, but you really do get a load of features for that. The quality of the rubber outsole's grip, distinctive toe protection, the speedy drainage, the fact they're washable and are incredibly lightweight culminate in a sandal that's hard to beat this summer.
For more details on the Keen Clearwater CNXs visit www.keenfootwear.com.