Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More Shoes Reviews For Youse

Alas, the original plan to torture test my entire Imelda Marcos of Cycling closet on the same route/bike setup was thrown into disarray when I recently pulled my unintentionally wicked BMX stunt and ground the nubbins from one of my test pedals.

Luckily, I'd put a pretty decent test interval into these before I went all EXTREME:
Can we just pretend the photo quality is the result of a hastily grabbed "spy shot"? 

Those are Keen Coronados, not to be confused with the (supposedly) bike-specific Coronado Cruiser.  Can you tell the difference, other than a $20 "bikers are gullible" MSRP bump on the Cruisers? Yeah, me neither. And I've actually put both on my chubby little feet.

Now, this is not the first time I've raved about Keens, as I am mightily wide of foot. Their sandals are my go-to "flat pedals of summer" shoes, and these Coronados are quickly stepping up (hah! see, a shoe pun!) as a worthy winter alternative. They are, like most (bitter rant on why I can't say "all" forthcoming) things Keen, as wide as the day is long. Putting my 4Es into these babies is the foot-equivalent of napping solo on a California King bed. I could probably add a sixth toe in there (assuming my buddy Walter can get me one) and still not feel cramped.

But how, blabbermouth, do they work on the bike, I can hear you asking. Just hunky and dory. You may recall that in the post that kicked off this self-indulgent shoe-gazing, I griped about the plasticky coating on the sole of new Converse Chuck Taylors. Keen has some of that (the lighter grayish area around the perimeter), but the darker spots on the heel and under the ball of the foot (right where it counts for pedaling) are good ol' fashioned rubbery rubber that grabs a pedal and hangs on tight, wet or dry. Not quite as "krazy glue" grabby as the Chrome Kursk, but plenty grabby for typical urban maneuvers. And although there's nothing bike-specific about these soles, they're still plenty stiff for a chubby middle-aged man to do a laughable quasi-sprint. The uppers are a hemp-ish fabric that does zilch for weather resistance but seems to breathe well and has held up quite nicely on the mean streets (and in the mean cubicles) of downtown Des Moines.

Downsides? Well, obviously, if you don't have a wide foot, these probably aren't for you. And while you can tell that they've kinda-sorta been inspired by the iconic Chuck, they still... well... how to say this nicely... look like Keens. Hey, I won't lie. That big ol' clown-shoe toe bumper is an acquired taste. I'm guessing it doesn't play well with toeclips either, though that was not part of my test protocol. Oh, and those dang eyelets are aluminum again. Can you tell I have some serious emotional issues when it comes to aluminum oxide schmutz on my socks?

In the great balancing act between comfort, cost, looks, and durability, though, these hit the happy spot for my feet, my ego, and my wallet... and despite my one little bit of Keen bitterness (it's still coming), I'll probably buy another pair when I finally kill these.

Okay, so the bitterness: A few years ago, Keen decided to get into the dedicated bike shoe (as in, "bolt cleats to 'em and clip in") business and introduced the Commuter sandal. And, having been a gigantic fanboy of the Newport H2 upon which said Commuter SEEMED to be based, I simply HAD to have a pair. But, dad-gummit, gol-durnit, and a dozen other angry Yosemite Sam-isms, those Keen keenuckleheads made the Commuter NARROW. Uh, what's the one defining characteristic of a Keen shoe or sandal? It's WIDE. And what's wrong with just about every bike shoe ever made? They're NARROW. So why on earth would you a) pass up the woefully under-served fat-footed cyclist demographic AND b) annoy the snot out of loyal Keen biker-customers who were just waiting for you to dip a big clown-shoe toe bumper into the bike shoe market?

I'm getting over it. Slowly. But Keen, if you're listening, you might be able to appease me by making a REAL Keen bike shoe (width: California King) and sending me a pair of size 10s to test. Just sayin' is all.


Steve Fuller said...

I have a set of Keen Commuters and personally, I like the fact that they are tight. I don't have narrow feet, but I also don't like my bike shoes slopping around on my feet when clipped in. I've been using them on the Black Land Schooner of Death, but the clips don't get along the best with platform pedals.

My biggest beef with Keen is that they don't sell replacement "insoles" for their sandals. Mine suffered some not so minor issues at the hand of a made for slightly more than shoe drying campfire, and it's taken a couple of years of riding to get them comfortable to ride in again. A new set of insoles would have fixed that issue.

Joe said...

Those look nice. I might have to try a pair when my checkered Vans wear out.