Trying new hiking trails is always top of my list when the weather warms up and the days get longer. This year, I decided to start early and travelled to Kaua’i, Hawaii in the spring to hike the island’s Kalalau Trail. The nearly 18-kilometre trail rises and falls with the towering sea cliffs of the island’s north coast and is renowned for its wet, slippery slopes and steep grades, so I turned to Keen Footwear for a pair of hiking boots. When things warmed up back home, I also tried the company’s UNEEK line at the Parc National de Plaisance in Quebec.
With a big hike along the Na Pali coast of Kaua’i, Hawaii on the horizon, I needed a hiking boot tough enough to overnight in the backcountry, but comfortable enough for shorter day hikes, too. The Logan Mid WP was an easy pick: a mid-height, waterproof yet breathable boot in a fun “ink blue-capri breeze” colour combo. As per Keen’s suggestion, I ordered a half size larger than my usual shoe size, and true to their claim, the Logan Mid WP fit like a glove (or rather, like a proper boot). No need for double knots: the laces stayed tied, and the rugged outsoles provided ample traction when tackling muddy mountainous scrambles.
It’s always a good idea to break in new shoes before attempting any long distance. While the removable insoles did a marvelous job cushioning my tender tootsies and heels with their integrated, “metatomical” (anatomically designed to provide better foot support) dual-density EVA footbeds, the top of the boots rubbed and irritated my ankles. Thankfully, I discovered this before my trip. I’m not sure whether the flaw was with the design of the boot, or my ankles, but the problem was easily remedied by exchanging the insoles for a pair of Superfeet™ to elevate my heels effectively clearing my ankles of the problem spots. My trip was a success and thanks to my new hikers, I (and my feet) returned home in tip-top condition.
Is it a shoe or a sandal? As its name would imply, this piece of footwear is truly unique. Two shoelace-like cords combine to form the upper portion of the shoe, with a comfortable rubber sole to cradle the foot. Keen describes the UNEEK Round Cord Sandal as offering “freedom while providing security and structure,” a sentiment I can really get behind. I set out for a weekend at Quebec’s parc national de plaisance — an area best explored by foot, bike and kayak — and was pleasantly surprised by just how versatile the sandals were. The sole is tough enough for the wearer to withstand even the bumpiest and most uneven of gravel paths, but to avoid stray stones, sticks and dirt from getting stuck between your toes, UNEEK is better-suited for wear on paved or well-packed trails or a day on the town.
While the upper portion offers breathability, the rubber sole unfortunately does not. The cradling action prevents the heel and arch of the foot from lifting off the sole so airflow is non-existent, similar to what you might experience wearing a pair of flats. A more breathable sole would increase the length of wear-time on what’s already a fantastic shoe.