KEEN (why do they insist on all caps? is it some sort of acronym?) made their mark with comfortable sandals for active people but have since branched out into runners, work shoes, and even cycling shoes. In cycling shoes, KEEN also first debuted with a sandal but now offer several closed toe models. I’ve been wearing a Springwater II shoe as my townie and commuter shoe, and I like it because it is close to the fit of a dedicated SPD/offroad shoe but is much superior for walkability. But the Springwater still looks very much like a cycling shoe. I wanted to try out a KEEN that would be totally incognito once I’m not on the bike.
The obvious choice is the Austin, a lace-up Oxford in brown leather. Obvious, except for the fact that KEEN’s men’s shoes only go down to a US7(M) and I wear a 6. So, just like previous occasions I went with the women’s line which comes in black, and has a slightly different stitching pattern. The equivalent women’s shoe is called the Presidio; though I usually wear a women’s 7.5 in Salomon running shoes, I wear an 8.0 in KEEN to get adequate length. Luckily for me, KEEN shoes in general are rather generous in the toe box relative to length, which is commonly where women’s shoes are a problem for me.
The Presidio’s full-grain leather is double-stitched, and together with a pigskin liner, looks classy and well-made. Certainly not as stiff as a Giro Code carbon mtb shoe, the Presidio is nevertheless a decent cycling shoe. Being SPD-compatible, the shoe can be used with just about any clipless mtb on the market, but the rubber toe cap is actually pretty comfortable with clip & strap pedals as well. There’s something to be said about lace closures, as they often times enable a better distribution of pressure than velcro straps. I can get the shoe to feel comfortably snug without any pressure points. Of course the conventional laces were doubtlessly chosen mainly for their aesthetics, but KEEN provides a convenient elastic pocket atop the tongue to keep the laces from getting in the way. Have no doubt that under hard efforts, you’ll quickly realize that this casual shoe’s upper lacks the structure to harness real power to the pedals, but the comfort for easy riding is outstanding.
The Presidio would not be my choice for rainy commutes. The leather upper and liner readily allow water to seep through, they stretch when damp, and there are no drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Finally, the leather dries slow compared to mesh/microfibre shoes.
But are they comfortable to walk in? Totally. I walked around up and down the strip in Vegas for hours wearing these and totally forgot that I had cycling cleats attached. Arguably that was due to the alcohol, but the cleats don’t scrape on the ground, and foot pain was never present. What’s more, no one else noticed that I was wearing cycling shoes. In fact, these KEEN Presidio shoes are actually among the dressiest shoes I own; when I go out wearing nicer clothes, I wear these whether or not I plan to use a bike to get there.
The KEEN Presidio (as well as the Austin shoe) retails for about $120.