Keen Clearwater CNXThe Lowa Camino GTX hiking boots are the kind of boots you wear for a decade. They are super-comfortable, relatively light and have the strength and grip to tackle any terrain. View Latest Deal
I have been wearing Keen sandals since I first saw them in Europe nearly a decade ago. My first pair were a Keen Newport, because I like the robust toe protection, arch support and sole.
When they wore out, I bought the newer, slightly less cumbersome Keen Clearwater and have been wearing them for nearly 5 years. Now that they have nearly been worn to the ground, I recently bought myself a replacement pair – the Keen Clearwater CNX. Slightly lighter, a little updated, but still the same strong, durable, supportive sandal I have known and loved for over a decade.
In this review of the Clearwater CNX I will show you what there is to love about this sandal, and who it is really great for. And of course, who it is not for.
Keen started out making sandals just like the Clearwater. Sandals that are a combination of a strong hiking shoe and a lightweight sandal. And with this model they have stayed true to their roots.
The focus on the Clearwater is protecting the front part of your foot and providing a strong, well supporting mid-sole and sole that can handle tough terrain.
Using Keen’s own sole design, they manage to give you exceptional grip for a sandal, and a long lasting sandal that will take years to wear out. I am on my second pair and it took my 4-5 summers to wear out my old ones! I just replaced them with these newer CNX and am extremely happy with them.
The Keen Clearwater CNX is designed to hold and protect your foot while walking. As such, these are not “relax at the beach” or flip flop style sandals.
Having said that, given how well they hold your foot, they are still very comfortable to wear. Of course, the longer your wear them, the more bedded-in they become, and then they are really like slippers! But even after only wearing my new ones a few times, I already walk the whole day in them without any issues (11,000 steps in the city).
The footbed is very comfortable and supportive with a nice curved arch support in the middle. The coating of the material is also anti-odor which helps alot if you wear them for a long time, especially on a hot day. Yesterday was around 29 C here (85 F) and I wore them for around 8-10 hours. Although they get a little hot over time (there is less airflow than in a really open sandal) I did not sweat much and they did not stink!
The soft material on the inside of the webbing also makes them comfortable to wear for long periods and reduces the chance of any blisters. I have never had any in all three pairs I have owned.
You can also adjust the webbing tightness a little via the bungee cord that is woven threw them, however you can’t micro-adjust it that much, like you can in say a pair of Chacos.
Keep in mind that the Clearwaters keep your foot nice and cradled and that the heel section is quite tight. So, they are not simple to slip on, but once they are on, they hold your foot very very well.
Which leads us to the topic of water resistance.
Of course, these are sandals and not boots, so the water does get in! But, the sole and the material are designed with water in mind. The sandals will work well even when wet and dry in relatively short order. Maybe not as fast as really light summer sandals, but for a hardcore walking sandal I never have to wait long when I get them wet at the beach or along the lake.
Although the Keen Clearwater CNX is not a hiking boot it is designed to be the sandal version of one.
The grip on the sole is one of the best I have seen on a sandal. Thick, grippy and with the added toe cap, very protective too.
They also don’t wear out very quickly, because as I mentioned above, my last pair lasted me many many years. Keep in mind though, I don’t like in the tropics, so only wear them in summer and on vacations.
The upper part of the Clearwater CNX is made of a webbing that keeps your foot very well in place, and the heel strap adds to the effect. So, while you are walking there is little chance of a misstep or slip. This is very unlike most other sandals where your foot is only lightly held by a small cross strap. Keens are designed to protect and hold your foot.
So, if you intend on wearing these around water, or on a long walk or hike, then they are just the ticket!
This is perhaps where the Keen Clearwater CNX is the weakest. Style.
If you are looking for a sandal to wear out on the town, or out to dinner while on vacation, then this is not one I would buy. That is not to say you can’t wear them out, I wore them to a casual dinner with a friend last night. They are a cross between a shoe and a sandal.
However, they won’t win you any fashion awards. But, that is not what they are really meant for.
They come in a few different colors and styles though, which helps offset the lack of “style”. There are some plain colors, some with slight color edging, and then the patterned materials. The men have less exciting choices as is often the case. You can see the more exciting variations the women’s come in.
If you are looking for a Chinese import that costs $20 then Keens are not for you. They cost towards the $100 mark unless you get them on sale (which I did and then they seem like a bargain!).
However, for the money you do have to pay you are getting a whole lot of value. They are very sturdy, durable and you won’t have to replace them for years to come. So, when you calculate how much you have to pay on a yearly basis, they are actually amazing value.