Get a closer look at KEEN’s signature sandal as Ian, our warehouse manager takes them for a long stroll over hills, across rocks, and through rivers.

I purchased my first pair of KEEN sandals 3 years ago. I knew I needed something that was going to cope well with life both in and out of the water and I had narrowed my options to two models, the NEWPORT H2 and the CLEARWATER CNX. At the time I went for the sleeker-designed CLEARWATER’s, a bit put off if I’m being honest by the NEWPORT’s chunky rubber front and generally quite rugged appearance. For a sandal, I just thought they looked too bulky and heavy, particularly in a size 11!

    It’s funny then that the offer should come to me to test and review the KEEN NEWPORT H2 sandal.

In a nutshell

  I think possibly my first mistake was to categorise the NEWPORT H2 as a stereotypical sandal. It isn’t. It exists more as a sort of amphibious hybrid between both sandal and trail shoes. They were first introduced by KEEN back in 2003 and since then have hardly changed. The NEWPORT has developed quite the following over the years and has become synonymous with outdoor enthusiasts and globe trotters the world over. The key difference to other sandals is protection. The dominating feature of the NEWPORT is the sole unit which incorporates a chunky rubber toe guard that wraps up over the toes, providing toe protection that equals that of any decent trail shoe. The upper is far more sandal-esque in its appearance, comprising a tough polyester webbing outer with a treated neoprene lining (an antibacterial treatment to help prevent odours and staining).

Keeping all of that securely clamped to your feet, you have a crisscrossing toggled bungee lace.

The verdict

OK, I guess maybe I do owe the NEWPORT H2 an apology. Despite its curved and neatly rounded-off design, there is no disputing that there is a definite utilitarian vibe to these sandals. But in their defence this is entirely justified. The Keen Newport H2 is probably the closest you are going to come to the sandal for all uses.


The ironic thing is that the NEWPORT H2’s chunky rubber toe cap which I was once so sceptical of has now become the feature that I regard as perhaps its greatest attribute. Stubbing toes in sandals is without a doubt incredibly painful and any help in preventing this from happening can only ever be a good thing, but equally, it just gives you that bit of psychological reassurance and confidence that you can do that little bit more in them and go that little bit further. 

   The downside of a closed-toe however is drainage. It is true that the toe guard will prevent some small stones and debris from finding their way into the sandal but the bad news is that limited drainage does mean that grit that does find its way in has a tendency to stay in, so you’ll probably be stopping to take them off for a rinse now and again. This issue is particularly emphasised in the sand where even the most vigorous leg shake won’t get it out.

Photo credit: Grace Everett-Kelway

Fit and support

Something else to celebrate with Newport H2’s is the fit and support. A major criticism I’ve had of sandals in the past has been how the characteristics of the fit deteriorate completely once wet. The footbed gets slimy, the straps work loose and you end up sliding around inside them.
The NEWPORT’s bungee lace does a cracking job of anchoring the sandals to your feet. You can walk down to the river, through it, and out the other side and the fit remains pretty consistent. 
The sole has a moulded footbed for anatomical support which is also textured for grip.


  The non-marking rubber sole on these sandals is very much geared towards rock. Treads are shallow and multi-directional to maintain a high amount of contact and traction on smooth uneven surfaces yet aggressive enough to provide ample traction on other surfaces too. Although grip over dry rock (even smooth and polished) is pretty good I personally would have to say from experience that TEVA Spider rubber is perhaps better.


The elephant in the room

Synthetic sandals have gained some pretty bad press over the years for having a bit of an odour problem and in many cases rightfully so. I’ve had a few pairs over the years which I’ve been forced (by my wife) to part company with prematurely, banished from coming into the house unless I washed my feet immediately. Once sandals start to stink, it’s a pretty tough cycle to break. Keen sandals have an Eco anti-odour treatment (Probiotic) to help combat bacteria build in its fabrics. Does it work? It’s probably a little premature to give a definitive answer on that one but so far it hasn’t become an issue with either of my pairs.

KEEN NEWPORT H2 are machine washable, so my advice would be to keep on top of your sandal hygiene from the start, after all as the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

True utility

In the Newport H2, Keen really has conceived a true allrounder, with the character and feel of both sandal and shoe. They are without doubt the ideal pairing for those with a love of the water (which I always hoped they would be), but it is the NEWPORT H2’s protective quality that also opens them up for, well, pretty much everything else, from kayaking, coasteering, walking, and cycling, to driving, gardening, popping into town and putting the bins out. 

  I’ve owned KEEN sandals for about 3 years now and from around May through to September, my shoes take up their summer residence on the shoe rack and my sandals take over for the season as my recreational footwear of choice. Being so versatile I find that I wear them for everything and that’s perhaps the greatest testament I can give.

Shop for the KEEN Newport H2 HERE

Ian is the Warehouse Manager at Taunton Leisure and has been with the Company for nearly 20 years. He is a keen cyclist, has a lust for travel, and enjoys exploring new places with his wife, 3 girls and Cocker Spaniel Maggie. He has cycle toured around much of Southern England as well as both islands of New Zealand with his wife Dawn. He has also completed the Devon Coast to Coast and Lands End to John o’Groats cycle routes on a tandem with his daughter Evie.

Photo Credit: Ian Everett-Kelway, Grace Everett-Kelway.