When it comes to school shoes and play shoes, my tween daughter is far more concerned about the color and how sparkly they are than about support and ruggedness. Her parents don’t mind that when we can spend 25 bucks at Target instead of 100 at a gear outlet, but we change our tune when it’s time for travel shoes.
We recently spent three weeks in Southeast Asia though and knew we’d be doing a load of walking around Ankor Wat and other sprawling temple complexes. So we made sure she took along these Keen Ambler shoes to have some quality footwear on her feet.
She liked these because they were pinkish and cute, I liked them because I knew I’d hear less whining as the day wore on. We’ve had good experiences with Keens in the past (with Whisper for summer and Kaley for winter) and these were no exception. Scrambling over ruins in Cambodia, dodging motorbikes in Hanoi, and mall-hopping in Bangkok all went well with these Amblers on through all the Ambling.
These are a lot lighter than they look, but still have good traction on the sole and a hefty midsole. Like many Keen designs, they have a bit of rubber over the front that serves the dual purpose of preventing stubbed toes and keeping them from wearing out faster from toe abrasion. It was hard to test the moisture-wicking properties in the 100F/38C tropical heat, but the upper is mostly mesh so they didn’t turn into a sweatbox. Note that they’re not waterproof though—you’ll have to treat them with something on your own if you need that.
The Keen Ambler shoes come in sizes from toddler to “big kid” in a variety of colors. At a $55 list, they’re not too hard on the wallet. See details at the Keen site or shop online to find some styles under $50 at Amazon or Zappos.
These Arcata ones, on the other hand, have gone on a few local trips but are good for every day wear. They got the seal of approval to be cool enough for school: a bit of Vans and a bit of Converse in the design. There’s nothing groundbreaking about this design and no list of features to wow you. They just take a classic design that looks good and modify it a little.
These shoes have a canvas and leather upper and ample rubber on the sole and around the edge, but they only weigh 10 ounces. With this shape, they don’t take up much room in a suitcase either.
Like the other Keen shoes that have cycled through our family (most of them still in use), these appear well-made and built to last. There’s not a long window for that with growing kids who are getting plenty of recess time, but they make good hand-me-downs…
If you like the look of either of these for yourself, they come in men’s and women’s versions as well. Just search the name at Zappos, where they all seem to be in stock.