In the footwear world, there are hundreds of “me too” styles for every one that’s truly innovative. A little tweak here, a little change there, but not much that’s really unique. Then something comes along that’s so different they have to call it…UNEEK.
Are these shoes? Are they sandals? Are they just a few pieces of rubber and cloth held together by string?
Well all of that really. Keen has created a class of “open air footwear” that’s unlike anything out there in the marketplace. These shoes are primarily made from two strands of tough paracord woven through the top upper, heel part, and sole. The result is a shoe that totally conforms to your foot, even if your left foot isn’t quite the mirror image of your right foot. That’s because instead of a fixed amount of fabric or leather needing to wrap around what you stick inside, the UNEEK expands or contracts to fit you perfectly.
If your feet are wide, loosen the lacing and you’ll get more cord to work with. If your feet are narrow, pull in the cord with the cinch clasp. Unlike with traditional lacing systems—or even BOA—this one will adjust all the way around your foot. That’s because it’s not a shoe with laces. The whole shoe itself is made of laces!
These are naturally very cool to wear with all that air moving through, but they look more put-together than a pair of water sandals with toes, rubber, and velcro sticking out everywhere. They’ve got the shape of a shoe, but could still work for water activities. You might want to avoid trying to take them on a hike though where there’s any underbrush: there are lots of places for it to snag.
The UNEEK cord is tough though, so no fears of it easily snapping or unraveling. It’s got a nylon cord center with a braided polyester wrapping. The cushy midsole with a microfiber cover conforms to your feet and feels terrific, but it and the rubber sole with great traction are surprisingly lightweight. These are easy shoes to pack because the smash down flat and don’t add much in the way of weight.
I have to admit these seemed kind of gimmicky when I first saw a prototype a year ago, but as soon as I put them on I loved them and they’ve become my “by the door” shoes and the first ones to go into my suitcase this summer.
The ones I’ve been trying out are the “Gargoyle/True Blue” color pictured above, which goes great with shorts or jeans. The UNEEK shoes also come in a variety of other subdued and wild colors, at a list price of a hundred bucks. See more info at the Keen website and buy from there, Moosejaw, or Zappos. Go a half size up from what you normally wear as they run a tad small. There’s also a women’s version.