Keen Newport H2 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Great wet traction, comfortable and stable, quick-drying
Cons: Lack of adjustability, doesn't slip on
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Although closed-toe sandals aren't what we typically think of when we picture a sporty and high-performing piece of footwear, there is no denying their utility and performance in the right conditions. With its waterproof materials, protective toe box, and excellent wet traction, the Keen Newport H2 stands out as perhaps the premier watersports sandal on the market today. With excellent wet performance and solid scores in most of our rating metrics, it once again takes home our Top Pick Award for a closed-toe sandal.
When it comes to overall comfort, this model scores well with its protective toe box and firm, supportive midsole material. Even our testers who aren't keen on the closed-toe design found their feet happy in these. The toe box and instep material of the Newport offer far greater protection from stubbing your toe in a rocky river or getting jabbed while bushwacking. The upper material is made of a neoprene-backed webbing so that every point of contact with the foot is water-resistant and cushioned to resist chafing.
Not only does the neoprene make for a more comfortable ride, but it also dries much quicker than nylon and provides better performance when wet. It's evident that the rest of the shoe is designed with watersports in mind as well. There is plenty of negative space within the upper material, which is majorly helpful to let water exit the footbed as well as dry out wet feet. The footbed consists of a dense, closed-cell foam that is not only resilient in water but also very comfortable and supportive — even for high arches.
One notable downside of the closed-toe design is that any sand and silt that gets trapped inside the shoe gets fully trapped and has a hard time leaving. One a hike through a rocky and sandy creek bed, we had to stop several times to dump the sand out of these kicks.
While it doesn't have the same all-terrain grip as some of the top-performing sandals in our lineup with Vibram outsoles, the Newport H2 does have a very similar stiff rubber outsole that is optimized for wet performance. With a sporty tread design that bites into dry surfaces and small sipes reminiscent of those found on winter vehicle tires, our testers were pleased by how well this shoe grips in wet conditions and how quickly the sole can transition from wet to dry surfaces.
While the Newport did have occasional falters on extremely slick surfaces like steep sandstone or slimy river rocks that you would expect from any piece of footwear, it still provides some of the best wet-condition traction that we've seen. Despite not having Vibram sole material, the rubber outsole material of the Newport feels and performs much like the high-end name-brand. However, it lacks the super angular and aggressive tread patterns characteristic of trail shoes and doesn't perform quite as well as others in mud or through loose, gravelly materials. Overall, however, we were impressed with the Newport's traction, especially considering how relatively light and spongy the sole feels.
Resembling a shoe more than a sandal, it would appear that closed-toe models may typically have the upper hand in the realm of overall stability. The Newport has a stout sole material that is impressively stiff and resilient for how relatively light it is. Add to that a rubber reinforced toe box and full coverage around the foot, and you've got a trail-ready multi-purpose sandal that can stand up to miles of abuse. While there are stiffer, more bomber sole materials out there, the combination of the sole material, toe box, and upper material makes this one of the most stable models we've tested.
One potential shortcoming concerning the stability of the Newport H2 is that some users may find it difficult to get a truly snug and supportive fit. The elastic 'laces' that pull the upper webbing material tight over the top of the foot are comfortable and easy to use, but might not allow you to crank things down tightly if you have narrow or lower volume feet. For users that aren't able to get a comfortably snug fit, this could translate to some foot slippage inside the shoe on more extreme downhill or sidehill terrain.
As opposed to having straps and buckles like most other sandals, the Newport uses a loop of elastic with a cord lock that achieves a similar snug closure as regular shoelaces. This system of adjustment is elementary and easy to grasp, but the single tightening mechanism doesn't provide the ability for a truly custom fit.
This metric presents one of the lowest scores for the Newport, but it is up against some worthy competition. Many other models are highly adjustable with two or three adjustment points to give the user a more customizable fit, although they can sometimes be tricky to get acquainted with. That's what we like about the adjustment system on the Newport: it's simplicity. Sometimes the no-frills, straightforward approach is favorable. We wish, though, that it had even one extra point of adjustment so that users with smaller feet could still get a snug enough fit for more challenging conditions.
Although it's truly most at home in the water, the Newport still performed well in every field test we put it through — even sandal-unfriendly activities like biking and skateboarding. Our testers seemed to agree that the toe box and greater coverage gave them top-of-foot protection and the confidence to treat this sandal like a bonafide hiking shoe. But the amphibious nature of the Newport is undeniable; it is reliable both in and out of the water.
While the Newport is capable of taking you through all kinds of conditions and terrain, the closed nature of this sandal again makes it difficult to remove sand and small pebbles once they've snuck inside. Because of this, it's probably not ideal to wear at the beach or anywhere that you'll be traveling through small, loose material. Overall, the Newport H2 is highly adaptable in the various scenarios we presented. Worn with socks and pants, you'd even believe that you're wearing a street shoe and not a Sport Utility Sandal.
The price point of the Newport H2 is on par with what we'd expect from a high-quality product from a major footwear manufacturer. While certainly not cheap, we think that this price is fair for the quality of materials and construction found in this sandal, and for the top of the line performance that it provides. It also gets you a one year warranty should Keen's craftsmanship fail.
The gray area between shoe and sandal doesn't have to be unapproachable. The Keen Newport H2 sets the bar for closed-toe sandals and is a comfortable, capable, and trustworthy option for many types of users. It may not be the first thing you think of when sandals come to mind, but it's worth checking out, especially if you're looking for amphibious adventure footwear.
— Nick Bruckbauer and Rob Woodworth