We'll be honest: closed-toe sandals aren't the first thing most our testers look for in active footwear. However, after the trials of our testing, nearly everyone agrees that the Keen Newport H2 is worthy of recognition as perhaps the premier watersports sandal on the market today.
Closed-toe sandals are great for watersports but have an unjust reputation as "dad shoes." Dad jokes aside, we favored the Newport H2 for its comfort, style, and functionality.
While it doesn't have the same grip as the top-scoring Cairn, the Newport H2 does have a very similar stiff rubber outsole that has sporty lugs which like to bite into wet and dry surfaces. The Newport comes in only behind a model with a very impressive Vibram sole material. Our testers were pleased by how well it gripped in wet conditions and how quickly the sole could transition from wet to dry surfaces.
The Newport did have occasional falters on slick surfaces like steep sandstone or slimy river rocks, but you can expect that in almost any sandal. Despite not having a Vibram sole, the rubber outsole material of the Newport feels and performs much like the name-brand. However, it lacks the super angular and aggressive tread patterns characteristic of trail shoes. One tester remarked at how well the Newport gripped compared to how relatively light and spongy the sole feels.
With greater coverage and great trail-bite, the Newport H2 functions much like a hiking shoe, though it has the ability to drain and dry after taking a dunk.
When it came to overall comfort, this model is at the top of its class. 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 'shwacking. The upper material is made of a neoprene-backed webbing so that every point of contact with the foot is 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 which is not only resilient in water but also very comfortable and supportive—even for high arches.
A soft footbed, neoprene padding, and greater protection make the Newport H2 one of the most comfortable sandals in this review.
Resembling a shoe more than a sandal, it would appear that closed-toe models may have an upper hand in the realm of overall stability. But our experience has taught us that more isn't always more, especially in sandal territory. 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 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, we feel that this aqua-shoe holds its own with the other models.
The only shortcoming concerning stability that we encountered with the Newport was the inability to get a truly snug fit. The elastic 'laces' that pull the webbing tight over the top of your foot are comfortable and easy to use but don't allow you to crank it to 11. This sometimes translated to a fair amount of foot slip when side-hilling or charging steep terrain. However, even on the craggiest trails, we felt that the sole of the Keen Newport H2 was up to the challenge.
Even though it's best-suited for watersports, the Newport H2 has enough built in stability to manage challenging trails and rough terrain.
As opposed to having straps and buckles, the Newport uses a loop of elastic with a cord lock to achieve a tightening similar to that of regular shoelaces. This system of adjustment is elementary and easy to get a grasp of but doesn't provide the ability for a custom fit. In fact, sliding in and out of the Newport need not require any adjustments at all—it's more like a slip-on that you can tighten up a bit.
This metric presents a low point for the Newport, but it was up against some stiff competition. Highly adjustable models like the Bedrock Cairn Adventure give the user a more customizable fit, though they can 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 we could get a snug fit for going into overdrive.
Compared to the Teva Omnium, the Keen Newport has fewer points of adjustment. However, we feel that the drawstring design and stretchy material of the Newport offers a better overall fit.
It's up in the air whether or not a toe box and additional support offer a better range of versatility. We won't make any claims there, but, we will say that the Newport performed well in every field test we performed—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.
The only tricky part about transitioning in this sandal is that sand and small pebbles are difficult to get out once they've snuck in. We sometimes had to remove the sandal to rinse out after coming ashore. But overall, the Newport was highly adaptable in the various scenarios we presented. Worn with socks and pants, you'd even believe that you're wearing a street shoe not a Sport Utility Sandal.
The extra coverage and toe protection on the Keen's mean that it is capable of handling snaggy bushwhacks and other demanding activities with ease.
At this point, it seems obvious to recommend the Newport as a watersports sandal. Nearly every part of it is designed with the intention of being impervious to water and drying out quickly. It's even got non-marking sole material so you don't scuff up your friends dinghy. It would work just as well for someone that wants a highly breathable hiking shoe or extra-supportive sandal.
The price point of the Newport H2 is on par with what we'd expect from a major footwear manufacturer. While $100 isn't cheap, we feel that this price is fair for the quality of materials and construction found in this sandal. It also gets you a one year warranty should Keen's craftsmanship fail.
Even if you're not fond of closed toe sandals, you'll likely enjoy the Newport H2. It is a great option for watersport enthusiasts who are looking for a good do-it-all piece of footwear.
The gray area between shoe and sandal doesn't have to be unapproachable. Even our testers who were admittedly grossed out by closed-toe sandals found themselves liking the Keen Newport H2 in one way or another. It's a very 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.