Keen A86 TR shoes – a review

Last weekend I managed to put the new Keen A86 trail shoes through a few paces to see if they were as good as I hoped they would be.

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The walk I chose to try out the Keens on was a circular walk around the dual ridgeline above Tal-y-Bont reservoir. I was purposefully looking to mix as much terrain and underfoot conditions as possible. That was part of the reason for choosing the route I did that day. The walk (described in my previous post) combines peaty bogginess, limestone rocks, long grass, short grass, wet grass and some very steep inclines along with a short section of tarmac. A mixed bag of terrain then…

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The fit of the Keen A86 TR’s is nothing short of slipper like. They are very comfortable. The only reservation I had prior to the walk was potentially the comfort provided on key points like the back of the heel and the soles of the feet. As with any walk, regardless of footwear, I always put a couple of strips of zinc oxide on my heels to prevent chaffing and blistering. Its a bit of a comfort blanket I suppose but I have been doing it for years now and never had a blister….

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So, on to the walk and the actual performance.

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As I suspected, and within minutes of setting off, the early morning dew went straight through the gossamer mesh of the shoes and my feet became damp. Now for me this isnt a problem as I have been using non lined trail shoes for what seems like forever, and its one of the things you get used to. If you dont like the feeling of damp feet then you might not get on with the Keen A86’s in anything but dry conditions. Within an hour of setting off, the mesh properties of the shoes were venting nicely as the temperature started to climb. They still felt comfy and more importantly I could feel the cooling effect of any slight breeze coming in straight onto my feet. Again, for those not used to unlined trail shoes, the sensation of a breeze wafting straight over your tootsies can be disconcerting at first. I squealched through many sections of bog and wet ground with complete indifference. Thats the freedom of an unlined shoe in the summer…. Therefore in terms of the comfort of the shoes, it was a thumbs up

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With regards to the grip, I found that wet grass was a bit of a surprise. I normally expect a bit of slipping and sliding on wet grass with most shoes but the Keen’s just gripped and gripped again even when climbing steep sections. Good stuff. On broken ground with stones and rocks, the sole didnt give me any worries, although the thinness of the sole made me wonder beforehand if they would be a little uncomfortable on this type of terrain. Nope. How about bog? Yes, they got wet and dirty but I didnt find that I had a huge amount of dirt or grit left inside after the walk. Not bad. The only grip I have about the grip of these shoes is wet rock. On rough wet rock they were ok but on polished wet rock or slimey wet rock they were slippery. Having said that, I dont know many shoes that have overcome that particular hurdle. Inclines up and down didnt give an issue and my feet stayed where they were with no internal slippage or toe banging. So, not bad overall at all. I even managed a short run for about a mile on tarmac at the end of the walk and they were ok on that surface too.

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Immediate post walk thoughts were that they had been very comfortable and coped really well with the conditions underfoot for 99% of the time. My only reservation was that I felt my feet were very slightly more tired than normal for a 13mile walk. This may have been due to the impromptu run at the end or may be more to do with the thin flexible sole that I guess made the soles of my feet do more work becuase they were flexing and gripping more? I will have to try them out for a longer trip with an overnighter and more mileage to see if they are capable of doing long distance continual usage.

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 So, overall I was very, very pleased with the performance of these shoes. They are kooky and colourful and insanely light but for me they seem to work. I will have to test them out for longer to see if they are as comfortable with prolonged use as for a day walk. Also I am not entirely convinced they will last as long as some of my other trail shoes. The other thing to note is that after a dosing of mud, the white of the inners doesnt last or clean up back to pristine! Also, the “studs” on the soles look a little prone to quick wear and with such a light shoe I dont know how long the fabrics will hold up. Still, its a departure for Keen from their usual “chunky” style of fare and I for one think that these are not bad at all.

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About Saddlebags and Backpacks - a brewer's outdoor adventures

I am a keen hiker, camper, cyclist and general all round gear addict..... I also manage to be a professional brewer in my non-spare time :->
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