Keen Hydro Guide
this is my favorite Keen water shoe by a pretty wide…
Use: walking, water sports, shorter hikes
Break-in Period: minimal to two weeks
Weight: 13-15 ounces
Price Paid: $75
this is my favorite Keen water shoe by a pretty wide margin. it represents a fairly significant departure from existing Keen water shoes in a number of ways that make it better-suited for...the water.
Like all Keen water shoes I have worn or seen, this one retains the toe cover/bumper that provides such good protection from unexpected impacts. the toe bumper on this keen is perforated with a number of holes that allow water in and out more freely than the solid toe bumper.
in addition, the front and rear sole have a series of small openings to allow water to drain from under your feet. each hole has a metal screen to prevent small stones or debris from coming up into the footbed. If you actually use these for water sports, you may appreciate the extra drainage.
This shoe also has a much more "open" design than most other Keens, yet your foot is still very secure. most Keens are slip-ons with an elastic that cinches tight, with a one-piece, non-adjustable heel strap. this shoe has a single strap that tightens through a plastic slider - not unlike Chaco water shoes, though with a different configuration. like other keens, this one has "sides" (on this one, made of some kind of rubbery material backed with neoprene padding) that protect the sides of your feet, but the top of the foot is "open" like chacos or tevas - a much-appreciated improvement in drainage, and it also translates into a shoe that dries out more quickly than most Keens.
One potential issue arising from this strap may come up for people with narrow feet - the strap tightens along a relatively narrow range. i have wide feet, and these fit fine; i could see someone with narrow feet having a harder time getting a secure fit.
One other issue with the strap, that went away after a few weeks of wear, is that the strap has some strong stitching right over the top of your ankle. Until the strapping softened up a little with some use, it was a blister point.
also unlike most keens, this one has an adjustable velcro heel strap. that's also a big plus that helps this shoe feel very secure in the water. on the downside, the velcro strap is not cushioned at all, and it feels hard - it might bother someone's heel, depending on how it fits. this has not been a problem for me, and I really like being able to tighten the shoe at the heel.
like any water shoe, velcro is prone to getting clogged with debris. because i rarely adjust the heel strap after i get a good fit, i don't see this as a problem, whereas using velcro for the main front strap, which constantly gets loosened, has been an issue for me on other shoes (eg Tevas).
the footbed and sole are classic Keen - contoured footbed, siped rubber outsole. if anything, i think the sole of this shoe is a little better at gripping wet rocks in the water than previous Keens. It's a non-marking sole.
if you are conscious of appearance, some might knock this shoe as quite functional, but also fairly ugly compared to most other Keens. the straps seem to come in only one color, black with a grey and bright yellow stripe, and large parts of the sticky outer sole are a very bright yellow rubber.
the bottom line? this is a highly functional water shoe that is much more comfortable to walk in and use in and around the water than Keens that have a more "closed" design. Still, it retains Keen's DNA with the toe bumper and interior neoprene so your foot feels good but doesn't get mangled. a serious contender for my favorite water shoe.