Keen Solr Sandal
People who canoe, kayak, raft, stand up paddle board, boat, or hike in and out of the water will like Keen’s water-dedicated Solr. A gasket-style ankle, close fit, and smaller openings mean less sand/grit/stones get in, and a sole made of grippy rubber that is both textured and razor-siped maximizes traction. Plus, they are just plain comfortable for walking too, and the webbing is made from recycled plastic that dries quickly for a partially enclosed sandal.
- Good at keeping stones and grit out
- Relatively quick dry time
- Less firm/stable than other Keens
- A little more effort to put them on
Photo above shows the top of the shoe, the elastic to tighten them (I have it tucked under), the loop on the ‘tongue,’ and the toe bumper. Note the elastic attached to two yellow pieces that tighten a cord that runs around your ankle. The rougher-looking sections are robust and thicker; the smoother parts in the middle are stretchy mesh that allow water and some air to circulate.
The Solr (sea, ocean, land river) builds on Keen’s strengths—a forgiving, moderately-arched footbed and Keen’s well-known bumper to protect your toes—with features that should make it a go-to choice for water sports and adventures.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OUT OF THE BOX
My size 12s weighed 1.5 pounds, which puts them in the middle of the sandal pack for weight. [Xero Z-Trail, 10.5 oz; Bedrock Cairn Pro, 1 pound; Bedrock Cairn 3D, 1.4 pounds; Chaco Z-Cloud, 1.9 pounds; Chaco Z-1 Classic, 2 pounds].
Aside from the toe bumper and comfortable foam under your feet, like most Keens, these have side openings that let water drain...but less ways for sand, stones, and grit to intrude. Because the Solr is reasonably tight-fitting, the water drainage holes are on the smaller side, the top portion is fine mesh that won't let most (if any) stuff in, and neither will the ankle opening/gasket.
They have a firm elastic crisscrossed over the top that you can use to tighten the fit, and the elastic also pulls a cord that tightens around your ankle. (That yellow cord is what Keen calls “Konnectfit”). I rarely adjusted that elastic because this is already a fairly close-fitting sandal. Putting them on requires easing your foot through a stretchy ankle opening. That’s different from many Keen shoes like their popular H2 but is a good feature for a water shoe because the gasket-like seal helps keep stones and grit from getting in and annoying your feet.
They have sturdy loops at the heel and front of your ankle to help pull them on and off, or to clip them to your pack with a carabiner. The sole is a soft, grippy rubber with small lugs, except that the surfaces under the ball and heel of your foot are flat and razor-cut, similar to good boat shoes.
The Sole Sandals run true to size; I have worn size 12 in other Keen sandals, and the size 12 Solr fit me well too. Despite a fairly firm, stretchy fit, my E width feet were happy in them. They come in men's sizes 7-15 and women's sizes 5-12. The entire inside is covered with a soft lining, similar to most other Keen sandals, so they don’t need much if any break-in. I was using these on 3-5 mile walks on local trails and a towpath that parallels the C&O Canal the first week they arrived. The only time I blistered was due to a lengthy walk after getting them wet, which caused a small raw spot on one ankle. It wasn't a recurring issue.
The Solr is so comfortable that it's tempting to wear them all day. No worries about scuffing your floors because the sticky soles are made from non-marking rubber.
The footbed/midsole has a typical Keen fit—forgiving, mild arch support. They feel lighter and softer than some Keens I have worn before. On the plus side, that means you get a somewhat better feel for stuff under your feet, which I think helps for traction in rivers and streams and on wet surfaces.
Because the ankle design has the gasket-style stretchy fit to keep stuff out, putting them on isn’t like sliding on a flip-flop or stepping into a strap sandal you then tighten. I found it easiest to put my foot part of the way in, then use the heel loop to pull the opening wide and over my heel.
I had plenty of hikes adjacent to or through the Potomac River and a number of local streams, creeks, and a canal. Plenty of slick rocks and muddy stream beds. Due to COVID closures and a canoe whose hull needs a patch, I didn't test the Solr on a kayak, canoe, or standup paddleboard, as I normally would with a water shoe. I plan to update the review after some kayaking and boarding.
It's clear the Solr is a top-notch water sandal. The sole has very good grip on rain-slicked rocks and river beds [these would very likely be excellent in a canoe, sailboat, kayak, or on a standup paddle board]. The ‘aqua stop’ flat sections with razor cut areas aren’t new; Keen’s long-discontinued Hydro Guide sandals also had that. Notably, the sole material on the Solr is much softer and has better wet-surface grip than my ten-year-old Hydro Guides, which probably reflects advances in the tech of manufacturing soles and that rubbery soles can harden over time.
They also have pretty good feel for the ground for a sandal with a relatively more robust midsole, because the midsole is rather soft. The smaller openings, sealed ankle, and close/stretchy fit limit the ability of rocks and grit to get under your feet, yet the openings on both sides are large enough to drain quickly when you get out of the water. I appreciated the foot-top elastic‘s ability to keep the sandals on in muddy creeks—the only times I pulled the elastic tighter was in the water.
I was surprised how quickly these dried in the sun. Usually, the more "closed" a water shoe is, the longer it takes to dry. I think the mesh top fabric lets more air circulate. As with any closed design, though, these do not dry as quickly as a strap-only sandal.
In Keen's own words: "All-terrain is great, but this time we went all in on water. SOLR (Sea. Ocean. Lake. River)." The Solr is fine for walking on dry land, but you’re going to feel roots and rocks under your feet to a greater degree than some other sandals, and they have somewhat less lateral stability for hiking [Keen’s Newport H2 have a firmer midsole/sole combination, for example].
Still, these are very comfortable for walking and light hiking for miles on less bumpy trails, and the toe bumper provides more protection for your toes than you get from any open-toed sandal. I’m heading to the beach in a month or so and plan to see how these do in the sand, surf, and a sea kayak.
After roughly three months and approximately 50 miles of walking and mucking around, the stitching is fully intact, and nothing has torn or come apart. The soles show limited to no wear, perhaps because I have not walked much on paved trails. Keen has a one-year warranty, but having worn three pair of their sandals or flips in the past, I can say with some confidence that they build their sandals to last.
Keen has moved to an environmentally-friendly anti-odor treatment to keep their sandals from getting smelly, and the top webbing is made from recycled plastic bottles. Keen sandals are all machine-washable if they do get stinky, but you should air dry them.
I wore the Solr in and around the Potomac River, C&O Canal, and numerous local streams and creeks that parallel local trails over the past three months. They spent the most time on dirt trails. Because we have a dog who loves the water, the Solr sandals not only walked and hiked a lot but also spent a lot of time getting wet and muddy. They performed extremely well in most situations; I would have appreciated low hikers, approach shoes, or firmer sandals on one local trail, Billy Goat A, that has more than its share of big rocks, roots, and scrambling In some sections, primarily due to theIr somewhat limited lateral support and softer midsoles.
This is a great shoe for walking in the rain—good traction, no worries if they get wet, unlikely to blister. [Most sandals with nylon/polyester straps will tend to cause blisters on longer walks/hikes in wet weather unless your feet are already calloused from them.]
The Solr is a water-oriented shoe that does a nice job bridging to regular wear and walking. Highly recommended, so long as you don’t mind a relatively close-fitting sandal.
3 months of wear on local trails and in the Potomac River, C&O Canal, and many creeks and streams.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Keen)
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