Gear Closet: Keen Alpha WP CNX Hiking Shoes

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When shoe company Keen isn’t busy building sandals to our custom specifications they’re putting together some of the most comfortable and versatile footwear available to travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. For the past ten years Keen has pushed the envelope in terms of design while continually creating lightweight and durable products for both town and trail. That tradition continues with their new line of CNX shoes, which feature a minimalist design that doesn’t compromise on stability or protection.

The latest addition to the CNX line-up is the new Alpha WP, a low-cut shoe that has been built with the multi-sport athlete in mind.  It features a lightweight midsole and contoured arch support that allow these shoes to feel much sturdier than their 12 ounce (340 gram) weight would normally imply. The Alpha has a unique, flexible sole that keeps your feet in tune with the surface yet still provides plenty of comfort and protection. In keeping with Keen’s typical high standards, the shoes are also very durable, brushing off all kinds of punishment while remaining as good looking as if they had just come out of the box.

At first glance, the Alpha resembles a mash-up of a light hiking shoe and a trail runner. Its synthetic upper is soft, lightweight and breathable. It also happens to be waterproof, which lends these shoes a level of versatility that isn’t found in many of tis competitors. This combination of properties makes these a great shoe for hitting the trail for just about any kind of activity. While putting my pair of Alphas to the test, I took them hiking on trails of mud and rock, mountain biking and even trail running. In each case, they performed exceptionally well. At the end of each of those activities my feet felt as comfortable as they did when I first set-out. That’s no small feat for footwear that weigh so little.

One of my favorite aspects of Keen shoes has always been the fact that there is little to no break-in time. That holds true here as well. Typically I take a new pair of hiking shoes out of the box and wear them while running errands around town for awhile before I actually hit the trail, but when I put the Alphas on for the first time they felt like they were good to go straight out of the box. As a result, I never experienced any kind of abrasions or blistering while wearing these shoes, even when I hiked a substantial number of miles in them on hot Texas trails.

As mentioned, these shoes are waterproof and feature Keen’s proprietary Keen.dry technology. At the heart of that system is a breathable membrane that manages to keep moisture out while also allowing heat and vapor from inside the shoe to escape. This is an extremely effective system as the shoes managed to keep my feet nice and dry while crossing streams but also kept them from getting too warm during the heat of the day. When paired with a lightweight hiking sock, these shoes are perfect for just about any conditions.

Many of Keen’s shoes have a styling that makes them work well both on the trail or in casual settings around town. The design of the Alpha definitely lean more towards the trail however, although I still found plenty of reasons to wear them in an urban setting where they performed equally well. Because they are lightweight and easy to pack, they also make great shoes for the active traveler, where versatility and performance are greatly appreciated.

If you’re in the market for a pair of shoes that can serve you equally well on local trails – both on foot and on a bike – or while trekking in remote locations on the other side of the planet, the Keen Alpha WP is a great option. These lightweight, comfortable and durable, not to mention waterproof, shoes are a great investment for the active outdoor enthusiast who doesn’t want to break the bank. Keen has priced these shoes at $130, which seems like quite the bargain for a footwear that is this easy to like.

Kraig Becker

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