When travelling, you need reliable footwear that can handle many conditions including tough terrain, water, and long days. For more than a decade, I've relied on these pair of sandals. With this Keen Newport H2 review, you'll learn why I love them so much.
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Keen Newport H2 Review
Here's a breakdown of the Keen Newport H2 sandals and why it should be worthy of your attention.
When it comes to any type of travel gear, versatility is one of the most important factors of whether something makes it into the suitcase/backpack or not.
The reason why the Keen Newport H2 sandals are so good is because they just get the job done.
Where these sandals shine are in the warm climates where you want the ventilation and freedom that flip flops provide but with the structure of a solid hiking shoe.
These sandals allow you to go hiking up to the hilltribes in Northern Thailand while also being great exploring the rice paddies of Bali. Both of these were part of my first time wearing these Keen's.
The best example of versatility comes from a recent 2 week itinerary to the Greek Islands. On the island of Milos, there are some epic beaches but you have to work to get down there. Holding onto a weathered rope, you have to squeeze between jagged rock walls, make your way around rocky footing, before climbing down a rickety wooden ladder.
You can get them wet. The water flows right through.
You can get them sandy. Shake your feet and it'll come right out.
You can hike mountains. The razor-siped sole provides insane traction.
You can walk in them for days. With tons of air, you'll stay cool while the webbing keeps your feet in place and the insole provides tons of cushioning.
As sandals, they are also easy to pack in a suitcase or hang off the back of a backpack since the tops are collapsible and there's a giant loop behind each sandal.
Lastly, I love the lace system on these shoes. There are no laces to tie. Cinch down to tighten and cinch up to loosen. You can pop these sandals on and off with ease.
I've had readers comment here about the insoles or upper webbing breaking apart but to be honest with my pairs, this has never happened to me.
The Keen Newport H2's have gone through many trips, many terrains, and tons of water and I haven't had any faults with them.
These hiking sandals are easy to wash and if you need to you can even throw them into the machine wash.
When we talk about the adjustable parts of the shoe and the secure fit lace system, the cinching mechanism has never failed and the elastics haven't worn down at all.
Your mileage may vary of course but from my experience, the Newport H2 sandals are constructed extremely well.
I eluded to this earlier but these are super comfy in hikes and also long days out when you're pretty much walking the entire day.
Much of the comfort is attributed to the technology built into these hiking sandals.
- Compression molded EVA midsole – supportive yet firm.
- Keen Protect – the protective toe box keeps your stubbing your toes or getting jabbed.
- Neoprene webbing – The neoprene used in the upper part of the shoe not only is water-resistant but also cushioned to prevent chafing.
- Waterproofing – The waterproofing all around including the neoprene means that water dries quickly to bring you back to comfort.
- Bottom sole – Not only is it designed for traction but the foam is also firm and supportive, even for those with high arches.
What About Water Shoes?
If you're headed to a tropical vacation, instinctively you might be thinking that water shoes will be a better fit.
Sure water shoes can be be cheaper but from my experience their throw-away nature means that they're really only good for one thing – walking into water from the beach where there may be sharp coral and rocks.
The issue with most run-of-the-mill water shoes is that their foam used is quite mushy and soft which provides protection but lacks the confidence you need to do any serious hiking with them.
The other issue is that the fabric used throughout the shoe is ironically typically not very water proof and quick dry. This means that water tends to pool up in and around which makes it not so comfortable once you're out of the water.
To that end, you can see that water shoes are great when in the water but not so much out of the water. Keen Newport H2's are amphibious and that's what makes it worth the investment.
Areas of Improvement
There are 3 things that are downsides to the Keen Newport H2's.
- Weight – With the mens sandals at 15.2 oz / 430.9 g, it's not light by any standards but at the same time, I'm not sure if I'd trade off the stability for super light foam.
- Things get trapped – The closed toe design means that sand, silt, and rocks can get trapped inside as you're sloshing through water or in sandy areas. As a result, occasionally you may need to take the shoe off to dump things out.
- Adjustability – With only one elastic to tighten things down, I can see this being tricky from a fit perspective for some. Would love to see perhaps a velcro adjustable strap on the ankle side to tighten things up if you have smaller feet.
My feedback from a full summer in Asia
So I got to use these pair of sandals extensively throughout my 3 month journey across Asia and here are a few in-the-moment thoughts I jotted during the trip that I feel like would make great anecdotes for this review.
- Versatility wise these shoes are great – They were great for the every day city walking and also for the more extreme activities like trekking to the hill tribes in Chiang Mai. I wasn't afraid to push these shoes on the more difficult terrain because I knew I had the Vibram grip. As well on a few occasions I had to cross a stream and there was no way around not getting wet. These shoes were fearless and just stomped on through. No problem. As I said, extremely versatile.
- Handling the heat – Way better than closed shoes that's for sure. My feet never really got sweaty in these. Case closed.
- Comfort – For the most part these shoes were comfortable and this is where I was slightly disappointed. The start of the day would always be fine but if I was walking literally from dawn to dusk in these and constantly on the go, towards the end of the day I think it had something to do with my feet swelling up that my right foot would start chafing against right side of my foot where it is widest. I chalk it up to weird feet because I do have wide feet and I guess one foot is bigger than the other. That was the only knock I had with the shoes after an extremely long day of walking or if I walked with these two days consecutively. On other occasions it was totally fine and extremely comfortable.
- Compact – They're compact so you can stack both of them on top of each other and squeeze them down to a smaller size. They also have hook points at the end so many times I would just use a carabiner and hook them onto my pack.
- Looks – Hey I thought these looked great but I know sometimes people will look at them funny. I never liked the old school sandals that had a strap for your ankle, your toes and one strap that connects the two.
Classics that now have many colors
Over this past decade, there have been a few small changes to the classic Keen Newport H2's but they've largely remained unchanged.
The main change I notice is that the shoe used to be equipped with Vibram outsoles but they've opted for their own in-house traction technology.
What I like about the offerings today is that there are a lot of new colors that are always being added to the mix. Check out Keen's availability for the Newport H2 for men, women, kids, and toddlers.
Frequently asked questions
Since they're still sandals at the end of the day with exposure to the outside, these would not be recommended for use in the winter.
Keen has opted for the simple approach here. There is only a single point of adjustment from a loop of elastic with a cord lock to tighten.
The main difference is that the original Newport sandals use leather webbing on the upper part of the shoe. They're waterproof but a little more difficult to clean.
Keen Newport Hydro was designed to be a lightweight version of the H2 as it's meant for primarily use in the water. The Newport H2 sole emphasizes stability while Hydro is minimized for weight. The Hydro is also coated with PFC-free durable water repellent.
I think of the Keen Newport H2 as the benchmark for travel sandals. It's very rare to find footwear that can strike such a good balance between playing in the water while also hardcore hiking through tough trails. The protective toe box, grippy traction, comfortable insoles, and adjustable laces make this a must-have.