Keen’s Ambler Mesh – $95, www.keenfootwear.com
The Good: Comfortable, breathable.
The Bad: Thin forefoot= Numb toes
The Ugly: Your wife will get peeved because you wore them to a wedding.
“The Ambler Mesh is a slipper!” This was my initial reaction when I tried these shoes on for the first time. These lightweight hikers were more than comfortable. For my first hike, I took the shoes to the top of local Mt. Bally. The rocky dirt road climbs more than 4000 feet to the peak, at which point my feet still felt great. This is in part because of the KEEN.CUSH and S3 Heel support technology integrated into the Ambler Mesh.
According to Keen.com, KEEN.CUSH is a blend of recycled PU, cork and memory foam that is designed to contour to your feet while in use. Keen’s shock, suspension, stability – or S3 technology, is engineered to support your foot on impact, dissipate the shock, and reduce your odds of twisting an ankle. The bottom line is that the shoes felt good, regardless of what Keen calls it.
These shoes seemed versatile enough that I was convinced they were the only pair I needed on a recent vacation with my wife. The vacation included: driving for hours to southern California, walking the beach, exploring Sequoia National Park, and attending a wedding. My wife was not thrilled that I wore Burnt Henna (also known as bright red) colored shoes to the wedding, but I still think this shoe does it all. From BBQ’s to the backcountry- I’m game.
While exploring Tokopah Valley in Sequoia National Park, my feet did not get hot or clammy thanks to Keen’s highly breathable mesh upper and moisture-wicking textile lining. The mesh upper is even water resistant! Small creek crossings proved to be no problem when water splashed onto the shoe.
I currently own a pair of shoes that are deathly slippery on wet rock. Without naming names, I will say that the Ambler Mesh does not fall into this category. Keen touts a semi-sticky active-traction rubber sole. I was happy to find that this designation holds true. The shoes grip was trustworthy even on wet rock. I also scrambled up steep granite slabs of rock with ease in this same river valley.
I saved my only gripe for last. The forefoot in these shoes is a little thin if you are planning on logging some miles, particularly on hard surfaces. The added weight of a daypack with heavy camera gear took a toll on my toes only after a few miles. Descending the steep road from Mt. Bally, that I mentioned earlier, was the most brutal test of all. Coming down the mountain at a fast pace with my feet pounding against the gravel road made my toes numb after only a few minutes.
The Ambler Mesh should be considered if you are looking for a highly breathable, lightweight hiker. They are a great fair-weather hiker, with the exception of trips that require a heavy pack. Just be warned: you may need to leave them in the closet for that wedding this summer.
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Author: David Frandsen