Aspen Times Weekly: Footwear Made Of Cord
KEEN Inc. is not afraid of healthy self-deprecation. Founded in 2003, the company once reported its original footwear were deemed by a customer as “the ugliest thing [he] had ever seen.”
Earlier this month, I interviewed a KEEN designer, Rory Fuerst, Jr., about a new shoe called the UNEEK, which is made of cord. “It’s a total love or hate shoe,” Fuerst said. “People are like ‘That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,’ or ‘I hate that, I want to beat up the guy who designed it.’”
I am typing this column in a pair of the UNEEKs. They are indeed original. No traditional shoe machinery or conventional footwear materials are used in the design. Instead, a macramé of cord that is looped and tied is the totality of the upper shoe.
In 2003, KEEN got the last laugh with its “ugly” sandal, which featured an oversize toe bumper. It went on to be among the hottest-selling shoes of the decade.
The company is hoping for another unexpected hit with the UNEEK. Though I have not heard any “I’d-like-to-beat-that-designer-up” type of comment, while wearing the cord-shoes around I have received a variety of verbal feedback.
My impression, at first blush, was of surprise, maybe some shock. They looked crafty, handmade, and somehow related to a paracord survival bracelet. They also appeared to be possibly uncomfortable — so many rub points with all that moving cord.
So far, having hiked a few miles in the shoes, I can attest that blisters are not an issue. The 3mm cord is not abrasive. With its many free-moving loops, the uppers flex with your feet.
For fun, I also ran five miles in the shoes. Fit was precise on my foot, and even after 40 minutes of movement over pavement and on trails the shoes felt fine.
Granted, they are not made for running; I used the afternoon jog as a litmus. The sole, while flexible and cradling of the foot, is not built for pounding on a run.
The upper has a sandal feel and is super airy — move your foot and you get wind on your toes from all directions.
Overall, they are solid all-around outdoor shoes, and you can wear them with socks or barefoot. One warning: Look out for errant pebbles and sand, which can work in through the open cord.
UNEEK shoes cost $100 and come in 14 colors for men and women. They are something new and “unique,” no doubt.
Look for the “love or hate shoe,” as Fuerst put it, at stores starting this month.
Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at http://www.gearjunkie.com.
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