By Su Reid-St. John
If there were ever a good place to test the new KEEN Whisper water sandals, it’s my mom’s camp in northwestern Vermont, on the rocky shores of Lake Champlain. Her beach is littered with rocks ranging from tiny, shifty shale pebbles to large, slippery-when-wet boulders, and the rocks in the water are smooth and slick. Would the Whispers be up to the challenge?
My expectations were high. I’m a big fan of this company—half the shoes I own are KEENs (I’m wearing some as I write this blog)—but I’ve never left dry land while wearing a pair. The Whispers don’t even look like “water shoes”; they look more like cute-but-rugged, wear-everywhere summer sandals. But enough about the looks—let’s talk performance.
To start, they slipped on easily. A single tug on the elastic cord “lacing system” pulled the stretchy upper part around my foot for a snug, comfy fit. Then I took to the beach, running around, tromping in the water, hopping from rock to rock, scrambling up boulders, wading out until the waves brushed the hem of my shorts. The sandals had excellent traction—not once did I feel like I was about to slip—and that was especially surprising given the almost greasy feel of the underwater rocks.
Plus, the textured footbeds worked with the snugness of the shoes’ uppers to keep my feet in place in the shoes—no slippage there, either. And I was quite grateful for the signature KEEN toe guards, since I knocked the front of the shoes against submerged stones several times in what could’ve otherwise equaled some serious toe-stubbing.
Post-beach, I took a long walk on the dirt roads around the camp. Sure, the shoes were still wet, but they didn’t feel squishy or slippery or uncomfortable. I wore them around for another two or three hours, strolling, jogging, skipping…and, OK, sipping a maple milkshake and hanging out with my mom.
The only fly in the proverbial ointment was that they still hadn’t dried out completely by the time I kicked them off, despite the sunny day—usually a recipe for malodorous sandals and general discomfort. But not this time. The Whispers are antimicrobial, which should keep the stink at bay for many wearings to come. And, amazingly, the dampness didn’t bother me at all (I say “amazingly” because I’m usually quite picky about such things), probably thanks to the stretchy mesh-polyester fabric that separated the damp webbing on the outside of the shoe from my skin.
In fact, my feet felt just dandy the whole time, proving that these don’t just look like they’d be great all-around sandals—they are.
Product: KEEN Women’s Whisper Water Sandals
Pros: Comfortable and well-fitting (they mold to your feet), these shoes have great traction, good arch support, and protective toe guards, making them ideal for treks both in and out of the water. They come in several vibrant colors too.
Cons: They’re slow to dry.
Cost: $85 at keenfootwear.com
Extra tip: If they start to look a little worse for wear, just toss 'em in the washing machine.