As someone who finds myself often doing the bike commute to work with more ‘stuff’ then the average commuter* and as a nerd who needs to look presentable at work but very rarely needs to actually dress up for the office I found myself in the market for a shoe that I could ride to work in and then wear all day at work without looking like crap. I’ve tried on quite a few cycling shoes of various varieties in my life and most that try to fulfill dual purposes fall painfully short on at least one of their goals. All of the previous shoes like these that I have owned or tried where either too stiff to walk comfortably in, had too much cleat exposed or were too flexible to get much power transfer out of on the bike. These do both quite well, on the bike they arguably flex less then an average entry-level road shoe would but yet are comfortable enough to walk in that I sometimes forget that I’m not wearing normal shoes even when walking a mile or more.
Putting them to the test in the real world
These shoes are significantly water resistant and are noticeably warmer then any other shoe I’ve used in the cold (but I’ve never broken down and used full cold weather cycling boots). Granted this winter has been a bit of a wimpy winter as far as the normally crappy Chicago wither weather goes, but in combination with a quality warm sock (usually smartwool) I’ve used them in various combinations of cold, wind, rain, snow and slop yet unlike the rest of me in all cases my feet stayed warm and dry.
They also have thus far shown no visible harm by the salt, road gunk and other crap that they end up covered in and they clean up easily with a damp towel to quickly be presentable at work. I’ve only had them a few months so it’s too early to say for sure how well these hold up over time, but they still appear basically new so I’m hopeful that these to last quite a while.
Arguably my favorite ‘feature’ of these shoes is the comfort. Even after the commute to and from work and wearing them for 8-10 hours at work my feet are never in a hurry to get out of them when I get home. This is thanks in large part to the large toe box, just right arch support and being stiff in all the right places while not being uncomfortably stiff anywhere.
Mountain bike racing?
Sure, somehow or another I got talked into doing the 24 hours of old pueblo this year as one of the weeker links of a 4 man team. I didn’t feel like scuffing up my nice track shoes but also didn’t feel like buying new mountain shoes to race in, so I found myself wearing arguably the dressiest shoes at the race.
One of the most important features of a shoe for a larger rider like myself (215-220lbs) when trying to put power to the pedals is the need for a shoe to not waste power by flexing and bending. These shoes are definitely no where near as stiff as the bonts that I use on the track, but they are arguably stiffer then most of the entry to mid level road shoes that I’ve used over the years and definitley stiffer then my previous performance commute shoes, while also definitely being more comfortable and they proved to be more then sufficient for short bursts and long grinds encountered while playing in the dirt.
The 24 hours of old pueblo course has a healthy population of cactus of various varieties, when riding aggressively or while half asleep the ability for a shoe to protect your feet from cactus needles is a nice bonus. The Austin Pedal didn’t even flinch when my feet found themselves accidentally smashing through a few prickly pear and jumping cholla at speed. Not only did nothing puncture or stick to them but they didn’t even come away with a scratch.
The temperature variation at this race is also an area that these shoes did well in, during the day got reasonably warm so the ability for a shoe to breath and wick is important, which they did well. Then at night the temps dropped to the mid 30s, which I already knew wouldn’t be an issue given that they do just fine in 15-20 degrees colder weather.
If I were serious about this race I obviously wouldn’t have used these shoes as they are a bulkier and heavier then a race shoe should be, but it did make for an interesting setting to push the limits of and evaluate these shoes. This race really reminded me of just how much I enjoy mountain biking and I’ll likely end up buying a single speed mountain bike in the semi near future to do a few fun rides from time to time on, but I will likely skip buying actual mountain bike shoes and just keep using these.
I couldn’t help but “need" a pair of Keen Austin Pedal shoes as soon as I tried them on and have been happy with them thus far. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these to any non-vegans with similar needs.
Pros: Comfort, Fully recessed cleat, Warm, Stylish enough to use off the bike, Relatively stiff while not being too stiff to walk in, Tough and seemingly durable.
Cons: A touch heavy and bulky for a cycling shoe.
*I’ve been working in a "modern" wide-open startup style office with no storage space at all, so everything needs to come with me everyday. A typical daily pack requires clothes and shoes for work, clothes and shoes for working out after work, a meal or three, water, a laptop, several chargers and whatever else the day needs. All of this combined used to leave my huge Baily Works back pack nearly full of crap, one less pair of shoes is a very good thing.