When it comes to style, I’m a sucker for anything “odd.” I’m most attracted to eccentric clothing that invites compliments and scoffs from friends and strangers alike. Take the Cookman USA chef pants, or the Merrell Croc-gone-wild Hydro Mocs, for example. These pieces serve a purpose—blocking kitchen hazards and draining moisture from water activities, respectively—but can easily assume the role of stylish streetwear. In my book, the more pockets, dangling zippers, and perforated holes, the better.
So when I discovered the Keen Uneek while scrolling through Instagram, I audibly gasped at my feed. The shoe is exactly what I look for in weird footwear: eye-catching, debatably ugly, boldly asymmetrical, and made with functionality at the forefront. Curious, I purchased the $160 all-leather, hike-ready slides to see if they’re as useful as they are visually interesting.
What is the Keen Uneek sandal?
Keen is an American shoemaker that specializes in work and outdoor footwear. The company is best known for its waterproof hiking boots, including the Targhee III, and a plethora of cage-like water sandals, like the Whisper and Newport H2, the latter being Keen’s most famous sandal. Many of the company’s sandals provide traction and hefty midsoles for all-day hiking comfort.
The Uneek is Keen’s weirdest collection—a style named after the company’s name spelled backwards with an added "U," and pronounced "unique." The series features a corded system that holds the shoe’s upper in place, combining the airiness of a sandal with the forefoot protection of a sneaker.
You can purchase the Uneek as a sandal with a backstrap or as a simple slide, in either synthetic materials for $120 or all-leather for $160. All come in men’s half and whole sizes 7 to 14 and women’s half and whole sizes 5 to 11.
What I like about the Keen Uneek slide
The Uneek slide is a beautifully ugly shoe. The sandal I bought has leather cords and a leather upper that feel tough and durable, yet buttery smooth to the touch. This gives off a rugged look that reminds me more of a Mexican-style huarache than a traditional slide.
The materials used in each shoe of a pair are asymmetrical by design—a choice likely made by Keen's collaborators for this version of the shoe, Engineered Garments, a New York-based fashion company known for blending classic Americana style with Japanese flair. The left shoe features an upper that’s a roughed-up suede material on its outside, and a smooth leather on the inside. The right shoe takes that idea and flips it—suede on the inside, smooth leather on the outside. This may bother those who favor unity in their footwear, but I love the decision—its oddball design was a selling point for me, after all, and it makes for a much more interesting look.
The sandal’s unique cord system isn’t purely for aesthetics, though. Walking in these slides feels breezy, due to the plethora of open loops and holes around the foot. The leather upper is the only thing blocking my forefoot, and it helps maintain a snug fit while keeping my feet aired out and comfortable.
I ordered the Uneek slides in a men’s size 12, a half size up from what I normally wear, at the advice of many user reviews. They fit just right, with mere millimeters of space left for my heel to hang onto the insole. They also feel conformed to my feet, due to the slide’s cord system. When the Uneek slides arrived at my doorstep, they were tightly cinched closed. I took them out of their box, loosened the cinch on both slides, slid my feet in, and walked around my house to test them out. Like magic, the cords adjusted to the shape of my feet with each step. When I was satisfied with the fit, I cinched each slide’s cord. I haven’t adjusted them since.
Over the last month of wear, the leather has softened with time and has made the shoes fit my feet almost exactly. While they don’t require breaking in, they feel better with wear. The arch support these slides provide is also superb—they’re comfortable enough to wear all day, and I love sliding them on to run errands or to play with my dog in the backyard.
What I don’t like about the Keen Uneek slide
Although these slides are inherently asymmetrical, I’ve noticed that the left suede-look shoe fits more loosely than the right. I’ve tried fixing the issue by tugging at the little notches and loops around the upper, but that only made the problem worse. I wish Keen had sent instructions with my shoebox, or at least listed a how-to guide on its website—something Chaco offers for its sandals.
I also don’t believe these shoes are fit for water activities as they’re advertised. The traction is just fine—I’ve walked on dirt and rocks without losing my balance or feeling unstable. It’s when water is involved that the Uneek slides have issues. When wearing these on a few rainy days to the grocery store, I almost slipped on the parking lot gravel, and again while inside shopping. They’re far from slip-resistant, at least when water is involved.
Is the Keen Uneek slide worth it?
If you’re anything like me and sometimes favor the aesthetics of hiking apparel to the functionality, then the Uneek slide is worth your money. They’re well-crafted leather slides built for all-day wear that reveal themselves to be supremely soft as time passes. They’ve also got great arch support and a soft, chunky midsole. As someone who lives in Florida where it’s sandal weather year-round, I see the $160 price as an investment in durable footwear that I can wear every single day.
However, if you’re looking for something more nurturing for hikes and adventures, the original Uneek might be a better option. While I can’t completely vouch for its comfort, the Uneek sandal is a sturdier option than its slide counterpart due to its back strap, and its cord system makes for an airy and snug fit—so long as you can figure it out.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.