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Keen Strikes a Cord with Uneek

Outdoor brand Keen launched the Uneek Monday, a hybrid outdoor and casual shoe that ditches traditional machinery and construction.

“Creating a shoe as unconventional as Uneek represents our irreverent way of thinking when it comes to design and comfort, while keeping true to the hybrid versatility in our DNA,” said Rory Fuerst, Jr., Keen innovation program lead. “We wanted to create a truly new fit experience.”

The shoe incorporates a soft, free-moving, water-repellent two-cord design that provides custom fit, with a lightweight PU midsole that delivers durability. In keeping with Keen’s performance DNA, a high-traction rubber outsole with razor siping provides grip on slick surfaces. With the exception of the rubber outsole, Fuerst said the shoe is free of adhesives.

When Fuerst was handed the task to create a hybrid shoe with “breakthrough fit,” he said that he knew no traditional shoe design would suffice. “If you look at the way shoes are typically made, with big pieces of flat materials that we cut and sew together — its counterintuitive because the foot is not flat at all,” he explained, adding, “Take a piece of paper and wrap it around any round object — it never takes to the shape.”

Instead, Fuerst and his R&D team went in a new direction, exploring new materials and ultimately zeroing in on cords and strings to create a four-dimensional design that comfortably hugs the foot.

The Uneek was tested internally with employees beginning last year, and had a soft launch on Keen’s e-commerce site last season. Apart from adding more volume to accommodate wider feet, Fuerst said the shoe has gone unchanged and is getting an overwhelmingly positive response, “We hear people say it feels like they have nothing on their feet.”

The shoe is available in 14 vibrant colorways for men and women, and retails for $100.  Expect to see more color options and prints, Fuerst said, “We’ve already figured out how to soften the cord and now we’re experimenting with new colors and sizes of cord. A lot of that will be coming in later Spring ’15.”