Small kids don’t give a shit about gear. They don’t care about brand, they don’t care about color, and they don’t care whether they tear, stain, or dent anything they’re using. They just want whatever they’re wearing to be comfortable and functional while they rip around on playgrounds, through mountains, and in the backyard.
In some ways, they’re the ultimate gear testers, and over the years I’ve figured out which pieces of gear will put up with the unending abuse. One standout is the Keen Chandler CNX shoe. The brand sent my daughter an orange pair three years ago and she walloped them for over a year until her feet got too big. Now my son wears them and he’s dragged them through Baja, Moab, and daycare for months straight.
I’m not going to claim the shoes are still “like new,” but even after years of wear, they’re in great shape. I can’t say that about any other brand of shoe my kids have ever worn. Most other kicks are dead after a couple months, but the Chandlers just…keep…going.
To find out how Keen does it, I called up Daniel Raes, 27, a designer for the kids’ line. According to him, the recipe is fairly simple. Keen takes the proven designs and materials it’s used in adult shoes and scales them down for kids’ models.
For example, the Chandler gets a rubber sole similar to the ones on Keen’s hiking boots, like the Targhee II, which is made to last for hundreds of miles. The shoes also use a similar high-strength mesh that breathes but won’t tear when your kids go scrambling over rocks, and double stitching in high-wear areas prevents premature delaminations.
At the same time, the Chandlers are also kid-specific. They come with features like an extra-wide toe box that allows for growth. There’s also the Velcro closure tab that makes the shoes easy to get on and off. Finally, the shoe is flexier and lighter than an adult model so there’s no break-in time and the kids have slip-on comfort.
“We design every kids’ shoe to be really versatile,” Raes said. “We want kids to be able to slip our shoes on, head out the door, and chase any adventure they want.”
My son will likely outgrow his first pair of Chandlers in about a month, so we already have a new pair at the house. I’m excited to pass his used ones on to a friend. There’s no doubt the new recipient will find creative ways to give that old pair a beating, but I’m sure the shoes will put up with it.