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Keen Clearwater CNX Review (2023 Tested & Analyzed)

As a long-time fan of Keen footwear, I’ve worn various models of hiking boots, water shoes and sandals over the years. This time, I put the Keen Clearwater CNX to the test on the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites.

Our Verdict

The high-performance Vibram outsole gives you confidence in wet terrain, enabling you to navigate the path ahead effortlessly without the risk of slips and falls.

Keen Clearwater CNX

After weeks of testing, I can confidently say that the KEEN Clearwater CNX sandals deliver an impressive combination of comfort and durability.

Although the arch support is a bit lacking compared to other Keen shoes, the Clearwater CNX sandal compensates with its lightweight design, excellent traction on wet rocks, and closed-toe protection. Also, the washable webbing upper adds to its appeal for outdoor enthusiasts.

If you are looking to invest in a good shoe for the summer, read my Keen Clearwater CNX review below to learn more about my experience with these versatile sandals.

Product Features

  • Nonmarking rubber outsoles
  • Contoured top soles
  • Thermoplastic urethane shanks
  • Washable polyester webbing uppers


  • Lightweight and comfortable for walking and hiking
  • Excellent traction on uneven terrain and even on wet rocks
  • Good sweat resistance even on hot days
  • High-quality sole material that can face long hikes
  • A reliable shoe for water sports


  • Arch support could be better
  • Not ideal for wide feet

Things We Tested When We Reviewed Keen Clearwater CNX  

1. Traction


During my first experience with Keen Clearwater CNX, the traction proved to be excellent.

The outsoles of the sandals consist of Keen’s signature razor siping, which provides better ground contact, allowing for more grip compared to some older Keen sandals I have tested.

The 4-mm lugs have a moderate depth but are wide, which allowed them to hold onto most ground surfaces.

They are also quite tight, which gave me a stable footing on unpredictable terrain. I found them equally practical for climbing and downhill sections.

On steeper surfaces, I noticed they had a slight slip at times, but overall they did their job and kept me going.

2. Durability

The Clearwater CNX sandal boasts a durable construction thanks to its polyester webbing upper and sturdy sole. Throughout my testing, these sandals showed minimal signs of wear, even after weeks of use on rough trails.

The bungee lace capture system and adjustable heel strap also held up well during extensive use, ensuring a consistently secure fit.

This shoe also has a robust box designed to protect the toes that showed almost no signs of scratching after intentionally wearing it on quite a rocky hike for my Keen Clearwater CNX review.

3. Comfort

I found the Clearwater CNX to be super comfortable, with its metatomical EVA footbed offering ample cushioning for long hikes.

The footbed conforms to the foot shape, providing a personalized fit that only improved over time.

One downside is the arch support, which could be better, especially for those who require more cushioning in this area, but I think that a good pair of insoles can help fix this problem.

4. Breathability

The Clearwater CNX sandal allows for excellent airflow, keeping you cool and dry during hot summer hikes despite its closed-toe design.

The webbing upper dries quickly after being submerged in water, further enhancing the breathability of these sandals.

I must admit that I was worried that this sandal might get hot after wearing it for long periods, but instead, it provided a good balance between style and breathability, allowing for optimal comfort both at the beach and on rougher mountain trails.

5. Weight

At just 8.4 ounces per shoe (men’s size 9), the Keen Clearwater CNX is an impressively lightweight sandal.

This feature makes it an excellent choice for those looking to minimize their load on the trail or as a backup pair of shoes to give your feet a break from heavier hiking boots.

Yet, if you are planning to head out on a longer and rougher trail, it might be better to opt for a hiking boot or, at least, a more supportive sandal or shoe, as the Keen Clearwater CNX doesn’t have the stability for this kind of effort.

6. Waterproofing

While not specifically designed for water activities, the Clearwater CNX sandal dries quickly, thanks to its synthetic webbing material.

It doesn’t become waterlogged after submersion, and its quick-drying properties make it suitable to wear in wet conditions or during water-based activities.

However, it’s essential to note that these sandals are not waterproof, so putting them through extended exposure to water may not be the best idea.

7. Support

From my experience with Keen Clearwater CNX, they offer good cushioning for town strolls and easy hikes.

The closed-toe style provides ample toe protection, and the heel strap ensures a secure fit.

The metatomical midsole also offers some padding, but it might not be sufficient for those with high arches or who need more support.

On the other hand, this sandal has a better ground feeling than other Keen models, which makes it more advantageous for those who prefer a nimbler shoe feel.

8. Fit and Sizing

The Clearwater CNX sandal fits true to size but may be snug for those with high foot volume. If you’re in between sizes, consider sizing up.

Also, as I was testing the shoes for my Keen Clearwater CNX review, I felt that the non-adjustable ankle strap makes them harder to put on, especially as it combines with a closed-box style.

But the bungee lace capture system made things a bit easier, and the sandal became more fitting as I broke it in.

How Does it Compare with Other Products?

Bedrock Cairn Adventure

Bedrock Cairn Adventure

Pitting the Keen Clearwater CNX against the $115 Bedrock Cairn Adventure, it is easy to see that both sandals excel in various aspects, such as grip, longevity, and coziness.

The Clearwater CNX’s closed-toe design offers a protective shield for your toes, while the Cairn Adventure chooses to keep them exposed.

However, with Vibram® Megagrip outsoles, the Cairn Adventure ensures better traction than Clearwater CNX’s non-marking rubber outsole with razor-siping lugs, which is more suitable for light summer expeditions.

Although the Cairn Adventure is lighter, the Clearwater CNX provides an extra layer of defense, making it an ideal choice for walking on rocky paths.

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV

Xero Shoes Z-Trail Sandals

The main differences between Keen Clearwater CNX and the Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV stand in their overall design philosophy and cushioning elements.

The Clearwater CNX showcases a metatomical EVA footbed for enhanced comfort, while the Z-Trail EV embraces a minimalistic approach with a leaner sole and reduced padding.

Both sandals deliver remarkable traction; however, the Clearwater CNX’s closed-toe design offers an added layer of toe shielding.

If you’re seeking a featherlight, minimalist sandal, the much cheaper Z-Trail EV ($79.99) might be your perfect match, but for those who prioritize comfort, the Clearwater CNX takes the prize.

Keen Newport H2

keen newport h2

While the Clearwater CNX is designed to be lighter and more agile, catering to those who appreciate featherweight shoes, its sibling, the Newport H2 offers superior stability and a more rugged outsole, making it a reliable companion for challenging terrains.

Both models boast a closed design to ensure ample toe shielding.

However, in essence, the Clearwater CNX is the go-to choice for those who seek a lightweight and airy option, while the Newport H2, which is currently priced at $125, is tailored for users who need durability during demanding hikes or activities.

Where Keen Clearwater CNX Performs Better?

keen clearwater cnx sandals

The Keen Clearwater CNX is an ideal sandal for light hiking and active days outdoors. With built-in padding and airy mesh upper, they keep your feet comfortable and secure during traversing over rougher terrain.

The flexible sole and multi-directional lugs provide great traction for slip prevention on trails and rocks. A nice bonus of the Clearwater CNX is their quick drying capabilities, meaning you can move from water to dry land without a problem.

I wore them at the beach and during my kayaking adventures, with a great response to the water.

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Where Keen Clearwater CNX Falls Short in Performance?

From my experience with this model, the Keen Clearwater CNX falls short in performance when it comes to long-term comfort.

While they were comfortable right out of the box, the thin and stiff insole can cause persistent foot pains over time.

The soles also don’t provide much cushioning.

While the water-resistant upper does a great job keeping you dry, the synthetic material can lead to overheating in hot temperatures.

Additionally, the laces are a bit short, making it difficult to tie properly.

On the good side, though, I found that some of these flaws can easily be solved with a pair of aftermarket insoles and laces.

Do We Recommend It?

Keen Clearwater CNX

They have a light design with good arch support and secure fit, making them extremely comfortable and appropriate for any terrain.

Keen Clearwater CNX

Quite stylish and offering amazing comfort for water sports fun, I can only conclude this Keen Clearwater CNX review by giving these sandals a thumbs up.

I used them for a range of activities, including light hiking and casual walks, and found them more than reliable. Furthermore, even after daily usage, they remain incredibly breathable and are very easy to clean.

Though I wouldn’t recommend them for rigorous activities, at only $120, the Keen Clearwater CNX is ideal for casual walks and hikes, and I might even invest in a second pair since they are also incredibly easy to carry around.

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Christina Utz

Christina Utz

Christina Utz is a professional writer, mountain addict, and hiking enthusiast. She successfully finished a rock climbing class and a wilderness survival course, and by the age of 24, she hiked more than 1800 miles and finished over 260 different trails! Her expertise in hiking and outdoors helped numerous people to fulfill their adventurous spirit!

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