This fast and light trail shoe is full of color and flash, and is built to move. Although slim in appearance the A86 is full of tech features like a compression molded PU midsole and multi-directional lugs to provide feet with comfort and protection while delivering glove like fit and feather light feel.
- 3mm multi directional lugs
- Breathable textile mesh upper
- Non-marking rubber outsole
- Removable high-rebound EVA footbed
- Ultralight compression molded PU (polyurethane) midsole
- Moisture wicking textile lining
- Measured size 9
- Weight – 247 g (8.7 oz)
- Forefoot Width – 99.9 mm (3.9 in)
- Stack Height – Heel (15.0 mm), Toe (8.9 mm), Drop (6.1 mm) without insole or lugs
- Insole – 2.8 mm thick
- Retail – $90
Keen has become well known for the shoes, boots, and sandals with the large toe guard on the front. The A86 Tr Shoes are a big departure from that design. They are a lightweight, low to the ground trail runner and hiker. Keen recently changed their slogan to “Recess is Back” and I think it captures these shoes well. Wearing the A86 Tr shoes just makes you want to get out and have fun.
I am really impressed by Keen’s first foray into the minimalist world. The A86 Tr Shoes fall into this realm. The shoes are a lightweight 247 grams (8.7 oz) in a size 9. They are built to be low to the ground and have only 6.1 mm of drop by my measurements. There are now 7 colors to choose from, I have the blue and yellow ones and they definitely stand out. The upper is made out of a breathable textile mesh. The Keen lettering on the outside of the foot and 4 stripes up the instep add a little structure to the upper. Over the toe area, around the heel, and up the outside of the foot there are some structural overlays as well. In the pictures these are the silver colored sections. The ones in the toe add some protection from rocks and roots. The upper separates in a twisting shape. Starting at the front inside edge of the shoe and twisting its way to the outside on its way up. The tongue is made out of a thicker mesh material and has an eyelet to keep it in place. The laces are standard and do not come up the foot very high as compared to most other shoes. The whole ankle area sits lower than most leaving a lot of room for your foot and ankle to adjust to the terrain.
The inside of the shoe has moisture wicking lining in the back and along the upper cuff. The middle and forefoot are mesh for breathability. There is no rock plate in these shoes either. The insole is a thin (2.8 mm) EVA Footbed. I found that after testing these running and walking the insole is now compressed to about 1.8 mm in the heel and forefoot. The insole is removable for those who want to run without it or with another insole.
The sole of the shoe features a PU (Polyurethane) midsole. The PU midsole is firm, there is no EVA cushioning in the midsole of these shoes. The outsole is a non-marking rubber outsole with 3 mm multi-directional lugs. The rubber outsole continues up over the front of the toe covering and protecting a small section of the upper toes. Those accustomed to Keen’s normally large toe protection will notice these do not have that to save weight. The sole of the A86’s is very flexible and gets even more flexible with usage.
There were a few features of the Keen A86 Tr shoes that worried me off the bat. Most were not an issue and I even grew to like them. These Keen’s are very different. When I first put them on I noticed that the laces do not come up very high. This normally is a recipe for a heel that likes to move around. Due to the flex of the shoes this was not an issue, my heel stays firmly planted in the back of the shoes. I normally enjoy my other Keen’s because they have a lot of room in the toe box. The A86 Tr’s are a bit different. The forefoot area runs wider than most shoes I have tested but I found the toes to be a bit tight. I feel like the toe box on the inside cuts in a bit too quickly by the big toe. I could feel a little bit of pressure in the toe box from time to time, especially while running. When I ran without socks, I got a blister on the outside of my big toe from the rubbing on both feet. I have never had a blister there before and did not have any issue when I wore socks. This might also have something to do with my feet being more accustomed to wearing socks as well. This was the only real negative I had with these shoes.
I was also a bit skeptical of the lacing system before I gave them a try. But I found it easy to snug up the shoes with this style of lacing and the fit felt really comfortable. So much so that I not only like to wear them for running but also for around town. The midfoot as mentioned before has ample room and the heel is a medium width. Due to the flexibility of the shoes, my foot stayed in place even when I had the shoes rather loose. The length seems to run slightly short. If you are on the larger side of your size or between sizes, size up.
I have really enjoyed running in these shoes. Apart from a painful sockless run they have worked well. The traction has been good here in the high desert of Bend. I have used them on technical and non technical trails and liked them for both. You can definitely feel the ground in these but there is enough of a sole to protect your feet. From my running in other minimalist shoes I have grown accustomed to avoiding large rocks which definitely helps. The shoes are light weight and feel fast. With the PU midsole they are a firm but comfortable ride. I do not have a large amount of miles in them yet but so far they have showed very little wear. Since the midsole is not made out of EVA, the lifespan for these shoes should be quite high. I will report back on this later. The upper does let in a little bit of dust and rocks when running loose trails. I noticed this more when sockless than I did when I wore socks.
Overall I was really impressed with the Keen A86 Tr Shoes. Apart from a fit issue around the big toe they have been great. After wearing them for a while I can already see the toe pushing out a bit more to give me more room and as I said above, with socks this is much less of an issue. The A86 Tr shoes are made in both Men’s and Women’s models. I hope to eventually get a pair for my wife to test so I can give a good description of the women’s fit as well. For Keen’s first minimalist shoe I think they have made a winner. I look forward to whatever else they have up their sleeves down the road. As a side note, their casual shoes are very comfortable as well.
I would definitely recommend these shoes. The fit is good, they are flexible and have nice ground feel. I think they make a good transitional shoe for people who want to try more minimalist shoes. I feel they would be best as a trail shoe with some technical trails and roads thrown in occasionally. With seven colors there are many options for those who like it bright and those who don’t. I can’t think of any other running shoes with so many color schemes. The Keen A86 Tr Shoes are a great running, light hiking, and wear all day shoe. As always, your mileage may vary.
- Innovative Lacing
- 7 color schemes to choose from
- Tight fit around big toe area