Choosing a single pair of shoes for a long tour is more difficult than baptizing a cat. There isn't a pair manufactured that would suit the stiff demands of clipless pedals and exude the comfort of Bruno Maglis when strolling around off the bike.

I scoured touring message boards full of advice on the right shoes to wear. The chorus of opinions ranged from hippies sold on sandals to hardcore 'roid monkeys bent on "making time" with the latest carbon racing cleats.

I just want to cruise with a stiff enough sole to climb comfortably in SPD cleats, preferably recessed in a shoe that allows for walking in the woods and the mall. So, I ordered two models that would fight it out on my feet before one was returned to its "free shipping" Internet purveyor. The finalists were the Keen Springwater 2 and the Specialized Tahoe. Both set me back a hundred bucks. Pretty reasonable.

Using no scientific criteria to decide between the shoes, the Tahoes emerged victorious. The picture above illustrates that neither shoe is concerned with haute couture. However, the Keen's do maintain the "Frankenstein Boot" chic they favor across all their lines.

Here's a listicle of my final judgment:

  1. The Keen's run small. So small that I had to order a second pair to try on. A whopping size 13 for a guy that wears an 11.5. The giant rubberized toe box looked like I was prepping for life in a steel mill.
  2. My heel slipped in the Keen's despite the generously fat Velcro straps. Bad for riding and walking.
  3. The Tahoes feel much lighter, eventhough they weigh just 3 oz. less per shoe than the Keens.
  4. The Tahoes are roomy, bit narrower which interferes less with the bike cranks and creates fewer scrapes and bumps against the panniers.
  5. I wish the Tahoes were free of laces, but they tuck under an upper Velcro strap pretty well.
  6. The Tahoes just look less dopey. It's bad enough that truckers and hillbillies will elicit visceral reactions to my rivulets of fat packed in the spandex sausage casings I'll be donning.