Afton introduces a challenger to the flat pedal shoe market. Read on to see how they stacked up…
Words: Toni Walbridge
Photos: Misti Walbridge
Afton Keegan Review
Afton, a relative newcomer to the the mountain bike shoe market, recently reached out to see if we’d like to put a pair of their new shoes through the paces. Being a newer company, there are currently just 2 shoe models in their lineup, a clipless shoe called the Vectal, and the flat pedal shoes we have reviewed here, the Keegan. Considering the popularity of flat pedals, yet how few viable options there are out there in the flat pedal shoe market, I pretty much jumped at the chance to review the Keegan. This is partially driven by my cyclic relationship with cycling pedals. Every few years I seem to swap from clips to flats and then flats to clips. For now, I’m solidly in a flats phase and have been since somewhere around 2016. Being in a committed relationship with flats these days, I wear out 2 or 3 pairs of shoes a year and have a pretty good idea about what works and what doesn’t. So, lets dive in and take a closer look at the latest challenger to the throne and see if the Keegans should be on your list next time you’re shopping for fresh kicks.
The Keegan is a casual, skate styled shoe with clean lines and a low profile look and feel. We have the black/heathered color way in for review and it is available in 3 additional color ways including red, blue, and stealthy black with gum soles. Afton uses a wide, flat lace that is just long enough to tie and does a notably good job of staying tied. I found the Keegan to fit true to size with a semi-precision fit for my fairly wide and high volume foot. The toe box is roomy enough for my toes without feeling sloppy. One of the only clearly visible giveaways that there is tech hidden in these shoes is the protective bumper around the toe box.
Flipping the Keegan over reveals a familiar waffle pattern outsole. The rubber is Afton’s own blend of soft rubber rated at a Shore A of 60 (it’s soft’ish) called Intact. As opposed to a smooth sole that relies more on the rubber to grab your pedals, the Keegans leverage this waffle pattern in conjunction with their soft rubber to hold your foot in place. Under that rubber, Afton employs a mono-directional shank which basically means it flexes easily in one direction but not the other. This allows you to walk around in the Keegan with a soft, casual shoe feel yet the shank will not easily bend in the opposite direction which provides support and power transfer when you’re on the pedals. There is some cushioning in the sole but it’s fairly minimal and overall the shoes have a direct, communicative relationship with the ground, or pedals beneath them. There is little support to help prevent heel bruising when stomping a foot down hard.
My Keegans showed up in the heart of our usual cold and wet winter which allowed me to put them through the harshest tests and expose their key weakness – cold. Rather, my concern came from lack of pedal grip. On a mid-winter ride in cool temps on the slick roots and rocks of Vancouver’s North Shore, I found my feet bouncing all over the place on my go-to Race Face Atlas pedals. This wasn’t so much a problem on slower tech but on trickier moves where building speed through successive hits is inevitable, the Keegans did little to inspire confidence. As I wound up off-line a few times, I found that the toe box protection is pretty minimal in function and my toes took a couple hard hits. Overall, I made it through several winter rides unscathed but mildly terrified. As for weather protection, there is basically no waterproofness and an inadvertent dip in a puddle will leave you with soggy feet but that’s not a knock, just an observation.
What kind of review would this be if I gave up so easily on one shoe/pedal interface? Fear not. After figuring out that the Keegan and Atlas pedal combo just wasn’t doing it for me, I swapped in a set of OneUp’s aluminum flat pedals. The OneUp pedals have a platform similarly sized to the Atlas pedals and actually feature the same number of pins. However, the length and placement of the pins is quite a bit different and they offer substantially more grip. Maybe the only downside I noticed with the OneUps is that the longer pins exaggerate the uneasy feeling of the shoe standing on top of the pins until they settle into the waffle indentations. Race Face Atlas pedals shown on left, and OneUp pedals on the right below, quite similar but the devil is in the details.
Who doesn’t love jumping?
A few more rides in with the Keegan and OneUp pedal combo and I found myself really getting on with the Keegans more and more. By this time we were into early spring, the jump lines were running well and I found myself appreciating the loose feel for boosting and generally hooning about on smoother trails. I started to feel fairly strongly that the Keegans are just great for jump lines and pump tracks but not so good for high-speed chunky DH riding.
Head to Head
Still, I had this nagging sensation that the lack of grip with the Keegans was possibly all in my head. So, I staged an afternoon of climbing and high-speed DH riding wearing a Keegan on one foot and my go-to shoe, the Five Ten Freerider Pro, on the other. On the pedal up, I really couldn’t say which shoe I liked better. Both pedal along just fine with adequate support and limited pedal wrap. It wasn’t until the DH that the differences became so apparent. With the Five Tens, I have some ability to reposition my feet but also a ton of hold through fast bumps. The Keegans on the other hand, are brilliant when you need to reposition or quickly step off the pedals but they just don’t quite hold on to the pins through fast bumps with the tenacity of the Freerider Pros. This day, with warm air and and damp dirt, again highlighted the fact that the Keegan’s grip is highly impacted by moisture and ambient temperature where the Freeriders are a little more consistent.
Wrapping it all up
And then it was pretty much summer… I took the Keegans out for another day of riding which included a few big climbs and a mix of smooth jump lines and technical high speed descending. By this time, I had accumulated close to a couple dozen rides on them and the soles were completely broken in. With dry dirt and temps in the 70’s, I came away feeling really good about their grip on jump lines but just OK on the tech. This day solidified my opinion that the Keegans are great fair weather shoes for casual riding but probably lack the grip and protection that most DH or enduro racers are looking for. Purely subjective, I find the Keegans to be a pretty great looking shoe and dig them for urban rides or just kicking around town off the bike. I also think the Keegans, at $99.99, are a great value and offer solid performance for dirt jumpers, pump trackers, and summer bike park laps. They are also going to appeal to anyone who does not prefer that stuck-to-the-pedals feel. If you value getting a foot off over being locked in, definitely take a look at these shoes.
Afton Keegan Specs
One the Web: www.aftonshoes.com
Price: $99.00 USD
Fit: Fits true to size
Anit-Microbial foam insole
Venilated fabric uppers
Soft, Shore A 60 waffle sole