Keen Footwear reintroduces Santiago, shoe that was curtailed in 2011

Keen Footwear has re-introduced the Santiago canvas shoe that was abruptly pulled from the market last year. The revival may be short-lived, however, if it turns out to be limited to whatever stock was produced last year.

The Santiago was introduced to more-than-usual footwear fanfare in late 2010, touted by Portland-based Keen as a story of community building, reusable resources and global commerce. But last May, company officials determined the first run for the spring season wasn't up to snuff and stopped distribution.

But an undisclosed quantity of the shoes remains, much of it made after the May edict, Phyllis Grove, Keen vice president of marketing, said Monday. The reissued Santiago will have limited availability. Consumers will be able to buy it in the Keen Garage in Portland, as well as the web sites for Keen, Designer Shoe Warehouse and Zappos. Prices range from $50 for adults to $30 for children.

"We are selling the inventory that we produced," Grove said. "We want to take this story and make this a reality." Grove, though, declined to comment on the future of footwear-making at the Keen factory in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic. Keen went to great lengths to produce what appears to be a year-long experiment. 

The privately-held company purchased 200 rubber vulcanizing machines that had fallen into disuse because that method of shoe production is considered archaic. But it's more environmentally friendly than others used today, Keen officials said. Heat to form the rubber molds was obtained from solar energy, the company said, and shoes would be produced by a local workforce in an impoverished corner of the world.

A portion of Santiago sales will still go to a social cause, which was part of the original vision for the shoe, Grove said. For each pair sold, $5 will be donated to Kiva, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that works with partners to makes microloans worldwide. Santiago is a tiny part of overall Keen footwear production, almost all of which takes place in China. For the spring-summer season, Keen has 197 styles, 10 of which are Santiagos.

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