Hands-on Gear Review

Columbia Sunbreeze Review

Best Buy Award
Price:  $50 List
Pros:  Inexpensive, high water performance, lightweight, minimal feel, great traction
Cons:  Minimal support, unattractive, not ideal for all-day wear
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
Sole Material:  Rubber
Upper Material:  Polyurethane coated Leather
Footbed material:  Techlite
Manufacturer:   Columbia

Our Verdict

The Sunbreeze is Discontinued as of March 2017
No matter how much style each reviewer thought the Columbia Sunbreeze did or did not have, as soon as they slipped on these bad boys, they all lightened up on their initial criticism. Into more minimalist footwear? Then definitely try on the Sunbreeze. It has a low drop and has the most flexible sole of any of the sandals we tested. This shoe is comfortable, incredibly lightweight, and oh yeah - super affordable! Your wallet will only be $50 lighter after buying these breezy summer sandals.

The main factor that resulted in the lower score of this shoe was its style. Testers thought it looked fine as a performance piece, but was too drab to wear as a lifestyle shoe. And if one thing is true, our testers became quite demanding after testing so many excellent sandals. By the end of three months, they didn't want a shoe that performed in just one area, they wanted a sandal that excelled in all areas. Regardless, our Best Buy Award winner has plenty of versatility to get your $50 worth - and then some.

Not convinced that you can give up summer style? Check out the Teva Tirra, which combines style and performance for just $30 more.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Sandals for Women Review

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Laura Lingeman

Last Updated:
Sunday
March 5, 2017

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Hands-On Review


Although not the most stylish, the Columbia Sunbreeze is an affordable and minimal feeling summer sandal. It performed well across all of our metrics and was so light you could forget you even had it on! We much preferred this shoe to the Teva Hurricane XLT - Women's, another model similar in fit and price, since the Sunbreeze has better traction, was lighter weight, and so affordable. For just $50, our Best Buy winner is a great value!

When weight matters  the Sunbreeze is a great option. It is as light as a flip flop but has super sticky tread and adjustable straps.
When weight matters, the Sunbreeze is a great option. It is as light as a flip flop but has super sticky tread and adjustable straps.

Comfort


This sandal is as light and airy as its name suggests. All testers found this sandal to be comfortable, but those who preferred more supportive footwear typically opted to for something like the Keen Newport H2 - Women's (our Top Pick for Adventure Travel), which has more structure and foot protection for all-day wear. Although it earned above-average scores in comfort, the Sunbreeze just didn't have enough structure or arch support to keep the foot comfortable all day long. It also lost comfort points when we tested it on steep, downhill terrain. Just a few minutes of hiking downhill and several testers complained of the front toe strap rubbing against the toes, a result of the strap not being properly fitted on the foot.


Online critiques of the sandal compared the Sunbreeze to its previous model and noted that it had lost a lot of its comfort and padding in the updating process. Without being familiar with this former model, we were oblivious to this comparison and really enjoyed the fit of this shoe. Many testers who have hopped on the "minimalist" footwear trend that is so popular right now found this shoe to be of a similar fit. Its lack of structure has the benefit of making it super flexible and sensitive and it also has a very low, natural feeling heel.

This model only comes in whole sizes. For half sizes or wide feet we recommend sizing up.

Traction


Testers were thrilled at the sticky tread of the Sunbreeze  although its flexibility made it feel slightly less secure on technical terrain.
Testers were thrilled at the sticky tread of the Sunbreeze, although its flexibility made it feel slightly less secure on technical terrain.
We thought the traction was excellent. In fact, its performance in this metric might have even been better than the Teva Tirra, but we ended up penalizing the Columbia Sunbreeze for its flexible sole. Testers decided that despite having a comparably sticky tread, the Sunbreeze was just too insubstantial feeling. This issue resulted in a shoe that did not feel as good on slick terrain. Regardless, we think this is a great water shoe.


Stability


While we loved our Best Buy winner, it is not designed to offer much stability. This shoe is very flexible and has no sort of stability control material throughout the sole. It also lacks basic ankle or arch support. Essentially, this shoe has the opposite fit of the Chaco ZX/1 Unaweep or Chaco ZX/2 Yampa. Interestingly enough, some testers remarked that their foot felt more exposed in the Columbia Sunbreeze, despite its moderate foot coverage (offered by its wrap-around straps). Some thought this was due to how light weight the sandal was, others thought it was perhaps the flexibility of the sole. The Sunbreeze was slightly more stable feeling than the Merrell Enoki because its straps felt so much more secure but less stable than the Teva Hurricane, which was slightly stiffer and had even more durable straps.


Style


The Sunbreeze scored the lowest in our style metric  but with such good overall ratings and an amazing price tag  testers didn't mind so much.
The Sunbreeze scored the lowest in our style metric, but with such good overall ratings and an amazing price tag, testers didn't mind so much.
At best, testers didn't mind the look of this sandal. At the worst, it was considered the ugly duckling of the lot we tested. There were simply no fashionable features on the shoe. The straps were wide and didn't allow for any kind of flattering contour lines. The colors looked dingy and made testers even less inclined to want to wear the shoe anywhere but the trail. On a positive note, even those testers who were initially most opposed to the Columbia Sunbreeze's mundane looks cared less and less about them the more they wore it.


Adjustability


This model is best for feet of "average" dimensions (meaning you don't typically order narrow or wide widths) as its adjustability is limited. Its Velcro straps are quite short and only allow for about a 1" range of strap adjustment due to their design. As a result of this adjustability issue, testers with narrow feet at first thought they would not be able to make the straps tight enough. Even after they did get them snug, they were unable to prevent their foot from sliding forward in the sandal as they hiked downhill. This caused a very uncomfortable raw spot on the big toe. On the other hand, one tester with wide feet ran into a problem with the limited strap length as she discovered that her feet were too wide in this sandal when she tried to wear socks with them. On the vast majority of the terrain we used the Columbia Sunbreeze on, we didn't notice any fit issues. But the reality is the adjustability of the shoe is not super precise and this becomes obvious on adventurous terrain or with feet of larger/narrower widths.


Water Resistance


We actually felt that the Columbia Sunbreeze might be the most perfect water shoe of all of the models we tested. It has great traction, is light, and dries quickly. It took about 20 minutes to dry completely in our dry test. Even the Teva Hurricane, which was created specifically for rafting, didn't outperform this sandal in the water. Unlike the Newport H2 which has a painfully slow and clammy drying process, the Sunbreeze dries like a breeze.


Best Applications


This sandal is best for hiking on easy terrain, travel on wet surfaces, and for those who require lightweight footwear. Unless you know you like the feeling of "minimal" footwear, we wouldn't recommend it for long days of standing on your feet or hiking on more serious terrain due to its lack of structure and support. Individuals who were really concerned with the weight of their sandals (climbers who were climbing with their sandals or hikers who would backpack with a spare camp shoe) thought this shoe was perfect. It has the weight of a flip-flop but increased stability due to its two thick straps.
No one said testing is an easy job  buy someone's got to do it. One of the testers contemplating the performance of the Enoki.
No one said testing is an easy job, buy someone's got to do it. One of the testers contemplating the performance of the Enoki.

Value


All said and done, we think this model is a steel at $50. While most testers didn't think it was well rounded enough to be the only sandal in their summer foot cache, it performed well in many metrics and great in others. It won't take much to get the value out of this shoe.

Conclusion


The Columbia Sunbreeze is the perfect shoe for anyone looking to add to their summer sandal selection and save a few dollars. It wasn't a top performer, but it was a good contender. Comfortable, lightweight, and quick to dry, this shoe proved its value in no time. We preferred it on the beach or boat to in the city, as most testers weren't too taken with its looks. Its minimal feel was unlike any of the other sandals we tested and testers loved how free the light, flexible sole made their feet feel.

Laura Lingeman

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Most recent review: March 5, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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