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Teva Original Universal - Women's Review

This classic option can't hack it on super rugged terrain, but it's a great value pick for casual outdoor use
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $50 List | $49.95 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, good traction, stylish
Cons:  Very floppy sole, not suitable for rugged use
Manufacturer:   Teva
By Joanna Trieger ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 16, 2020
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 14
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Traction - 20% 8
  • Adjustability - 20% 6
  • Stability - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Style - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Teva Original Universal is a timeless classic, with a silhouette that many of us have known for years. Surprisingly, this inexpensive retro design holds up well to today's standards: it performs well enough in comfort, traction, versatility, and style to earn our Best Buy Award. But while our testers think the Original Universal is a solid choice for mellow outdoor activities, it isn't a go-to for long trail days or rugged terrain. This model's relatively floppy sole earns it a low score in the stability metric, and it's two points of adjustment aren't enough to achieve a dialed-in fit. If you're looking for a sandal to take you deep into the backcountry, consider a more technical option, but if you're but hoping to get outside and feel comfortable and stylish doing it, then the Teva Original Universal might be the pick for you.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

This classic model has been around for decades, and it's no surprise why: the Teva Original Universal looks good, feels good, and performs well over a variety of terrain. At less than half the price of most of our award winners, this sandal is a great value, earning it our Best Buy Award. Those who are looking for a technical performer for deep backcountry adventures will likely find the it lacking due to its floppy sole and lack of precise adjustability, but for the casual wearer, this model is a treat.

Performance Comparison


This timeless classic is comfortable  versatile  and pretty stylish. Will this be your summer footwear of choice?
This timeless classic is comfortable, versatile, and pretty stylish. Will this be your summer footwear of choice?

Comfort


The Original Universal takes home high marks for comfort in spite of its retro design.


With thick straps and a super cushy sole, this model is comfortable right out of the box. The strap material isn't the friendliest against the skin as it has slightly sharp edges that tend to rub, but this is only a problem if you really crank down on them. The full-coverage strap system distributes pressure evenly around the foot, so there are no hot spots or pressure points.

For easy hikes  this model's cushioned sole is comfortable.
For easy hikes, this model's cushioned sole is comfortable.

This is a fairly casual sandal with a very flexible sole, so if you wear it on heavy-duty excursions like backpacking or off-trail treks, your feet are likely to get tired out. But as a recovery sandal or for neighborhood walks, this is one of our favorite options because it's so comfortable and easy to throw on.

In a true testament to its comfort  the Original Universal is the sandal we most want to pull on for early morning trips to the dog park before the coffee has really kicked in.
In a true testament to its comfort, the Original Universal is the sandal we most want to pull on for early morning trips to the dog park before the coffee has really kicked in.

Traction


This sandal surprised us by offering excellent traction in a variety of environments, despite its simple sole.


While it's not able to offer the superior traction of much more expensive models, the Teva Original Universal offers surprisingly solid traction over a wide variety of terrains. On steep or uneven rock surfaces, this model has amazing grip, and it performs near the top of the pack on wet rocks and river crossings. The Teva's footbed is one of the few we tested that maintains excellent traction when wet.

Over jagged rocks and in water  this Teva model delivers impressive traction.
Over jagged rocks and in water, this Teva model delivers impressive traction.

The Original Universal falls down a bit on steep, loose dirt trails. With fairly shallow, non-strategically placed lugs, it just can't compete with the models that are designed specifically with this terrain in mind. Still, you can definitely complete a decent hike in this model if you don't mind a slip or two here and there.

The lugs on the footbed of this model are fairly shallow and uniform  which doesn't give it great traction on steep  loose dirt trails.
The lugs on the footbed of this model are fairly shallow and uniform, which doesn't give it great traction on steep, loose dirt trails.

Adjustability


The Original Universal scores toward the middle of the pack here because it's simple to adjust but needs more adjustment points to achieve a truly dialed fit.


This old-school Teva has two adjustable Velcro straps: one across the base of the toes and one around the ankle. Additional straps around the heel and along the outside of the foot are fixed in length. This makes this model super easy to adjust: you just rip the Velcro and crank down for a tighter fit. But cranking down on the ankle strap is pretty uncomfortable, and this makes us wish there was a mid-foot strap so we could distribute the pressure even more.

This model adjusts via Velcro straps across the forefoot and ankle. This is fine if you're going for a loose fit  but when we crank the straps down  the pressure can feel uncomfortable.
This model adjusts via Velcro straps across the forefoot and ankle. This is fine if you're going for a loose fit, but when we crank the straps down, the pressure can feel uncomfortable.

Stability


This is an area of significant weakness for the Original Universal, as some testers feel that the floppiness of the sole makes it unstable.


This sandal has one of the most flexible soles we tested, so much so that it's possible to fold it into a ball. While this makes it super comfortable for casual wear, it can lead to a feeling of instability on uneven terrain. As mentioned above, it's also fairly uncomfortable to keep the straps super tight, so your foot tends to have a lot of play on the footbed. A loose fit combined with a floppy sole is an especially bad mix when carrying a heavy load, like a loaded backpack for a multi-day trip.

The Original Universal's footbed is squishy and very flexible  and the straps are generally too loose to keep the foot squarely in place  as shown here on our tester's left foot.
The Original Universal's footbed is squishy and very flexible, and the straps are generally too loose to keep the foot squarely in place, as shown here on our tester's left foot.

If most of your adventures will be casual hikes and packless treks, the Original Universal will probably offer all the stability you need. But if you're looking for a technical performer that can take you through rugged terrain, it's worth investing in a more stable model.

If you'll be covering a lot of uneven ground  the instability of the Teva Original  left  will probably be a cause of frustration. The Bedrock Cairn Adventure  right  is a better pick for varied terrain.
If you'll be covering a lot of uneven ground, the instability of the Teva Original, left, will probably be a cause of frustration. The Bedrock Cairn Adventure, right, is a better pick for varied terrain.

Versatility


The Teva Original Universal is a mid-pack performer here, again held back by its floppy sole.


Does your typical summer feature beach days, easy hikes, a good amount of brunch, and bike rides to dinner? If so, the Original Universal might be the only sandal you need in your repertoire. It's versatile enough to handle a wide variety of light outdoor activities, and it's stylish enough to be at home on bar patios and coffee dates. This is often the sandal we reach for when we have to make a quick bike trip around the neighborhood, and it definitely adds some flare to our standard black leggings. In other words: versatile!

Quick bike trips in this model are a joy.
Quick bike trips in this model are a joy.

While the Original Universal has a wide range of potential uses, it won't take you too deep into any one of them. It's great for casual hikes, but can't hack it as a primary backpacking shoe. It's ideal for easy bike rides, but your feet will likely start screaming if you ride these floppy soles for more than a few miles. So if you're looking for the only footwear you'll need this summer, this may not be it.

We do love the Original Universal as a camp sandal. It's light and low-profile enough to justify towing along, and slipping into this cushy-soled model at the end of a long day on the trail feels like heaven.

Because this model is light and slim  it tucks easily into a backpack  so it can be toted along as a camp shoe on backpacking trips.
Because this model is light and slim, it tucks easily into a backpack, so it can be toted along as a camp shoe on backpacking trips.

Style


Do you ever look back at pictures of your dad in the '80s and think, damn, that guy could rock a sandal? If so, you'll probably love the style of these old-school Tevas.


The Original Universal is retro, and we think it looks awesome. Our friends and family tend to agree: this model got high style points from all ages and genders. This sandal currently comes in 19 — yes, 19 — colorways, from why-bother black to a bananas option called "90s Multi", which is as awesome as it sounds. As the old saying goes, when a woman is tired of Teva colorways, she is tired of life.

We love the throwback style and pattern of this model. With 18 other colorways to choose from  you're sure to find one that suits you.
We love the throwback style and pattern of this model. With 18 other colorways to choose from, you're sure to find one that suits you.

One of the great features of this model is that it's super easy to rock with socks. While this might not be the most fashionable option, we have developed a habit of pattern-clashing with zany Tevas, socks, and legwarmers around camp. Let's make this a thing!

Aggressive pattern clashing brought to you by the Teva Original Universal. This model easily accommodates socks  so its style possibilities are truly endless.
Aggressive pattern clashing brought to you by the Teva Original Universal. This model easily accommodates socks, so its style possibilities are truly endless.

Value


The Teva Original Universal is less than half the price of most of the other award-winning models in our test group, but it delivers way more than half the performance. It's a comfortable option that looks great and, if you're not planning on anything too crazy, might be the only shoe you need this summer. Even for those who need a more rugged option, this is an excellent backup or recovery sandal to have in your stable. We think the Original Universal is a great value, and it earns our Best Buy Award.

Conclusion


The Teva Original Universal is a cult classic for a reason: it's comfortable, versatile, stylish, and surprisingly grippy over a range of terrain. While this model can't hang with the more technical models in terms of stability or dialing in the perfect fit, it's a great option for light outdoor activities and especially excels in the water. This Best Buy Award winner is a steal compared to the rest of our test group, so pick out a pair in the craziest color you can think of and enjoy your summer!

The Original Universal is a comfortable  versatile model in and out of the water: a perfect sidekick for your summer adventures!
The Original Universal is a comfortable, versatile model in and out of the water: a perfect sidekick for your summer adventures!

Joanna Trieger