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 sandal standards: it performs well enough in comfort, traction, versatility, and style to earn our Best Buy Award. 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 its 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.Editor's Note: We updated this review on March 23, 2022, with more information on the best sandals and why we love them.
Teva Original Universal - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Comfortable, good traction, stylish
Cons: Very floppy sole, not suitable for rugged use
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Teva Original Universal - Women's
|Price||$49.99 at Amazon|
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|$130 List||$97.95 at Amazon|
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$89.95 at Amazon
|Pros||Comfortable, good traction, stylish||Comfortable, versatile, lightweight, fits many foot types||Excellent traction, comfortable, versatile||Stable and supportive, stylish, durable||Great traction, stable, stylish|
|Cons||Very floppy sole, not suitable for rugged use||Not as cushioned as other models, can't be worn with socks||Pricey, can't be worn with socks||Annoying to adjust, uncomfortable for the flat-footed, heavy||Short straps, difficult to adjust, can't be worn with socks|
|Bottom Line||This classic option can't hack it on super rugged terrain, but it's a great value pick for casual outdoor use||This is a minimalist workhorse sandal that can take on nearly anything||This outstanding sandal can handle anything you want to tackle in the great outdoors||Whether you're hiking or rafting or hanging out, this classic design plays well for the long haul||This pared-down sandal delivers the performance wearers expect from a classic Chaco, but with less weight and bulk|
|Rating Categories||Teva Original Unive...||Bedrock Cairn Adven...||Bedrock Cairn 3D PR...||Chaco Z/Cloud 2||Chaco Z/Volv X2 - W...|
|Specs||Teva Original Unive...||Bedrock Cairn Adven...||Bedrock Cairn 3D PR...||Chaco Z/Cloud 2||Chaco Z/Volv X2 - W...|
|Weight (pounds per pair)||0.73 lbs (size 10)||1.06 lbs (size 9/10)||1.26 lbs (size 10/11)||1.44 lbs (size 9)||1.23 lbs (size 10)|
|Footbed Material||EVA||Granite Grip||Molded 3D||LUVSEAT PU with textured grooves||LUVSEAT PU with textured grooves|
|Midsole Material||EVA||Cairn Vibram||Cairn 3D Vibram||Women's specific LUVSEAT dual-density PU||Women's specific LUVSEAT PU midsole|
|Sole Material||Rubber||Vibram XS Trek Regolith||Vibram Megagrip||Non-marking ChacoGrip||Non-marking EcoTread rubber compound (25% recycled)|
|Upper Material||REPREVE recycled polyester webbing||Polyester and nylon webbing||Polyester and nylon webbing||Polyester jacquard webbing||Polyester jacquard webbing|
|Width Options||Medium||Medium||Medium||Medium, Wide||Medium|
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 looking for a technical performer for deep backcountry adventures will likely find it lacking due to its floppy sole and lack of precise adjustability. Still, for the casual wearer, this model is a treat.
The Original Universal takes home high marks for comfort despite its retro design.
This model is comfortable right out of the box with thick straps and a super cushy sole. 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.
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.
This sandal surprised us by offering excellent traction in various environments, despite its simple sole.
While it cannot offer the superior traction of much more expensive models, the Teva Original Universal offers surprisingly solid traction over a wide variety of terrains. This model has an amazing grip on steep or uneven rock surfaces, 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.
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 Original Universal scores toward the middle of the pack 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 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Should You Buy the Teva Original Universal?
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! It's a comfortable option that looks great, and if you're not planning on anything too crazy, it 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. We think the Original Universal is a great value, and it earns our Best Buy Award.
What Other Sandal Should You Consider?
This Teva is budget-friendly and scores well enough during testing. If you love Teva and want a more supportive footbed, the Teva Hurricane Verge - Women's is significantly more adjustable, and while it earned the same score for comfort, it does have a more molded footbed some users prefer. It is also heavier, which is something to consider depending on your goals. If you like a strappy adventure sandal, the Chaco Z/Cloud 2 is a top performer with better traction, stability, and adjustability.
— Joanna Trieger
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