Upon first inspection, the Cairn Adventure might seem like a goofy, wannabe-thong type sandal not suited for extended trail use. You may even think that it caters only to barefoot enthusiasts. These are both valid first impressions perhaps warranted by the Cairn's unconventional design. However, it takes just a quick jaunt up your favorite trailhead to prove that these sandals are fully committed to getting after it.
The Cairn Adventure is an astoundingly rugged sandal for how light it is. It's capable of doing it all.
Straight out of the box, you can tell that the Cairn's Vibram sole means business. The hard rubber and aggressive tread patterns gave us the immediate confidence to bring this shoe into more rugged terrain. Whether ascending, descending, or kicking around on your skate deck, the sporty Regolith outsoles provide an excellent grip on even the most unforgiving surfaces. While the Luna Oso also employs a Vibram sole in their construction, we felt that the Cairn was not only more capable but also less bulky.
In addition to its savage trail bite, we are also impressed by the footbed material. The midsole (footbed) layer is a softer but still robust rubber material that features a micro-diamond pattern that helps keep your foot secure when wet or dusty. The extra footbed grip was appreciated since the thong-inspired straps could sometimes cause our feet to creep forward on steep descents. If you're looking for less traction and more support, give the Chaco Z/1 Classic a look-see.
Despite having similar designs, we found that the Bedrock Cairn (right) performed much better overall than the Luna Oso (left).
We were at first skeptical and then impressed by the Cairn's ability to provide comfort amidst challenging conditions. The unique strap configuration allows the user to find a highly-customized fit as well as easily make micro-adjustments on the fly. Combining a plugless toe loop, ¾ inch webbing, and a reinforced ankle strap, the Cairn perfectly blends open-air breathability of a flip-flop with the security of a proper sport sandal. The result is a minimalist design that eliminates hotspots and maximizes adjustability depending on the activity or foot type.
Comfort is gained not only from straps and toe loops but also from quality footbed materials and ergonomic shapes. The Cairn Adventure has a durable midsole material with zero toe-to-heel drop, meaning that it is more or less flat. This might seem like a bummer to folks with high arches or feet that require more support. However, our testing proved that this sandal is capable of providing ample support and comfort to a wide variety of foot types. The beauty of a thin footbed/midsole construction is that with proper adjustment, you can get the entire sole to form around the contours of your foot.
The Cairn is so light and comfortable that you might even forget that you're wearing it.
Overall, we are satisfied with the less-is-more attitude of the Cairn. The only noticeable weakness comes on very pronounced rocky points or cruxes that can be felt through the thin sole. If you're on the hunt for a plushier, more supportive footbed, give one of the Chaco Z/Cloud models a try, or maybe the Keen Newport H2 if you're looking for more protective comfort.
The combination of high-functioning straps and a Vibram sole means that the Cairn is ready to hit the trail; regardless of your foot type.
Stability is the only metric in which the Cairn comes up average—but we're still not complaining. The wide-open-and-free feeling found in a minimalist sandal comes at the slight cost of reduced stability. We more-or-less expected this from the zero-drop offerings in our review; not excluding the Cairn. However, not all is lost thanks to Bedrock's thoughtful design cues.
While there is virtually no arch support on the Cairn, it does feature "wings" on either side of the foot which work in conjunction with the ankle strap and over-the-foot webbing. These wings are an extension of the stiff rubber sole that keep the foot in place by hugging the instep. While this doesn't make up for the lack of arch support or around-the-foot security, it does provide a much more stable experience when the going gets tough. Combined with three separate points of adjustment and a grippy footbed, the Cairn earns a respectable amount of stability—especially when compared to the similar, but lower scoring, Luna Oso 2.0.
Even though it features a thin sole, the Cairn has impressive stability thanks to secure webbing and an intuitive design that hugs the sole to your foot.
The Cairn Adventure easily took the cake as the most 'adjustable' sandal. Our only qualm is the initial learning curve of dialing in the right fit due to its unique strap design. The heel strap is doubled-back and secures with velcro while the two straps running over the forefoot have independent points of securement. The inside of the foot features a hook and series of miniature webbing loops capable of varying the width or landing the toe strap in the most optimal position. Used more frequently is the buckle strap that runs on the outside of the foot which is used to tighten the adjoined pieces of webbing for a snug fit.
While tricky at first, we were ultimately very pleased with the unique adjustment schema of this sandal. The three points of adjustment each serve a unique purpose that, when used in harmony, provide a highly customizable fit. While other contenders (all the Teva models) employ three points of adjustment, they don't provide the same amount of security or mobility as the Cairn. When you've dialed in the velcro and hook adjustment points, the buckle strap allows for faster adjustment times and quicker removal as well. Other highly adjustable models include the Chaco lineup.
Though tricky at first, we are very fond of how well the Cairn adjusts to fit different foot types.
With go-anywhere traction, highly-secure webbing, and a minimalist profile, the Cairn was no doubt the most versatile and adaptable shoe in this lineup. The sporty yet low-profile design gave our testers the confidence to crush trail miles or span rocky rivers while also scoring enough style points to saunter into town after a big multi-sport day. Whether we were jogging, scrambling, skating, or swimming, we felt comfortable and at home in the Cairn.
Beware: the toe strap on this sandal will prevent you from donning the ever-dubious socks and sandals look. If that's a deal breaker for you, then we suggest you look at the Chaco's or Teva's—both classic options for wearing with your woolies. Otherwise, if you can look past this shortcoming regarding socks, we believe you'll find the Cairn to be highly adaptable to a wide variety of conditions and activities.
With impeccable traction, great stability, and a comfortable fit, there isn't much that the Cairn can't do.
The Cairn Adventure could be described as a Swiss Army Sandal—ready and capable in almost every imaginable scenario. We are confident in labeling this a true do-it-all sandal. It is rare to find one set of footwear that can manage watersports and technical trails in addition to casual romps around town, but the Cairn is a radiant beacon of versatility.
At $105 a pair, the Cairn doesn't automatically qualify as an "affordable" sandal. However, we think that this price point is a tremendous value for the quality and performance you will get out of this shoe. To be relative, there are more expensive sandals that do less.
Weighing in at only 18.4 ounces (size 12 US Men) and with virtually no heel drop, you may qualify the Bedrock's as a minimalist shoe. However, we found it to be the most capable shoe in this review.
It didn't take long for the Bedrock Cairn Adventure to stick out as a favorite among our testers. Reputable sole construction, quality design, and a highly adjustable yet low-profile webbing system give the Cairn an edge on the competition. In the end, the Cairn was favored in nearly every metric, earning it the highest overall score and greatest level of satisfaction with our testers. We challenge you to find something the Cairn isn't good at.