The Teva Original Universal impresses with its retro style, supreme comfort, and throwback price tag. Surprisingly lightweight, these kicks are easily adjustable with their simple Velcro straps and are quite comfortable with plush EVA foam underfoot. The tradeoff for this lightweight cushiness is that they came up a bit short in our traction and stability tests, particularly in wet conditions. While these might not be your top choice for crushing tons of miles or traversing slick or technical terrain, they make a versatile all-around sandal with plush comfort, simple use, lightweight build, and great price.
New Strap Patterns
Shown above is one of this season's current colorways for this sandal. The shoe design remains otherwise unchanged. May 2020
Editor's Note: This Teva review now includes additional sections that help outline which sandals are our favorites. We performed this update on March 25, 2022.
Solid construction, comfortable and adjustable, good traction, weighs less than typical Chacos
Very affordable, light, comfortable
Poor wet traction, limited adjustability
Not best for high arches
Pricey, dad-style design
Adjustment can be tedious
Less supportive than others, loses some traction when wet
This sandal combines classic aesthetics with lightweight comfort and a lightweight price tag
This lightweight sandal is comfortable, durable, and capable of handling anything out on the trail
Classic three-strap sport sandals that provide high-end comfort and solid all-around performance
With solid all-around performance, this is one of the most dependable models we tested
Impressive comfort and solid all-around performance in a lightweight and affordable package
Teva Original Unive...
Bedrock Cairn Adven...
Chaco Z/Volv 2
Teva Katavi 2
Teva Original Unive...
Bedrock Cairn Adven...
Chaco Z/Volv 2
Teva Katavi 2
Weight per Pair (pounds)
0.84 lbs (size 10)
1.10 lbs (size 10)
1.51 lbs (size 43 EU)
1.65 lbs (size 10)
1.36 lbs (size 9)
Granite Grip rubber
Vibram XS Trek Regolith
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Teva Original Universal provides excellent value for most users, with one of the lowest prices in our lineup. While these sandals might not always provide the raw performance of some of their fancier sandal competitors, they do dish out plenty of comfort and capability in a surprisingly lightweight package, weighing in at 0.84 lbs (13.5 oz) per pair in size 10. Classic Teva lovers will enjoy the simple design and retro style.
Perhaps the Teva Original genius is in its simple design. A multi-density midsole starts with a nicely cushioned EVA foam footbed, followed by a thicker and firmer main midsole, capped off with a Durabrasion rubber outsole. Add to that a subtle 3-D molding on the footbed, and you come away with a very comfortable product. The materials and design don't feel as high-end as on some other Teva models, but the Tevas get the job done for simple old-school comfort.
The straps on the Original Universal complete the classic Teva look, with a fixed ankle strap and adjustable Velcro ankle and toe straps connected by a single fixed outside strap. The intuitive Velcro strap design makes it easy to dial in the fit to your comfort level. While the webbing material isn't the softest against the skin, we didn't experience any rubbing or hot spots.
The foam material on this model is quite comfortable under normal conditions. Still, the footbed can become quite slippery when wet or sweaty, causing the foot to slide around a bit, negating some comfort.
For hardcore hiking footwear, traction can be one of the most critical performance metrics. Unfortunately, the Universal falls a little short in that department. Where they excel in comfort, they struggle a bit with traction. We noticed that the same plush footbed and sole materials that make these so comfortable seem to limit its traction. The plush footbed becomes slippery when wet, and the outsoles don't have enough depth or bite to keep up when the conditions get tougher.
While these kicks provide adequate traction under normal dry conditions, they start to struggle when things get wet and slippery. In particular, on a creekbed boulder-hopping hike, we found ourselves slipping around on some of the smooth, wet rocks. And in our "Slime Test" on slick beach steps, we found ourselves walking gingerly and keeping a hand on the sidewall. While we recognize some of the potential limitations of this product, it's worth pointing out again the excellent value these sandals provide with their skimpy price tag.
With their low weight, classic strap design, and soft, flexible footbed and sole material, the Original Universal struggles a bit with stability. Like the Traction metric, we found that the soft, flexible footbed that makes these so comfortable in most conditions limits these shoes in other situations. We noted that we didn't feel too confident in our footing when we took this model up, down, or across steep slopes or on rocky, uneven terrain.
While many Teva lovers will appreciate the simple, classic strap design of the Original Universal, our testers found that this was also a limiting factor with their stability. The strap design has a cool, old-school look and is easy to adjust, but it doesn't quite keep up with the more intricate strap designs of some of the newer competitors. We found that the straps couldn't keep our feet from sliding around on steeper slopes or when our feet got wet.
These sandals score near the middle of the pack in our adjustability ratings. Our testers appreciate how easy this model is to get on and off and how simple it is to adjust. While other sandals have more intricate strap systems, fancy buckles, and interconnected webbing, the Original Universal has a fixed heel strap and adjustable Velcro straps on the toe and ankle. This makes loosening and tightening a breeze and on-the-go adjustment quick and easy.
The flip side of this simple Velcro strap system is that this model lacks some of the fine-tuning adjustability available on some of the other models. Unfortunately, if you're unable to find your correct fit by adjusting the two Velcro straps, there isn't much else you can do to achieve a comfortable fit. Other competitors receive higher scores in this area by having three or more adjustment points.
In our versatility ratings, the Original Universal also scores in near the middle of the pack. While this model probably wouldn't be your top pick for rocky approach hikes or wet boulder hopping, there are plenty of applications where these shoes are an appropriate choice. We note how comfortable these are under most normal conditions, how simple they are to get on and off, and how many people are fond of their classic style. This makes these shoes a great all-around option that you can take around town, out to lunch, to the beach, or the trail.
Since not everyone might appreciate the classic Teva style, and since we've already outlined some potential weaknesses, it's worth considering other options if your intended use includes more rugged adventures where more stability or traction is a necessity.
Should You Buy the Teva Original Universal?
With recognizable style, low weight, and cushy comfort all wrapped into an affordable package, the Teva Original Universal is a great value. Our testers appreciate the comfort and style, and you'll appreciate the money you save. If you're looking for a simple, comfortable, affordable sandal, we recommend you check them out. With one of the lowest list prices in our lineup, the Original Universal provides incredible value for the right user. As we've mentioned, other models would be better suited for your more rugged and extreme adventures, but this model is quite capable for the price. If you appreciate simplicity and comfort with a classic style and without breaking the bank, we think you'll enjoy these sandals.
What Other Sandals Should You Consider?
Who doesn't love a traditional Teva? We sure do, but there have been some improvements over the years, and the Teva Fi 5 is just that. The Fi 5 offers significantly better comfort and traction over the Universal, and it is also more stable and versatile. If traction is vital to your adventures, the Fi 5 is the Teva to choose. Alternatively, if you want a great lightweight sandal that allows for easier passage of pebbles and sand, the Bedrock Cairn Adventure is one of our top -performers. This sandal is like an adventure flip-flop with impressive traction, comfort, and versatility the Teva couldn't match in our tests.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.