The Teva Original Universal snags our Best Buy Award 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 offer tremendous value with a price that's less than half of much of the competition. If you are looking to tackle large distances with your sandals, consider the Z/Volv 2 from Chaco.
Teva Original Universal Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Classic design, plush footbed, great value
Cons: Poor wet traction, limited adjustability
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Teva Original Universal
|Price||$49.95 at Amazon|
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|$105.00 at REI||$65.83 at REI|
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|$104.95 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Classic design, plush footbed, great value||Lightweight, versatile, excellent traction||Comfortable, rugged, grippy on variable surfaces||Extremely supportive, insanely durable, dependable stability||Solid construction, comfortable and adjustable, good traction, weigh less than typical Chacos|
|Cons||Poor wet traction, limited adjustability||Not best for high arches||Softer footbed means less stability||Heavy, requires break-in period for learning adjustment||Adjustment can be tedious|
|Bottom Line||This sandal combines classic aesthetics with lightweight comfort and a lightweight price tag, winning our Best Buy Award.||The Cairn is a well designed minimalist sandal that is ultra-resilient and ready for the long haul.||Tough to go wrong with a Chaco classic; especially when it's geared for comfort.||This all-around workhorse comes from a pedigree of high-performance in rugged conditions; you can't go wrong with Chaco.||With solid all-around performance, this sandal was one of the most dependable models we tested.|
|Rating Categories||Teva Original Universal||Bedrock Cairn Adventure||Chaco Z/Cloud||Chaco Z/1 Classic||Chaco Z/Volv 2|
|Specs||Teva Original...||Bedrock Cairn...||Chaco Z/Cloud||Chaco Z/1 Classic||Chaco Z/Volv 2|
|Weight (in lbs per pair)||0.84 lbs (size 10)||1.10 lbs (size 10)||2.05 lbs (size 12)||2.29 lbs (size 12)||1.65 lbs (size 10)|
|Available Widths||Medium||Medium||Medium, Wide||Medium, Wide||Medium|
|Footbed Material||EVA||Granite Grip rubber||LuvSeat PU||LuvSeat PU||LuvSeat PU|
|Midsole Material||EVA||Rubber||LuvSeat PU||LuvSeat PU||LuvSeat PU|
|Sole Material||Durabrasion rubber||Vibram MegaGrip||ChacoGrip rubber||ChacoGrip rubber||Non-marking EcoTread|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Perhaps the genius in the design of the Teva Original is in their 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 of the other models, but for simple old-school comfort, the Tevas get the job done.
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 strap webbing material isn't the softest against the skin, we didn't experience any rubbing or hot spots. For another lightweight sandal that has softer straps that are a bit more comfortable against the skin but sacrificing underfoot comfort, check out the Z-Trail from Xero.
While the foam material on this model was quite comfortable under normal conditions, the footbed became quite slippery when it was wet or sweaty, causing the foot to slide around a bit, negating some of the comfort. For another top scorer in the comfort metric with better foot security and stability, check out the Chaco Z/Cloud.
For hardcore hiking footwear, traction can be one of the most important performance metrics. Unfortunately, the OG 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 are what seems to limit their traction. The plush footbed becomes slippery when wet, and the outsoles just 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 the slick beach steps, we found ourselves walking gingerly and keeping a hand on the side wall.
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. While our Editors' Choice Award winner Bedrock Cairn Adventure certainly offers more impressive traction performance with its Vibram MegaGrip soles, it also comes with a premium price tag that is over double this model's list price. We recognize that not everyone wants to spend over $100 on sandals, and we think these are a solid pick if they fit your footwear needs.
With their low weight, classic strap design, and soft, flexible footbed and sole material, the Original Universal struggles a bit with stability. Similar to the Traction metric, we found that the soft, flexible footbed that makes these so comfortable in most conditions is what 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 aficionados will appreciate the simple, classic strap design of the Original Universal, our testers found that this was also a limiting factor with their stability. While the strap design has a cool, old-school look and is easy to adjust, it doesn't quite keep up with the more intricate strap designs of some of the newer competition. We found that the straps weren't able to keep our feet from sliding around on steeper slopes or when our feet got wet. For some more snug and stable offerings that feel a little more secure underfoot, check out the Chaco models, especially the Z/1 CLassic, or the newer, lighter weight Z/Volv 2.
These sandals scored near the middle of the pack in the adjustability ratings. Our testers appreciated how easy this model was to get on and off, and how simple it was 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 not able to find your correct fit by adjusting the two velcro straps, there really isn't much else you can do to achieve a comfortable fit. Other competitors, like the top-rated Bedrock Cairn Adventure, received higher scores in this area by having three or more adjustment points. The Chaco models, such as the Z/Volv 2 with its adjustable toe loop, have pull-through adjustable webbing straps that allow for endless fine-tuning.
The Original Universal also scores in near the middle of the pack in our versatility ratings. 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 would be an appropriate choice. We noted 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. Our testers also noted how surprisingly comfortable these were for running!
Since style is a subjective metric, and we've already outlined some potential weaknesses of this sandal, it's worth considering other options if your intended use includes more rugged adventures where more stability or traction is a necessity. Our Editors' Choice Award winner Bedrock Cairn Adventure is another lightweight option with amazing traction, and all three Chaco models as well as the Keen Newport H2 scored well in the versatility ratings.
Because of their all-around comfort, ease of use, and low weight, the Original Universal makes a great all-around sandal. We could see this model being a great daily wearer, being kept in your trunk for impromptu hikes, or thrown in your backpacking pack for some cushy camp kicks. While these might not make the best approach shoes over rocky terrain, or keep up when the ground gets super slick, they are a classic sporty sandal that can get you from town to trail and back in style.
Coming in with a list price of $50, the Original Universal is by far the cheapest sandal in our lineup, providing incredible value for the right user. As we've mentioned, there are other models that would be better suited for your more rugged and extreme adventures, but for the price, this model is quite capable. If you appreciate simplicity and comfort with a classic style, without breaking the bank, we think you'll appreciate these sandals.
With recognizable style, low weight, and cushy comfort all wrapped into an affordable package, the Teva Original Universal is a great value and our Best Buy Award winner. Our testers appreciated 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!
— Nick Bruckbauer