By Stephen Regenold
Designed to be one of the most minimal sport sandals ever made, the Zilch from Teva is flexible enough to fold in half. A thin sole, a footbed, and Velcro straps are the totality of the design, which is new this summer and made for travelers and backpackers looking to shave weight.
The sandals come in men's and women's models and are built for all-around outdoors use. Light hiking, water activities, or wear-around-camp applications are all candidate for the strap-on sandal.
For travelers, its small size saves space. Backpackers or campers can stow away a pair for a trip into the woods and almost forget they are there.
I tested the Zilch model this month and was mostly happy with the sandal on my foot. With the adjustable straps and a cradling footbed, the sandals' fit is solid enough for casual activity.
The sole is thin and so flexible that it arches when you step on a stick. There is almost no shock absorption or cushioning, a minimalist feel that you might either love or hate.
There is a slight tread and sticky rubber on the sole to provide adequate grip on wet and dry terrain. All materials are synthetic, and nothing on the sandal can soak up water.
The sandals are light weight, though nothing out of the ordinary. In my size 12.5, each sandal weighs about 8 ounces, making a pair an even 1 pound. This is heavier than flip-flops but a few ounces less than sport-oriented sandals with toe protection, beefy straps and stout soles.
Comfort is not the first priority with the Zilch. The straps are thin and un-padded, and the strap edges are not rounded off. Take care to adjust them right or they can rub the wrong way.
Another drawback: The loop of fabric made for the big toe does not hold tight. On a hike, when I would catch the front of the sandal, my big toe would come out of this little strap. It was annoying to stop and re-adjust.
Teva sells the Zilch for $80. It's a significant step up from a flip-flop, though as a replacement to a protective sport sandal for hikes or river activities, the Zilch does not measure the same. With the Zilch, Teva offers a middle-weight compromise between the two sandal extremes.
--Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.