- In the 1980s, a former river guide created Teva, a Velcro-strapped sport sandal, so his flip-flops could stay on his feet through rugged conditions.
- Today, you won’t find them just in the canyons of Arizona. Everyone from avid hikers to casual city recreationalists love these practical sandals for their comfort, durability, and support.
- The Universal Sandal is the brand’s best-seller, but we tried two other styles, the Hurricane XLT 2 ($70) and the Terra Fi 5 Universal ($100), to see how Teva’s footwear performed. We loved their feel and fit.
Some summer jobs, like scooping ice cream or riding a mail route, are but a blip in our professional lives. Others, like Mark Thatcher’s college summer job of guiding rafting trips in the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River, have more widespread reverberations.
Thatcher is the founder of Teva (Hebrew for "nature"), the Velcro-strapped sport sandal that changed the way outdoor enthusiasts traversed rivers and mountains and has become a beloved icon in the outdoor community.
As a river guide, he adapted his flip-flops so they would stay on his feet through all the bumps and even flips of his boat. After graduation, he worked as an exploration geophysicist, but was laid off in 1982. His next step, he decided, was to follow his passion for the outdoors by taking his sandal design to the next level.
His inspiration for the sandal straps came from Velcro watchbands — the easy-to-adjust nature of Velcro could be applied just as well to footwear. A couple patents, trademarks, and redesigns later, the modern-day Teva sandal was born. The Teva Universal, which features quick-drying polyester webbing, a cushioned footbed, rubber outsole, and a series of Velcro straps, is still the brand’s most popular style today.
There are plenty more designs to choose from, including platform sandals, special pattern collections (like the commemorative Grand Canyon one), and hiking sneakers. While the looks might differ, the features that stay constant across the Teva brand are comfort, all-weather and all-terrain durability, and support.
Patterns are also a hallmark of Teva. In addition to solid colors, it makes more fun and funky options. Collaborations with designers like Anna Sui and trendy startups like Outdoor Voices further opens its fanbase past pure outdoorspeople to fashion-minded recreationalists.
Whether you’re hiking in a national park or walking around the city, it’s almost impossible not to run into someone wearing a pair of Teva sandals (like the three Insider Picks members below, for example). I tried my first pair a couple weeks ago, while Sally and Breton grew up running around in Tevas, and I can only envy them for being introduced to these sport sandals so early on.
Read on for our detailed thoughts on 2 Teva sandal styles:
Teva Hurricane XLT 2
From climbing unexpected hills in Golden Gate Park, to dancing to my favorite bands and dashing to the next act, to standing for what seemed like hours on the packed-like-sardines subway ride home, my feet endured a never-ending cycle of activity when I went to a music festival in San Francisco this summer. I wore sneakers the first day, but after discovering how much more comfortable these sandals were on the second day, I stuck with them through the remainder of the festival.
I have fairly flat feet, but these sandals don’t have an extreme arch, so they were perfect for the shape of my feet. The footbed is soft, cushioned, and breathable, while the rubber sole has traction that allowed me to walk across the many types of terrain, wet and dry, of the Bay without worry. It was easy to get a comfortable fit by adjusting the three different Velcro straps.
Did I have a funky sandal tan by the end of the weekend? Of course. But the tan lines were a small price to pay for the true all-day comfort and support of these sandals. —Connie Chen, reporter
I spent the summers of my childhood living in Tevas, so it was exciting to revisit them as an adult. I’ve been pretty strongly anti-sandals-for-men but I get so hot in the summer that I decided to give them a chance. These Tevas fit exactly as I remember, they’re comfortable, and while the Velcro is a bit dorky, it does offer an adjustable and secure fit, and it’s nice that there are multiple places to tweak the straps to get the ideal fit.
I don’t know if it’s my faulty memory, but I distinctly recall from when I was younger that the Teva footbed felt strange, but the one on this model is super comfortable. It gives your feed the ability to breathe while also maintaining good traction. Mandals are definitely an occasion-specific look (day in the park, light hike in the woods, walking the dog), but I’m really enjoying it.
At $70 it’s a bit of an investment, but if you’re going to do something, do it right, I guess. When I was younger, the only reason to get rid of Tevas and get a new pair was that you grew out of them, and these feel the same way. They’ll be able to take a beating. —Breton Fischetti, vice president
Teva Terra Fi 5 Universal
I grew up in both Tevas and Chacos sandals, roaming the springs and creeks of North Florida, whitewater rafting and mudsliding in the mountains of Georgia, and hiking and biking through marshes of barrier islands all through the south. I’ll admit, I generally like the look of Chacos better, but I find Tevas to be slightly more comfortable for my arches. This pair specifically, the Mack Daddy of Teva’s performance sandals, is one of the most comfortable shoes I own.
The sole is ultra-cushioned and has extreme traction both against my foot and against the ground. The straps are extremely secure (more so than what I remember the basic pair to feel like), and the plastic pieces that connect the straps are all padded against the skin to prevent irritation. The cupped heel also keeps me from sliding around, which I appreciate when my feet get sweaty. This features make them excellent for hiking and white-water rafting since you need something cushioned enough to keep you from feeling the acute pressure of jagged rocks underfoot.
Aesthetically, I love that I can transition these from a hike to a day out in Manhattan. I’ve paired these chunky black sandals with a structured white dress and a straw hat (a la my favorite designer, Cecilie Bahnsen), as well as a pair of leggings and a white T-shirt (the outfit I currently have on as I write this). They definitely weren’t designed as a fashion statement, but they’re easy to wear that way — especially considering that designers like Prada are copying Teva’s look. —Sally Kaplan, editor
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