By Al Gauthier
Review of the Teva Zilch – A Minimal Minimalist Sandal
One of the biggest ironies of most minimalist shoes is that it’s almost impossible to find a comfortable shoe your foot can stay cool in. While there are numerous home-made style sandals, there are very few that offer the more refined look and construction of a shoe made in a factory.
When we first heard about Teva releasing a minimalist sandal, I was very sceptical. Sadly some of the largest brands sometimes produce the least effective minimalist products on their first try. I’m incredibly pleased that Teva is not one of these. Teva started life producing comfortable sporty sandals. Perhaps it’s not surprising that they produced a great minimalist sandal.
The Teva Zilch is incredibly comfortable. The footbed is soft against the skin and provides a very comfortable place for your foot to rest. When I first saw photographs of the straps, I assumed these would be hard on the skin and have uncomfortable edges. In reality, the straps are very flexible and are lined with a soft material that feels good against the skin. The strapping system is very well designed. The loop that holds the toe in place is really two loops; an elastic loop sits just inside a more structural loop. This clever design gives a bit of grip to the loop while also providing a softer surface for the skin. Despite the two layered design, the loop is comfortable and did not irritate my skin. This is the one element of the shoe that may not work for everyone. Your big toe needs to be “typical” enough to line up with the toe loop and needs to be within the right range of size and shape to fit well.
The Zilch should fit a wide foot very comfortably. Narrower feet may not fit as well. The strapping does not adjust for width in the same way that some shoes do and I suspect anything narrower than an average foot may find the fit a bit loose.
The outsole has a number of pods that form the various areas of tread. The sole has a universal thickness throughout. The grip is significant for a sandal and is more than sufficient for grip on wet or slick surfaces.
The sole material allows for significant flexibility. The minimal upper and orientation of the strapping means that you can flex without any limitation. One can hardly get more flexible than the Zilch.
The Zilch feels extremely light under foot. The light weight (217 grams per size 44 mens shoe) combined with the strapping system makes the shoe feel as though it’s barely on your foot.
Support / Insole
Although the insole has some minimal structural shape, there is no support built into the shoe. My foot feels as though it is standing on the ground with a slight, but not unpleasant or inappropriate extra cushion. The insole is lined with a soft, slightly absorbent material that seems to help wick sweat while providing for a comfy place for your toes to rest.
Building a minimalist sandal is a difficult process. The balance between minimalist design and retaining some functional rigidity is a challenging one. Teva has done a great job with the Zilch. Although you will probably have slightly better ground transmission with some other minimalist products, when you consider the needed extra rigidity, the Zilch outperforms for a sandal.
Grip is excellent for a sandal of any type. The Zlich gripped well on rough and smooth surfaces and in both wet and dry conditions.
It is almost impossible to find a shoe with better air flow. The strapping is effective but very minimal allowing for maximum skin exposure. The underside of the strapping is soft, and the foot bed allows for some wicking in hot conditions.
Quality of Materials / Manufacturing
I could find no defect in workmanship or design in these shoes. The materials used seem to be chosen carefully and are made to last. I expect these sandals will last for many seasons if properly cared for.
The sample pair fit true to size in length and in width. These are excellent shoes for those with standard to wide feet. Those with narrow feet may find that the strapping system is not as effective, however. Careful consideration should be taken to big toe positioning in terms of the toe loop. These are best purchased in-store or where an easy return option exists.
Zappos.com is selling the Zilch for $80. Sandals are always pricy when the volume of material used in construction is taken into consideration. Considering, however, that you could spend as much on a pair of flip flops these are absolutely a bargain. So long as the fit is comfortable, these are a good value for the money.
The Zilch is at home on a woman’s foot as it is on a man’s. The styling is simple and the wide variety of color options should allow you to find a favourite. In contrast, with many men’s sandal options available, these have a great sleek minimal look without looking feminine.
The Zilch’s strapping system needs to be worn close to the skin. If your feet are not used to having strapping next to the skin you may find that some adjustment time is needed to avoid blistering. Care should be taken not to adjust the strapping too loosely or too tightly.
Gentle soap and water can be used to keep the Teva Zilch clean.
While I would not recommend the Zilch for trail running for obvious reasons, this is a casual shoe with an excellent grip suitable for walking, running, or relaxing in most other environments.
The Zlich is a top-notch product. These are truly a minimalist sandal that is comfortable, stylish, and versatile. Considering that this is Teva’s first entry into the minimalist market, the quality of this first entry is significant. The fit of the Zlich is perhaps the most impressive. The cleaver strapping system allows for a comfortable and snug fit that allows you to forget you are wearing a sandal. The Zilch blows all similar styles of sandal out of the water.
As you read our reviews, please keep in mind that our reviewers review shoes in terms of their suitability for those looking to find the highest quality minimalist shoe products. All reviews are as factual as possible. In an effort to be transparent and ethical, we will point out any defects found, even if these do not affect the usability of the product. Not all defects will be present in final production shoes as we are sometimes offered “seconds” or pre-release products in an effort to provide you with reviews in a timely manor. In the event that serious issues are found with a review sample we will give every opportunity for the manufacturer to replace to explain the review samples before the final review is released. We never accept payments for reviews. We do not guarantee a good review for any products sent to us. We do not review products that do not claim to be minimalist or “barefoot like” unless we receive a significant number of requests from readers or listeners.
Should you have any questions about our review process or would like your product reviewed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us using our contact page.
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