Before switching completely to minimalist footwear nearly a year ago and running daily in homemade 4mm-thick huaraches, I was a fan of Teva sandals. Now just the thought of stomping around in those thickly soled sandals makes my feet ache. Fortunately, Teva is coming around and meeting me somewhere in the middle with their release of the Teva Zilch sandals. While I love my huaraches, I'm still willing to experiment so I purchased a pair of Zilch sandals to see how they perform as running sandals.
As comfortable as my huaraches may be, they are very unconventional looking, and my wife refuses to be seen with me wearing them. The Teva Zilch sandals don't have this problem. They are quite stylish in a variety of two-tone color schemes and stripe patterns conveying an athletic and high-tech feeling. They may be minimalist in design, but they aren't in aesthetics. They hold up to the Teva design aesthetic of which I've been always been fond.
The footbed is very soft with a felt-like texture, and it feels great against my skin. It feels like a very thin layer of gel with just a bit of "squish". Fortunately, it doesn't suffer from an overly contoured footbed. There is only the slightest hump near the arch. There is a slight cup at the heel to keep your foot from slipping off the back -- a feature I could use on my huaraches.
Sole and Ground Feel
The sole is made of Teva's "Spider Rubber", a non-marking rubber material that is very flexible so it allows your foot to flex easily. Ground feel is a good given the Teva Zilch sole thickness of 10mm. Traditional Teva sandals soles are very rigid and quite thick in comparison. I was able to handle some fairly rocky terrain in my Zilch sandals that would have left my feet a little sore in my 4mm huaraches.
I wore my sandals out of the store and the rest of the day before running the next morning. I ran seven miles of a mixture of asphalt and rocky road berms. My biggest initial worry was the fit of the straps and the interesting big toe loop, which is composed of two pieces, a stretchy inner piece and the Teva Zilch strap material on the outside. During my run, one small blister had formed and been torn off on my left foot under the front strap (see the photo below). Otherwise, the sandals felt fine and were extremely comfortable, and that toe loop is surprisingly comfortable—probably the best feature of the Zilch.
I ran the same course the next day; however, this time, I had a new hot spot develop on my right foot. There are several stitching points under the straps which make contact with your skin. One of these points had rubbed my skin raw that morning resulting in a bit of unsightly bleeding. Since this didn't happen the day before and never affected my left foot, I'm sure experimenting with foot placement or strap tightness can fix this. Alternatively, some mole skin or tape over the stitches would certainly help too.
For running, I'm going to stick with huaraches when the terrain allows. However, if I'm setting out across rocky terrain, the Zilch would be a better choice. I'll be sure to pack some moleskin and tend to hot spots immediately though. For walking around town, they certainly will be a top choice of footwear. They are comfortable, stylish, and they give me all the benefits of a minimalist sandal without any of the stares.
The Teva Zilch are available for $80 at retailers that carry Teva footwear.