Bedrock Sandals has released a new line of adventure sandals with a brand-new strap system aimed for tackling rugged terrain and protecting your feet from any obstacle you may encounter.
Click through to see my thoughts on the Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandal!
Here is what Bedrock Sandals says about the Cairn Adventure Sandal
We broke the mold on “freedom footwear” with our award-winning Cairn design. With its exclusive strap system and Vibram® sole, Cairn continues to deliver on big mountain climbs, bike tours, or just kicking around town.
8 oz (size 10)
Total Stack Height
Thick side of minimalism
Good for rocky beaches, mountain adventures, and camping
True to size with a nice and wide shape
Great foot shape
“Sole-hugger” wings are effective
Capable XS Trek Regolith Outsole
Plenty of protection from rocks
Excellent for new hikers and those seeking the path less travelled
Low proprioception/ground feel
Take a look at the shoes in this photo gallery!
The Cairn Adventure Sandal uses a Vibram XS Trek Regolith Outsole. This rubber aims to be lightweight, durable, and is re-soleable. It is Bedrock’s most durable sole option and gives excellent grip in dry conditions and good grip in wet situations. It is a great sole for tackling all kinds of tough elements, including rocky beaches while kayaking, roots and rocks while camping near an old quarry, or if other visitors have not been the best with cleaning up after themselves post woodsy party.
Make no mistakes about it, this is a thick sole and it will protect your foot from just about anything. I gave it plenty of testing following sea turtles along the jagged rocks of Maui and I never was concerned that anything would dig into my feet from below.
As such, there is a give and take when it comes to this level of protection and the Cairn is most affected in terms of ground feel and flexibility; there is not much. One of my standard tests for a minimalist piece of footwear is to roll it into a ball. I could bend the cairn, but I was not able to roll it. When shopping for footwear, one should always have the right expectations and I can expect the following from the Cairn: It will be tough, it will protect my feet, but I will not enjoy running in them and walking might be a bit clunkier than I am used to, but for the intended purpose of adventure sandals, they are a strong choice with lots to offer.
While Bedrock states that their Cairn PRO line is the best sandal for wet environments, I found that the base Cairn’s Vibram XS rubber to be plenty adequate for all kinds of beach activities, including paddle boarding, kayaking, climbing salty rocks, and the like.
The lugs in the tread are omni-directional triangles along 75% of its surface, with smoother sections under the toes and the heel for traction as well as smoother foot landing and liftoff. There are a handful of quarter to half-length lug bolts vaguely in the shape of lightning that runs horizontally as well. These provide a wide surface for traction and assist the aforementioned triangles. Overall, this sole design is optimized for traction along rocks, sand, dirt, and loose gravel. I would have liked to see small microtextures in the lugs in the form of little nubbies or pyramids. This would give a little more traction, provide an indicator of treadlife and where you are perhaps not minding your form.
An additional feature worth highlighting are the sole-hugging wings on either side of the foot, near the midfoot tarsal joint. These wings extend from the sole and are actually part of the XS Regolith sole. They provide a multitude of benefits, including: comfort, protection, and durability. Said “hugging” action provides a nice wide platform that gives a bit of security and support on either side of the foot and the width of these wings gives a mild bit of rock protection from the sides.
Finally, they actually aid in the durability and construction of sandal as they extend from the ground up and the softer insole material wraps around them along the interior of the sandal shape. Had the wings been simply stitched or glued into the top of the sandal, as many designs are, this would be a weak point in the sandal under tension, but this raised design allows this typically vulnerable stress point to be reinforced, while the rest of the strap system is strongly stitched and glued to these wings, safely lifted away from the ground. It is very unlikely that the sole or this section of the sole/strap will ever fail the user.
Everything comes together in a smart design and is well-appreciated. Even if something were to go wrong with the sole or wings, there is one final benefit to this sole, it is replacable! Should you ever encounter a tear, rip or broken sole situation, your local cobbler will be able to re-sole the Cairn in the same way that you can re-sole a workboot. Having seen many friends rip the glue or stitching off their shoes while hiking, it is great to know that the Cairn will live another life after tragedy and I wish that more sandals would feature re-solable designs.
The Cairn is the field watch on a nato strap of sandals. They have a very purposeful appearance with a workman look. Nothing flashy, nothing that screams for attention, they just look like sandals ready to do some work.
Their colorways are subdued (mine is in Coyote Tan) and do not draw attention.
Upon closer inspection, a keen eye would appreciate the little touches. Good choices of textures and materials, tiny zig-zagged reinforcing stitching all around, and Bedrock’s signature toepost giving the sandal that little something something beyond your typical Teva, Keen, or similar (more on that later).
There is a simple symmetry to the way the three strap points come together and form a triangle on top of your ankle and the yellow Vibram logo gives it a little pop. The small hook on the outer strap further demonstrates the purposeful look of the sandal and it all comes together really well. At first glance, the sandal may look plain, but there is much to appreciate upon further viewing, much like that field watch on a nato strap.
One can appreciate this understated nature, but it would be great to see flashier colors in its nylon, if only as an option for those wanting attention. I think that the three straps could have some sort of contrasting stitching or trim and they could all meet in the middle triangle or the triangle sections could be a difference color as well or the toepost and connective strap sections could be color matched and contrast the main straps for a little flair—just a few thoughts.
Overall, they are a thoughtful design, but perhaps not bold enough to signal MINIMALIST or BEDROCK enough. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the color choices, but they are a big samey on the website and some more fun colors might inspire future adventures. A soothing ocean blue, a deep red earth, or a multi-faceted double-weave of darks and grays would differentiate the sandal a bit more from the crowd.
Fit and Materials
The strap system in the Cairn is one of its greatest strengths. It provides plenty of flexible adjustments, while feeling secure and comfortable. The toepost is a nylon webbing loop that is deeply sunken into the sole of the sandal. It connects to a trio of straps forming a triangle on top of the foot. To the inside of the foot is a quick and simple adjustment to tighten the sandal laterally and on the outside is an elastic hook that gives a tiny modicum of stretch, but nothing that makes for a sloppy or loose fit. I liken this section of the sandal to Bedrocks previous models with an elasticized, upcycled tire, heel strap that provides a bit of give.
Around the back is a tried-and-true Velcro strap, the only Velcro strap on the entire sandal. One might wonder why don’t they just make it a dual Velcro system like many other consumer sandals? I think that the purpose of using the loops and adjustments as they are is to give a more polished appearance, provide more stability and security and to dial in a proper fit instead of constantly unvelcroing and revelcroing.
In total, the straps are versatile, durable, and well laid out. It is easy to get a proper fit for all kinds of activities; looser for leisure and tighter when necessary.
The footbed features raised diamonds that help with water drainage but are not noticeable to the touch. This provides a good platform for river crossings and watersports, such as kayaking, but if you tied the straps down properly, water should not be much of an issue for most folks.
The materials are very solid overall. Nothing feels loose or has demonstrated any fraying over months of use. This really highlights the importance of choice of materials in designing a shoe.
I would love to see more svelte designs from Bedrock. Take this Cairn and make it half the thickness, give us more colorways and then they can vocally state that they have something for everyone.
There are plenty of shoes and sandals that offer interesting designs and intentions, but if the materials are not up to par, or are made without pride, it really shows and while this sandal is thicker and bulkier for an experienced minimalist, it excels in its intent as a utilitarian, tough, and adventure-minded sandal and is a worthwhile new design from Bedrock.