So why not “barefoot” sandals? That’s what Teva said, and that’s why we have the new Zilch. “The thinner you go, the better it feels,” Teva claims, and the Zilch is their thinnest, most minimalistic (boy that sounds like a contradiction) sandal ever.
I didn’t know what to think when I opened the box, and one co-worker who shall remain nameless said they looked like women’s shoes. But I’m confident in my masculinity, and I pulled them off their foot-shaped plastic display things…and immediately fell in love.
When Teva says that thinner is better, they’re right. The Zilch gets glued to your foot like few other sandals I’ve worn, becoming a part of my plantar fascia—that fatty tissue that connects and supports your foot’s arch. It’s like suddenly your foot has another sole—my “sole mate.”
The Zilch’s construction flexes and moves like a Dr. Scholes gel insert stapled to your foot (you can actually roll them up, if you’re into this). Teva gets all Zen/eco-friendly and says the Zilch gives “you an amazing feel and connection to the earth.” I may not be more in tune with the planet while wearing them, but my every movement has more definition—it truly is like walking barefoot—but with much better traction and a welcome layer of protection. The footbed is soft and welcoming, kissing the soles of my feet with a felt caress and stays surprisingly dry when sweating.
One little gripe—our testers have a toe loop with two layers—an inner stretchy, elastic one, and a firmer plastic one on the outside to match styles with the two straps. That outer loop (not pictured in Teva’s photos) rubbed my second toe a little raw on my right foot (not the left). But this may be a construction issue that our early examples have that others may not.
My feet aren’t yet conditioned to barefoot stressors, so I have yet to abuse the Zilch on the trail. However, my first impressions are glowing. If anything, I think Teva could shave even more sole off the sandal around the outside for an even narrower, more foot-shaped design. Maybe they could call it the Nadda.
The Zilch, alas, isn’t free—they come in at a sport-sandal competitive $80. Like the barefoot thing? Go buy these and find your sole mate!