Last summer I moved back to Portland, Oregon, which means that for roughly seven months of each year I can expect it to be wet outside. There’s usually not much heavy rain — just a constant drizzle that leaves puddles everywhere. For this sort of weather, it’s nice to have shoes that can handle the moisture.
Teva has a new shoe called the Fuse-ion (available in men’s and women’s styles) which has two features that sound ideal: ion-mask is a nano-coating that makes materials hydrophobic, letting them shed water; Spider Rubber and a JStep sole make the shoe extra-grippy so you don’t slip on wet surfaces. Sounds great! Teva offered to let me try out a pair, so I’ve been giving them a workout, wearing them out in the rain to see how well they hold up to their claims.
First I’ll address the waterproofing. Ion-mask is a liquid repellent, made by P2i, which claims to make materials hydrophobic and stain resistant, while still keeping things breathable and lightweight. Wearing these around town in the rain worked great — water just beads up and rolls off the material, even the shoelaces. (I even ran them under the faucet a bit, and the laces stay dry, which is pretty cool.) Walking through wet grass in my regular shoes, a pair of slip-on casual Doc Martens, tends to leave my toes a little damp afterward, but the Fuse-ions did their job in that department.
This past weekend we drove out to the beach with some visiting friends, so I decided to give the Fuse-ions a little extra workout. After all, these are supposed to be water-sport shoes, not just casual wear. What I found was that although the toes and sides are great at keeping water out, the tongue of the shoe is mesh and water comes in pretty easily. Walking through the shallows was fine, but when I let the tide roll all the way over the top of the shoe, I ended up with wet toes. (Also, since these are low shoes, my ankles got wet, too.) Of course, if you’re splashing around in a river then these shoes aren’t designed to keep your feet totally dry — the shoes themselves dry off very quickly, at least on the outside. The inside stayed a little squishy. I guess if I really want the insides to drain off there’s always the Gnarkosi (or my Vivo Barefoot Ultras).
Teva has several other shoes that use the ion-mask technology, which seems pretty great. Since liquids don’t absorb into the material, it resists stains and makes the shoes easier to clean. That’s definitely something that would be great to have for my kids’ shoes, too, though I don’t know how well it does against grass stains.
The JStep sole is a bunch of small octagons, each with an X cut into it. The Xs and the channels cut between the octagons allow the sole to get past liquids and make contact with the surface, plus it makes for a lot of edges and surfaces to help grip onto things. Teva has a video of somebody standing on an acrylic ramp covered in dish soap to show how well the shoes grip. I didn’t try that myself, but I did test out the shoes on our porch steps, which are painted wood and get pretty slick in the rain. I also tried them out on a sloped mossy concrete wall next to our house (where my kids have slipped and fallen before). In both cases, the Tevas seemed to do quite well. I could squeak them around a little (particularly on the moss) but I didn’t feel like I was in danger of sliding away. Unfortunately I haven’t had any slippery river rocks to climb. Oh, and despite the name “Spider Rubber” you won’t be able to climb walls with these, so don’t throw away your radioactive spider just yet.
Finally, Teva says a common complaint they heard about high-performance shoes was that you couldn’t wear them to a bar. Hmm. Not really a problem for me, though I guess I’m not usually wearing “high-performance” shoes. Plus, I live in Portland, where you can pretty much wear anything anywhere. But if that’s a concern of yours, take a look at the Fuse-ions. My wife approved of the look and I have worn them to a bar. This particular color also comes with a set of grey laces in case you don’t want the neon blue, but there are a couple other colors as well. It’s a nice-looking shoe that would work just fine as everyday casual wear.
For me, I’ll still probably lean toward my barefoot shoes for everyday use, simply because I like the feel of a thin flexible sole. The Fuse-ions feel chunkier and kind of stiff — but that’s mostly in comparison to something like the Vivo Barefoot shoes. With their flat soles, the Fuse-ions are pretty comparable to skate shoes otherwise. The Fuse-ion retails for $90.
Wired: Water shoes that function as casual wear; grippy soles; waterproof materials.
Tired: Even if the shoes don’t get wet, your toes might. Won’t make you Spider-Man.