As a concept, water shoes are a fine idea. But we've suffered painful scrapes and blisters from poorly designed amphibious footwear, and frowned over many models that didn't dry as quickly as advertised. But Teva's Sunkosi 2 performed well, and proved to be exceptionally comfortable during numerous paddling trips, including an 18-day rafting journey down the Grand Canyon. Our testers said these shoes were not only easy on the feet, but they were also some of the most durable water shoes they've worn.
A key to the success of the Sunkosi 2 was the mesh upper where an outer layer of wider mesh allowed air to flow freely, while a backing mesh fabric with smaller holes prevented debris from entering. We found that these combined materials protected our feet, while also allowing them to breathe and dry pretty quickly. The interior of the shoe felt soft against feet, and there wasn't any hard plastic to abrade the skin. Also, the shoe's soft, elastic cuff with an Achilles notch never rubbed against ankles uncomfortably.
With the Sunkosi 2, Teva has done pretty much all it can to ensure that the shoe sheds water efficiently. The removable insole not only had plenty of drainage holes, but it was also covered with a mesh skin that helped the bottoms of testers' feet stay drier. Finally, ports at the base of the outsole completed the drainage system.
Another notable aspect of the Sunkosi 2 was that the upper, midsole and sole provided good structure, support and traction for portaging, scrambling to scope out rapids and walking trails for short day hikes. The upper was encased in a skeleton of TPU material, which gave the shoe the stability of a lightweight hiker. Plus, the midsole included a supportive, rigid plate that ran from the mid point of the heel to the forefoot. Completing the package was a Spider Rubber outsole that gripped wet surfaces pretty well, though it's not the type of traction you get with a true hiker designed for scrambling. "On extremely steep, wet terrain, the shoe faltered where a sticky hiking shoe might perform better," said one tester. Still, the outsole showed little wear and tear after weeks of tough duty, both on the trail and in the water. And we liked that the outsole rubber extended up high on the toe to serve as a tough bumper when banging against rocks.
This shoe was tough, and that's one of its greatest attributes. "Yes, it's a bit beefy, but the payoff is that it's nearly impossible to destroy," reported one tester who worked the shoe over on the Colorado River. "It survived two swims through rapids, countless hikes, and many wet-dry cycles with zero damage."
As for the overall fit, the Sunkosi 2 worked well on a wide variety of foot types, though one tester who has a low-volume foot had to cinch the quick-pull laces as tight as possible. We found that the wide toe box made for a roomy fit, and this allowed one tester to slip on neoprene socks while paddling on a cold day.
As for aesthetics, one tester reported that she received "style points" from her fellow rafters, though another felt the wide toe box made her look "duck-like."
We guess style is in the eye of the beholder, but this shoe excels where it counts. If you'll be climbing in and out of boats, clambering up and down rocky embankments, or hiking through wet terrain, the Sunkosi 2 will rise to the challenge.
SNEWS Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $100