I was once very happy with my old original bombproof Teva sandals. I have used them for years and found them to be indestructible. I never really realized that they were not only bombproof but also very heavy. Now, I am very happy that Teva has also joined the minimalist movement and came out with the Zilch two years ago.
For men the Zilch stayed in production only two years and it has now been replaced by the Teva Northridge. The Northridge has a different strapping system but is almost identical to the Zilch. For me, there were some shortcomings with the Zilch and Teva gave me the opportunity to see if the Northridge is a real improvement.
The soles of the Northridge are zero drop and made of Teva’s famous spider rubber which gives good grip. The foot bed is made of a soft microfiber material that is comfortable against the skin. In between there is a gel like midsole made of EVA (according to Teva) that gives some soft comfortable support to your feet. Barefoot purists will not like this because it gives you less proprioception. But for use on hard pack trails or urban pavement it makes the Northridge a good and useful sandal. It will also make this minimal sandal popular with people that otherwise would not have bought minimal shoes.
The straps are made out of a synthetic material that has dots of a skin friendly material on the inside. This material does not breathe however and although the straps are narrow I could feel the sweat very well underneath them.
A lot of people complained about the Zilch’s midfoot strap. It rubs your skin. I had the same problem and solved it with a piece of cotton ribbon. The Zilch has a Velcro adjustment on the midfoot strap. On the Northridge, the velcro adjustment has been moved to the strap that covers the toes. Therefore the midfoot strap is more flexible (no double material bonded with Velcro anymore).
I think the strap over the midfoot has an important role in keeping the sandal connected well with your feet.
I did not have any more problems with the Northridge’s midfoot strap for daily use and hiking. I used my Northridge’s on a short 11 km hike and the straps did not cut into my skin. The only problem I had was sand and dirt getting under the straps and rubbing my skin, but this can happen with all sorts of sandals.
Running is a different story. A short twenty minute run rubbed my skin like the Zilch did. For me this is a minor problem because it was only a test run for this review. I will never use the Northridge for running. Teva could still take a look at the straps and design a new midfoot strap with less sharp edges.
After walking through water at first my feet started to move easily in the wet sandal but after a while the Northridge’s held my feet well again.
The downside of all minimalist shoes with their low stack height is that your feet suffer more from debris and moisture - especially minimal sandals - making you return from your hike with dirty feet.
I liked the Zilch strapping system better because of its original looks and because I think the strapping system gives more freedom to my feet. I also think the big toe loop does better at securing the sandal on my feet, like tabi shoes do. I could not wear my Zilch’s for very long because of the sharp edges on the midfoot strap until I made a solution for this myself. The Northridge could be worn as a normal hiking and daily wear sandal without the need of a modification. Therefore I think the Northridge is a better sandal and a real improvement. I also think it is proof of the quality of the sandal, as only the strapping system had to be changed.
The forefoot straps don’t allow for enough toe splay as is usual on minimal shoes.
After having worn the Zilch for two summers there is hardly any wear on the soles, foot bed and the uppers. I only used them for daily use though. The only significant wear is the disappearance of the dots on the inside of the ankle strap on my left foot. Because the Zilch and the Northridge are 90% identical I suspect the Northridge to be very abrasion resistant too.
I only wonder how long the Velcro will hold. On my old Teva’s the Velcro was replaced at least two times. This Velcro was sewn on the straps so it could easily be replaced. The Velcro on the Northridge and Zilch is glued so it will be more difficult to replace.
The Teva Northridge has now replaced the Zilch, though there are still some Zilch’s available in online stores (also for women). For women Teva has the Zirra Lite which is the minimal version of their popular Zirra sandal. There is also a Zilch Kids (which actually has the Northridge strapping system). The availability of Teva’s minimal sandals differ by country. If you go to teva.com you will be automatically redirected to your local dealer.
My Northridges weigh 474 grams (16.7 oz) for a pair in size EU 44.5 / USA 11 / UK 10.