by Shawn Spomer

Skeptical
I was a skeptic. The news came out that Teva was making mountain bike shoes. I figured, like so many of you out there, that our sport would be graced with a clipless sandal or a hyper-technical moon boot with stash pockets for your Gu packets.  Word spread that Jeff Lenosky, Cam McCaul and Kurt Sorge were involved in the shoe development, which eased the skepticism a bit. But until a design was revealed, in my mind, Teva would probably just be modifying hackysacker flip flops and putting an MTB label on them.
     Then the photos of the shoes came out. Teva's version of an MTB shoe was not just a tweaked hippy slipper. The shoes actually looked legit and they were for flat pedals users. The colors were a bit bright, but they had a 'skate shoe' style to them and the sole had pattern that seemed to be made for pedals, something most skate shoes (and even BMX shoes) don't have. The opportunity to give the shoes a try presented itself and I was stoked because I wanted to know if the shoes should be taken seriously.

First Impressions
I didn't know if Teva was sending the blue and yellow or gray and purple Links. I didn't know which I wanted more either. A flip of the shoe box donned the purple and gray pair, or Ultra Violet, according to Teva. Though I feel I'm a little old to be wearing purple shoes, I was stoked because they're more subtle than the blue and yellow variety and I figured they'd look less dirty in the long run.
     I have a wider size 9 foot. Some brands of size 9 shoes are too narrow for me and a 1/2 size up makes the difference. The Links fit my foot well and the width was comfortable. Immediately I noticed the heel cushion and foot bed felt very cozy. The laces took some adjusting and I don't actually like tying my shoes. I like to slip them on and off and usually just leave the laces tucked inside the shoe somewhere...even when riding. I was able to get the Links dialed in and even without snugging them up, they felt secure.
     I was aware the shoes were filled with technology which was specific to mountain biking and the outdoors, but I didn't remember specifics. At first glance, however, the materials and construction appeared to be top-notch. There is a fairly 'rubbery' overall feel to the shoe, but the shoes seemed very pliable and flexible in all the right places out of the box. The sole definitely had a stickier feel than a normal shoe, but would it be sticky enough for riding? Time would tell.


Travel Day
     My Links got a crash course in media life as I took them out of the box and left for Crankworx Whistler the next morning. If I could survive wearing brand new shoes all day on a plane and then throughout Crankworx with riding and course hiking, I would be a happy camper.
     So heres' the thing, I have smelly feet. It's true, I do. I can wear a brand new pair of shoes and get some funk going after just one, long day. Because of all the waterproofness and rubbery materials in the Links, I thought my stank factor would be high by the end of a 10 hour travel day. Surprisingly, when I arrived to my room late that first night and kicked off the Links, my feet were as fresh as a daisy and my room mate wasn't running for cover. Jumping ahead, the shoes remained considerably less smelly than what I'm used to after the week at Crankworx, too. I don't know if that's something Teva has done with the materials, but I was pleasantly surprised.

In the Dirt and On the Bike
It was pouring rain at Crankworx, but my crew and I were bound and determined to go ride. Besides flip flops, the only shoes I brought on the trip were the Links. I was apprehensive to get them soaked on the first day, but was way more stoked to go ride. Needless to say, the Links got soaked by rain and mud immediately.
     The grip on the shoes, even in the wet, felt just right to me. Though the rubber does not feel as sticky as Stealth rubber, I believe the sole's pattern combined with Teva's Spider365 rubber makes a perfect match, especially for bike park riding. I was on an all-mountain bike for a good portion of runs at Whistler and even in braking bumps and chunder with shorter travel, I never felt my feet moving around the pedals too much. Adjusting my foot on the pedal seemed easier than with my Five Tens, but my feet never bounced off, out of control. In the most aggressive DH situations, those of you used Stealth rubber shoes may feel a little under-gunned, but I never felt I need more traction on the pedals, and it was wet a lot of the time I rode that week.
     Remember the part about being wet that first day? Lift rides up were freezing, goggles were filthy, gloves were dripping, but I noticed something...my feet felt dry and were definitely toasty. It was nuts. I'm used to riding in the rain and having my shoes weigh an extra 20lbs by the end of the day because they've soaked up half the moisture on the mountain. The Links made my day and I think the guys I was riding with got tired of me exclaiming how warm my feet were. I was completely surprised and when I got back to the room, I looked at the technology in the Links further. The Ion-mask Teva uses sure seemed to work. Teva claims the shoe materials won't absorb water with this treatment and remarkably, they are not kidding. If you ride in wet conditions often, this should be the first flat pedal shoe you consider. They stood out that much.
     The Shoc Pad in the heel cup was welcome, as I had to stomp out a couple of fires while slipping and sliding the wet Whistler conditions. On the photo-nerd end of things, the hiking grip of the shoes is pretty interesting. There are a couple of lugs on the toes to help you claw your way up hills, but there are also reverse lugs on the heel Teva calls the E-Brake. These little gems keep you from looping out if you're hiking down the mountain, something a photo-nerd knows all too well. Additionally, as I waited on the side of the Crankworx slopestyle course in the same spot for about 2 hours, hoping to catch Anthony Messere blasting the quarter pipe, the Shoc Pad came in handy again. I went home that evening with feet that felt supported, not flat and aching.

Conclusion
Since the Crankworx shredfest, I have had a decent number of days riding in the Links and all reports on the shoe are positive. While I hesitate to give a true long-term condition report (it's only been a couple of months), the shoes are still looking very good (I've ridden in the dry every day since Whistler). The soles are in great shape (I run Easton flat pedals with set screws, not the smoother pins, and I have not torn up the shoes at all) and I see no signs of major wear or malfunction. The Links even still stink less than some of my newer shoes and seem to run a bit cooler than the Five Tens or Vans that I'd normally run. In fact, I haven't ridden in any other shoes since receiving the Links. Lenosky, McCaul, Sorge and the Teva design and science guys...kudos for making a shoe that is truly ready for real mountain biking.

Teva Links Details
-Price: $100
-Sizes: 7-14
-Spider365 Rubber sole
-Aggressive tread designs at the toe and heel for hiking.
-Teva E-Brake in the heel features a reverse lug pattern to give you downhill traction when you’re off your bike. (photo dorks, take note of this feature!)
-Rigid heel stabilizer centers foot in the shoe.
-Ion-mask™ technology actually prevents the materials in this shoe from absorbing any water on a molecular level.
-Waterproof materials throughout the shoe for easy cleaning.
-Rubberized grid over the toe area is a breathable armor that prevents puncture or ripping.
-Leather and mesh upper.
-Shoc Pad™ in the heel for cushion.
-Extra padding upper.
-Strong plastic wraps around the back of the shoe to protect your heel.
-Elastic gores on the tongue give you a snug fit.
-Mush® Infused Insole for comfort.
Visit Teva.com for more info

Teva Links in the Blue/Yellow 'Lunar Rock' color option. (source: Teva.com)
The Teva Pinner Shoe, an Alternative to the Links
If you're on a budget or don't need such a technical shoe, check out the Teva Pinner. It has the same Spider365 rubber sole as the Links, but comes in at $80 and has a more-subtle look about it. You won't get the Ion-mask, so think twice if you ride a lot in the wet. Visit Teva.com for info on the Pinner shoe.

Another MTB option from Teva is the Pinner shoe. At only $80, it features the same sole as the Links, is a little more subtle in color, but does not feature the Ion Mask and some of the other tech features that the Links has.
Jeff Lenosky talks about developing the Teva Links MTB Shoe
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In my other shoes, I may have wussed out and sat down with sore feet, missing the video I waited two hour to get, Anthony Messere mega blasting. Thanks Teva Links!
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