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Reviews > Footwear > Sandals > Sperry Topsider H20 Bungee Sneaker > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
Product Information Back to contents
Product Description Back to contents
The Sperry Top-Sider H20 Escape Bungee Sneakers are a very light slip-on water shoe. The sole has what Sperry calls Adaptive Wave-Siping which is supposed to offer traction on both wet and dry surfaces. The top of the shoe has several mesh-like areas designed to allow water to exit. There are also solid areas of material protecting parts of the heel area, the toe and the attachment points for the bungee laces. There is stretchy material around the ankle and along what would be the tongue at the top of the arch to facilitate putting on and taking off the sneaker. The laces adjust via a cord-lock and clip. On the inside of the shoe there is a removable foot bed. There are many small holes and ten slender channels etched into the underside of the insert. These are designed to direct water away from the underside of the foot bed and into built-in "Internal Water Channels". These channels run the length of the midsole with exit points on both sides of the heel section and the toe box. A lightweight permeable lining covers the base of the midsole to keep debris out of the channels and exit holes.
Arrival Condition and Informational Material Back to contents
The H20 Escape Sneakers arrived in perfect condition. After an initial inspection I did not find any manufacturing defects or any other areas of concern that would need to be addressed before testing could begin.
There wasn't any informational
material included with this product.
Expectations and First Impressions Back to contents
They fit! Like many women, I'm afflicted with an unexplainable love for shoes. Sadly I often have a hard time finding properly fitting ones because I have a long, narrow foot. To accommodate my length I often have to buy men's which often end up being too wide. In this case the women's Escape Sneakers topped out at size 10, I am an 11, so I was stuck with the men's option. Fortunately, the Sperry webpage offers a sizing guide that compares their products to other brands so the buyer can hopefully get a more accurate size reading. It appears to have worked well in my case. The shoes are a little wide in the toe area but I do plan to wear them with socks most of the time so I'm not expecting any problems.
Having worn them around a bit already without socks I can see there will need to be a break-in period. After a few hours I noticed tender spots developing on both of my heels. I'm not overly worried about this as it's pretty normal with shoes of any kind but if it continues longer than what seems reasonable I'll make a note about it in my Field Report.
They are indeed very light as the website suggests. I was pleased with this aspect because obviously once something is wet it gets heavier and the last thing I want in a water shoe is something that makes me feel like I'm slogging around ten pounds extra on each foot.
My only concerns about these shoes at this time are how securely the bungee cords will be able to keep the sneakers on my feet and how well they will hold up to the rocky nature of our streams and creeks. Beyond that they seem well made and have a ton of potential so I'm looking forward to getting outside with them.
Since July I have used the Sperry Top-Sider H20 Escape Bungee Sneakers weekly while working, for day hikes to lakes and in and out of creeks and to our local water park with my kids. To date they have been worn in the field 22 times. Use times varied between 4 and 10 hours. Below are some of my more notable trips.
Hiking and water play at Bartlett Lake, near Cave Creek, Arizona, elevation 1,600 ft (490 m). The surrounding terrain is Upper and Lower Sonoran Desert with somewhat course sand and granite pebbles near the water's edge. Weather was overcast with temperatures in the high 90's F (36 C). The picture on the right is from this trip, which was my first water test.
Three day trip for hiking, creek exploration and fishing in Prescott, AZ. We were in several places but the average elevation was around 6,000 ft (1,800 m). The dominant terrain is pine forest interspersed with high chaparral. Weather was mostly clear in the daytime with thunderstorms bringing light rain in the afternoons/evenings. Temperatures ranged from 94 F to 62 F (34 to 17 C).
Hiking and water play in Cave Creek, near Cave Creek, AZ, elevation 2,300 ft (700 m). Getting to the creek requires hiking through Sonoran Desert terrain, in and around the creek it's muddy, rocky and sandy. This area was visited twice in Aug. and once in Sept. Weather in Aug. was clear with temps in the upper 80's F (31 C). In Sept. the weather was overcast with temperatures a few degrees cooler.
Rainy day hike near New River, AZ, elevation 2,300 ft (700 m). This was a
work hike along a desert trail/wash to a perennial spring. Terrain is rocky,
sandy and peppered with many types of cacti. Weather was cloudy with a decent
down pour for the last half hour of our walk. The temperature was around 82
F (28 C).
Field Notes Back to contents
In the conditions I've been wearing the Sperry Top-Sider H20 Escape Bungee Sneakers they've performed fabulously with one exception, blisters. I should qualify that statement by saying with socks the sneakers were spot on. Without, I've had trouble, primarily on my heels. The worst occurrence of this happened on the day I wore them to our local water park. My feet were wet continuously for about 8 hours with lots of walking. By day's end I had hot spots on a few of my toes and a blister on each heel. Prior to this trip I had worn the sneakers for three consecutive days while fishing/hiking in Prescott, AZ. On those outings I used a pair of wool hiking socks in conjunction with the Sperry's resulting in no issues with blisters or hot spots whatsoever.
While in Prescott I also discovered the sneakers do pretty well with steep terrain. Prescott is quite hilly so getting into and staying in the creek we were exploring involved lots of ups and downs both on trails and off. Although the Sperry sneakers do not provide ankle support, the traction was more than I expected, giving me quite a lot of confidence to scramble in and out of the creek as needed. The rocks in the creek were occasionally covered in algae but the shoes dealt with that as well. I remained sure-footed, which is to say, dry through our entire day of exploration.
Following my trip to Bartlett Lake, which has a very pebbly shoreline, I
noticed most of the tiny holes in the inserts were clogged. Because I was
wearing the sneakers with socks I couldn't feel the pebbles so they didn't
affect my comfort but they certainly weren't easy to remove. Even with pressure
from my backyard hose most of the tiny stones had to be picked out of the
foamy inserts by hand or poked out with a toothpick. For this task I was glad
the inserts were removable. It was nice to be able to leave them out so the
insides of the shoes could be completely rinsed and dried as well.
The removable inserts do present another unforeseen negative, however. I noticed when taking my feet out of the Sperry sneakers while they are dry and I'm not wearing socks the inserts always pull out too. This is for now just a slight annoyance but I'm noticing more and more wear and tear on the inserts each time they are pulled out that way. They are after all just foam and I wonder how long they can take the stress without damage.
My biggest concern about the Sperry Top-Sider Sneakers when they first arrived
was the bungee cord tightening option. I haven't personally had good luck
with water shoes staying put when they employ a cordlock. Well so far my concerns
have been for not. I've completely submerged these shoes on several occasions
into some pretty thick mud and they've resurfaced still attached to my feet
each time. I haven't even really had to cinch them down tightly yet so I'm
very excited about their usability in inhospitable conditions. The picture
on the right is one of the many muddy dunkings these shoes have endured.
Pros and Cons Thus Far Back to contents
*Zero break-in needed when worn with socks
*Have had some blisters when using them without socks
Collective Use and Field Conditions Back to contents
In the last two months of this test I was able to use the Sperry Top-Sider H20 Escape Bungee Sneakers ten more times for an overall total of 32 days in the field. Seven of these outings were in the Phoenix, Arizona area, taking place on mostly dry dirt/rocky trails with only two or three creek crossings. The other three excursions involved more extensive use of the sneakers so I've provided more details regarding these field conditions below.
Day hike and fishing trip to the Verde River near Fountain Hills, AZ, elevation 1,500 ft (460 m). The day was clear with temperatures between 84 and 75 F (29 and 24 C). I was wearing the Sperry Sneakers for about 7 hours, at least 5 of those while standing or walking in the river.
Two-hour day hike along Skunk Creek in Peoria, AZ, elevation 1,200 ft (360 C). The area where I walk is a mix of natural creek bed and concrete water channels surrounded by desert flora. This particular day was slightly overcast with temps in the upper 80's (31 C).
Afternoon/evening hike through Sabino Canyon in Tucson, AZ. Elevation runs
between 2,800 ft up to 3,300 ft (850 m to1,000 m). Three hours of hiking on
dirt track, in and out of the creek and on paved paths. The average temp was
about 75 F (24 C).
I think it's fair to say Sperry Top-Sider did not create the H20 Escape Bungee Sneakers with the dry, dusty trails of the Sonoran Desert in mind. Given that assumption, I'm happy to say these shoes have performed pretty well. Nearly all the trips on which I've used these sneakers have started a few miles from the water, resulting in lots of opportunities to evaluate whether or not the soles would provide sufficient protection against the numerous species of cactus and other spiny plants we have in abundance here. On several occasions spines would stick into the side wall of the shoe or the underside but only once did I feel it through the bottom of the sole. The top of the shoe was a different story. Obviously, the same mesh material that's crucial for allowing the water to escape, easily allows other objects to poke through. I don't consider this a negative of the shoes, just a necessary limitation that changes the way I will use them in the future.
With regard to performance on our rocky trails and boulder strewn creek beds, again, I really think the sneakers did a decent job. One advantage of shoes over most sandals is toe protection. The Sperry's do not have much of a toe cap, but the area of material they do have was enough to keep my toes safe when I inadvertently banged into things. On the bottom of my feet I could certainly feel some of the more jagged stones through the soles as I walked, but not so much as to be troublesome or painful. Wearing them with socks negated my sensitivity to the hardness of the ground even more.
On algae covered rocks or muddy areas the sneakers really shined. For comparison I hiked the same track of river one week apart with the sneakers one day and my hiking boots the next. As best I could, I attempted to navigate basically the same route both times. The Sperry H20 Escape Bungee Sneakers were definitely better. I actually think the lighter more flexible make-up of the water shoes provided better traction by allowing more of my foot to wrap around the rocks.
Durability-wise the sneakers are hanging in there. Although I feel like I've been kind of rough on them, the mesh portions of the shoes are totally intact. No rips or snag points. The soles are worn down some but still have a lot of life left in them. There is one very small section of the blue sole tearing away from the white footbed on my left shoe. (Hopefully you can see that in the picture.) This is just behind the point where my toes naturally bend.
The insoles are also still holding up, for how much longer I can't say. They now permanently have tiny pebbles imbedded in the drainage holes and the bend point at my toes is cracked a little. I do try to wash the shoes out after each use to remove debris and keep them clean but I've given up on the tedious task of attempting to clear all the little drain holes. It's far too time consuming and since I only wear the sneakers with socks now, I don't usually notice those small gravelly bits.
There have been a few occasions, like my Tucson trip, where I failed to wash
out the shoes immediately upon returning to our hotel. They actually sat in
a plastic bag in the back of my car with three other pairs of wet shoes for
about 12 hrs. I was expecting the shoes to smell a bit funky the next day
but surprisingly they did not. Despite having never used soap to clean the
shoes or anything other than hose water and my hand they remain relatively
sharp looking and have retained very little odor overall.
Final Thoughts Back to contents
The Sperry Top-Sider H20 Escape Bungee Sneakers have been a mostly comfortable go-to option for all the wet environments where I've used them. Once I solved the blister issue by simply wearing socks on every outing I was very happy with their fit. In the field they proved to be very reliable and offered excellent traction. The protection factor wasn't too bad. Given the rocky and spiky terrain in the desert and the light weight make up of these water shoes, I think they performed relatively well, although, I'm sure this type of use is cutting their lifespan down considerably. Choosing traction over protection was a bit of a trade-off for sure but one I'm not unhappy with. I think going forward I will plan to pack them into the areas where I need water shoes instead of wearing them in.
It's been a fun test, causing me to choose outings with more water features
and they were all very rewarding. Thank you Sperry Top-Sider and BackpackGearTest.org
for the opportunity to be a part of this test series.
Jamie J. DeBenedetto - 2014
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