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Reviews > Footwear > Sandals > Sperry Topsider H20 Bungee Sneaker > Test Report by Richard Lyon
SPERRY TOP-SIDER H2O ESCAPE BUNGEE SNEAKER
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report July 6, 2014
Field Report September 16, 2014
Long Term Report November 14. 2014
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 67 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (89 kg)
Shoe size: US 13
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Bozeman, Montana USA
I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Summer adventures are often on centered on fly fishing opportunities.
INITIAL REPORT - July 6, 2014
Sperry Top-Sider, a venerable maker of boating shoes, lists the H20 Escape Bungee Sneaker in its Water Sports category. These are full shoes that envelop the foot entirely, with an insole, rubber sole, heel cup, and gusseted tongue. The upper is made of a flexible rubber and the shoe (sneaker, if you prefer) is cinched up by a bungee-type elastic cord with two sliders that weaves through three vertical fabric loops and a single eyelet at the top. The upper portion of each shoe is pockmarked with ventilation mesh. Unlike Sperry's iconic Top-Sider boating shoe, the sole has a grip on the heel, as pictured below.
Manufacturer: Sperry Top-Sider, www.sperrytopsider.com
Size tested: Men's 13 US. Also available in half sizes from Men's 7 through 12. Medium width.
Color: Navy. Also available in Gray/Camo and Orange/Blue
Weight, measured: 10.0 oz (283 g) per shoe. [Note: As explained in the following section I had no opportunity to weigh the shoes out of the box. I did wash and dry them before placing them on the scale, so the measured weight shouldn't include much wilderness dirt.]
Related product: A Women's version is available in different (brighter) colors, in half sizes from Women's 6 through 10.
MSRP: $90 US
TRYING THEM OUT
These shoes arrived, quite literally, as I was leaving home for a backpacking trip. I met the delivery truck at the foot of my driveway, tossed the box into the back of the car, and at the trailhead put the shoes in my pack in place of a different pair of water shoes. I used the shoes as camp shoes, fishing shoes, and for water crossings on a five-day service trip along the Benchmark, Deer Creek, and Bighead Trails in and adjacent to the southeastern portion of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. The first two days had spotty weather, with frequent brief rain squalls, followed by three days of true Montana summer - sunny and bright. Temperatures from just below freezing at night to about 80 F (27 C) on the last few days.
Fit. These shoes fit my feet very snugly, requiring a slight tugging to pull them over my heel. I see this as a plus, likely to prevent unwanted objects such as pebbles from finding their way inside. I also like the Medium width. I have skinny ankles and often have a problem with heel movement in athletic shoes. So far I have not had that problem with the Escapes.
There's enough give in the rubber to permit wearing them with heavy socks, which I did on the service trip around camp and which I'll likely do when fishing for extended periods. On my brief fishing episodes in the Sun River (after all, this was a work trip) I didn't get any sand or pebbles underfoot.
Comfort. Our campsite, on a bank of the South Fork of the Sun River, held a mixture of grass, weeds, thistles, and many rocks. The soles of the Escapes protected my soles quite well from all elements underfoot and, unlike sandals, gave the top of my feet some defense against the nettles and thorns as I walked through tall grass or weeds.
Ventilation is adequate but not great. When wearing the Escapes in the sun my feet did warm up, but not to the point of discomfort. The Escapes dry quickly once out of the water, and their tight fit prevents abrasion from rubber rubbing against bare skin.
Water ran through the shoes as I stream-walked. The underside of the insole has channels that funnel water through small holes in the shoe's base (see photo at right), and there's really no place for water to accumulate between my foot and the insole or side.
Grip. This is my acid test for any water shoes, and the Escapes came through admirably. We had a stream crossing on our route to camp, and had to cross Deer Creek one day to reach our work site. The Escapes handled the almost-solid rocky stream bottom without a slip and performed similarly well on the wet banks of the Sun near camp.
Care. I hosed the Escapes down upon my return from the service trip and left them to dry in the sun. A bit of dirt clung to the soles, but I easily removed that with slight pressure from a wire brush.
WHAT I LIKE
Nearly everything. The fit most of all. It feels almost like a pair of socks with rubber soles.
WHAT I DON'T
My feet get a bit warm in the sun.
FIELD REPORT - September 16, 2014
Backpacking use has been limited to overnight trips in the Absaroka Range, Montana, and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Temperatures ranged from just below freezing to about 85 F (30 C). Weather was typical this year's Montana summer - sunny days followed by cool nights. On my backpacking trips I wore the Escapes once we reached our campsite, without socks until the sun went behind the mountains, then with socks until starting the hike out the next morning.
The Escapes have seen much more duty as water shoes, on fishing days beginning in mid-August and on water crossings on the overnight trips and several day hikes in the Absaroka. Almost always good weather, though of course the shoes got drenched when I stepped into the water. I wore no socks on water crossings but almost always did when fishing - trout like cold water and midweight or heavier wool socks keep my feet from getting numb.
The Escapes have retained their tight but comfortable fit after maybe twenty days' use despite no special treatment. (Indeed the opposite is more the norm. These shoes have been jammed into a daypack, left wet in a dank duffel bag, and washed only once. "Abuse" is not too strong a word for the treatment they have received.) I can detect no fraying of the uppers, no separation of rubber pieces, no loss of elasticity, and no other visible deterioration. They still grip my feet firmly, with no room for foot movement and thus no means of blister-causing abrasion. The fabric uppers flex sufficiently to accommodate even heavy socks. I'd say the fit remains my favorite aspect of these shoes. The give in the fabric and the adjustable bungee laces mean the same functional and comfortable fit with or without socks.
As noted the Escapes have replaced closed-toe sandals as my camp shoes this summer. In this service the adjustable feature allows a comfortable fit in the sunlight, when I normally wear them without socks, or in the mornings and evening, when I don dry socks for warmth. As expected the Escapes do not allow my feet to ventilate as well as sandals, though wicking is great. The shoes dry out very quickly after I step out of the water. In warmer temperatures, say above 80 F (27 C), my feet can get a bit warm. I'll take the tradeoff of this minor irritation in return for a fully protected foot and the Escapes' great fit and grip.
Stream crossings and especially summer fishing have given me ample opportunity to test the Escapes' soles' gripping ability on wet ground and rocks. I rate this nothing short of amazing, as good as any water shoes I've ever worn (and that includes a pair of fishing sandals designed by a leading flyfishing manufacturer). This was particularly apparent when fishing two days on the very aptly named Boulder River near Big Timber, Montana. Access to many of the fishing holes required wading into above-the-knee deep running water standing almost entirely on a mess of slippery rocks. More than once there in prior summers have I slipped and fallen, but not this summer. I consider the risk of slipping greater when fishing than when hiking. Not only is everything wet, but I'm concentrating on a cast and not on my foothold. Even if I never wear the Escapes around camp they will be a permanent fixture in my warm-weather fishing kit.
I washed the Escapes once, almost as an afterthought. I was giving a couple of tents a bath in Mirazyme, an anti-mildew product, and tossed the Escapes and their removable insoles (separated) into the tub. After a good soak and an hour drying in the sun all accumulated debris was gone. I hadn't noticed an odor before but there certainly was none afterward.
The Escapes have performed well as camp shoes and superbly as water shoes.
LONG TERM REPORT - November 14, 2014
I wore the Escapes, with wool socks, for fishing on five or six days in early October, in temperatures of 70-80 F (21-27 C) under sunny skies. On fishing days I usually don the Escapes at the river, changing from sandals or hiking shoes when I begin fishing and then changing back when ready to hike out or drive home. On one occasion, an easy three-mile (5 km) hike along Cottonwood Creek near Bozeman, I wore them on the entire hike out, as fishing opportunities required some bushwhacking among various stretches of pocket water and continuous changes of footwear would have taken too much time away from angling. Our lovely Indian summer fled the first weekend in November, demanding waders and neoprene socks for fishing and relegating the Escapes to one dayhike with a creek crossing. This I accomplished without socks, at about 50 F(10 C).
An early cold spell that coincided with my most recent backpack and a forced route change limited use of the Escapes. The route change was from the Bechler River and Boundary Creek trails in Yellowstone National Park, which has two serious fords, to Slough Creek, in a different section of the Park, a route that follows but does not cross its namesake. The daytime temperatures didn't get above 50 F (10 C) and it was very windy. Slough Creek is one of the great cutthroat trout streams in the world, and I had packed the Escapes for fishing and camp shoe duty. Given the weather I hesitated to wade, as I didn't want cold wet feet around camp in the evening. I did do some wading on our last morning, at 40 F (4 C) in pursuit of the wily trout, changing into dry socks and hiking shoes for our five-mile (8 km) hike out. We hiked slowly, as our senior camper was in his 80s, and took about three hours to return to the trailhead. I had strapped the Escapes to the outside of my pack and they were completely dry by the time we reached the car.
The Escapes have performed comparably to what I reported in my Field Report - that is, extremely well. I have detected no loss of gripping ability in the soles. They are easy to put on or take off, whether or not I'm wearing socks. So far I've had no blisters develop, even on the day hike on which I wore the Escapes as hiking shoes. They dry very quickly, especially when I am wearing them. I really like the bungee-style laces. There are no knots to come untied or sandal straps to work loose and then grab onto brush or get stuck between rocks, meaning the fit stays the same and I'm not stumbling. They also provide ready-made loops for threading compression straps through when I'm ready to attach them to my pack. (In fact, that may be where they spend the winter - see photo.) The toggles that tighten these loops are easy to adjust with one hand.
The design and materials used in the Escapes allows a steady flow of water through them when I'm wading. The tight fit doesn't allow pebbles to get inside, eliminating my biggest complaint with the closed-toe, Persian-type sandals that the Escapes replaced.
Camp shoe use has been somewhat limited but performance entirely satisfactory. With the insoles the Escapes have enough underfoot to blunt a sharp rock or spiky nettle, and the grip is great on grass, dirt, and forest duff. In the evening the fact that they are warmer than sandals is a plus. On the Slough Creek backpack our camp was a sea of white each morning. Somewhat to my surprise the Escapes didn't get soaked from walking through the frost-crusted, calf-high grass.
Durability and care also rate praise. While perhaps the Escapes show a bit of fading, there's been no deterioration in performance, most notably in the soles' great grip on wet rocks. Cleaning is dead simple - a quick rinse with the garden hose at home or a dunking in moving water along the stream. In camp I have removed the insoles at bedtime to air them out overnight, but I'm not sure that's really necessary. So far I've nosed no unpleasant odors from shoes or insoles.
WHAT I LIKE
Best grip on wet rocks that I've ever experienced
Terrific fit, with or without socks. A perfect complement to my narrow ankles.
Easy to put on, take off, and look after
In warmer weather they can make my feet a bit warm
This completes my Test Report. I hope it's apparent from what I've written above that these will be my water shoes from now on. My thanks to Sperry Top-Sider and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity.
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