Bedrock Cairn Adventure Review
Cons: Not best for high arches
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Upon first inspection, the Bedrock Cairn Adventure might seem like a goofy, wannabe-thong type sandal not suited for extended trail use. You may even think that it caters only to barefoot enthusiasts. These are both valid first impressions, perhaps warranted by the Cairn's unconventional design. However, it takes just a quick jaunt up your favorite trail to prove that these sandals are fully committed to getting after it. We were curious about how the Cairn would compare to both beefier models and minimalist models alike. After months of testing, our testers agree that the Cairn outperforms both heavier and lighter models in almost any scenario.
After some initial skepticism, we were impressed by the ability of the Cairn to provide enough comfort amidst most conditions with such thin and lightweight construction. The unique strap configuration allows the user to find a highly customized fit as well as easily make micro-adjustments on the fly. Combining a plugless toe loop, 3/4-inch webbing, and a reinforced ankle strap, this sandal perfectly blends the open-air breathability of a flip-flop with the security of a proper sport sandal. The result is a minimalist design that eliminates hotspots and maximizes adjustability no matter the activity or foot type.
Comfort is gained not only from straps and toe loops but also from quality footbed materials and ergonomic shapes. The Cairn Adventure has a durable midsole material with no heel-to-toe drop, meaning that it is more or less flat. This might seem like a bummer to folks with high arches or feet that require more support. However, our testing proved that this sandal is capable of providing ample support and comfort to a wide variety of foot types. The rigidity of the footbed also aids in protection from harsh terrain. The true beauty yields a thinner footbed/midsole construction that is firm and with proper adjustment, you can get the entire sole to form around the contours of your foot.
Overall, we are satisfied with the less-is-more attitude of the Cairn. Its effective design is simple and functional. Only when compared to thicker shoes are pointy rocks and harsh terrain felt in this sandal. While not as protective and comfortable as other sandals with thicker, cushier, and more supportive footbeds, the Cairn provides a suitable blend of lightweight comfort, thin soles, and a customizable fit.
Straight out of the box, you can tell that the Vibram XS Trek outsole means business. The hard rubber and aggressive tread patterns on the Cairn gave us the immediate confidence to bring this shoe into more rugged terrain. Whether ascending, descending, or scrambling on wet rocks, the sporty Regolith outsole pattern with its deep tread design provides an excellent grip on even the most unforgiving surfaces.
In addition to the savage trail bite provided by the outsole, we are also impressed by the footbed material. The midsole layer is a softer but still robust rubber material that features a micro-diamond pattern that helps keep your foot secure in wet or dusty conditions. The extra footbed grip was appreciated since the thong-inspired straps could sometimes cause our feet to creep forward on steep descents compared to some other models with more substantial and supportive strap systems.
This is one of the lowest scoring metrics for the Cairn, but it still provides surprisingly capable stability for such a thin and lightweight package. That said, the wide-open and free-feeling thong style of this minimalist design does come at the slight cost of reduced stability. We more-or-less expected this from the zero-drop offerings in our review; not excluding the Cairn. However, not all is lost thanks to Bedrock's thoughtful design cues. The custom fit and rigid sole provide stability in the shoe but not more than walking barefoot on flat hard surfaces.
While there is virtually no arch support on the Cairn, it does feature "wings" on either side of the foot, which work in conjunction with the ankle strap and over-the-foot webbing. These wings are an extension of the stiff rubber sole that keeps the foot in place by hugging the instep. While this doesn't make up for the lack of arch support or around-the-foot security, it does provide a much more stable experience when the going gets tough. Combined with three separate points of adjustment and a grippy footbed, the Cairn earns a respectable amount of stability — especially when compared to other lower-scoring minimalist models.
The Cairn Adventure stands out and impresses as one of the most adjustable sandals that we tested. Our only qualm is the slight initial learning curve of dialing in the right fit due to its unique strap design. The heel strap is doubled-back and secures with velcro while the two straps running over the forefoot have independently adjustable securement straps. The inside of the foot features a hook and series of miniature webbing loops capable of varying the width or landing the toe strap in the most optimal position. Used more frequently is the buckle strap that runs on the outside of the foot, which tightens the adjoined pieces of webbing for a snug fit.
While tricky at first, we were ultimately very pleased with the unique adjustment scheme of this sandal. The three points of adjustment each serve a unique purpose that, when used in harmony, provide a highly customizable fit. The ability to adjust each of the three-point independently is a win. Most sandals have one of two length adjustments and require shifting of webbing through loops to distribute it evenly. While many other contenders employ three points of adjustment, they don't provide the same amount of security or mobility as the Cairn. Once the fit is dialed in, the Cairn doesn't shift between uses. The velcro, hook adjustment points, and the buckle strap allows for faster adjustment times and quicker removal as well.
With go-anywhere traction, highly secure webbing straps, and a minimalist profile that can easily fit inside a pack, the Cairn is no doubt one of the most versatile and adaptable shoes in this lineup. The sporty yet low-profile design gave our testers the confidence to crush trail miles or span rocky rivers while also scoring enough style points to saunter into town after a big multi-sport day. Whether we were jogging, scrambling, skating, or swimming, we felt comfortable and at home in this sandal.
Beware: the thong-style toe strap on this sandal will prevent you from donning the ever-dubious socks and sandals look. If you can't go without socks, there is an option to purchase a specialized split-toe sock designed just for this scenario. If this is a deal-breaker for you, then we suggest you look at other models with wrap or overlap style strap systems that will accommodate you wearing your regular woolies. Overall, we believe you'll find the Cairn to be highly adaptable to a wide variety of conditions and activities.
With one of the higher list prices in the lineup, the Cairn doesn't automatically qualify as an "affordable" sandal. However, we think that this price point is a tremendous value for the quality and performance you will get out of this shoe, especially with the high-quality Vibram outsole, which is one of the best we've ever tested on a sandal. While not the least expensive model by any stretch, there are certainly pricier models that do much less than this one.
It didn't take long for the Bedrock Cairn Adventure to stick out as a favorite among our testers, and it's been difficult for any other model to displace it from its Editors' Choice throne. Reputable sole construction, quality design, and a highly adjustable yet low-profile webbing system give Cairn an edge on the competition. In the end, this sandal was favored in nearly every metric, earning it the highest overall score and the highest level of satisfaction with our testers. We challenge you to find something Cairn isn't good at.
— Jacob Clark & Nick Bruckbauer
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