Before having a kid, I never knew how complicated it could be to buy new shoes. Each time my son grows out of a pair (how did he do it so fast?) or destroys them (again, so fast!), I wind up doing some kind of algebraic equation: What size he is now + how fast he will grow in the next six months – playground games involving dirt piles / chances his favorite color will still be turquoise in that time = how much I'm willing to spend. But when we're talking about the coming fall with its unpredictable weather changes, then I have to take into account buying multiple pairs for rain, shine, mud, cold, and random heat waves. This is all to say that when I learned sneaker brand Vessi was making waterproof shoes for kids, I wondered if it would mean I could learn some new math this year.
Parents, you probably also know this dilemma: What kind of shoes do you send them to school wearing when there's a chance of rain and sun? This is especially puzzling if your kids' schools have embraced the philosophy of "play outside until the weather is death threatening." Rain boots are fun and all, but they're terrible for gym class and can get so hot and gross when it's not actually raining. Sending them with two pairs would be a nightmare for the teacher and a recipe for lost shoes. Waterproof sneakers sound like a brilliant compromise.
How We Tested Vessi Sneakers
I'm a sucker for Instagram ads, so the images I'd seen of people wearing Vessi sneakers and splashing through picturesque creeks tempted me in the past. But no one should just take the brand's word for it that these shoes keep your socks dry. My 8-year-old and I did the mommy-and-me thing and got a matching pair of Vessi Weekend sneakers in Taro (purple) and put them through the ringer for a week. He wore them for 30+ hours of outdoor day camp in our park in Brooklyn, through wet grass, dust, and mud. I tested mine for approximately 20 hours, including three hours of volunteer work standing up and two long walks through the rain from Hurricane Henri.
Are Vessi Sneakers Comfortable?
The sneakers are made from Dyma-tex, Vessi's patented knit material that purports to be both waterproof and breathable. The truth is, you may suspect it's neither, since the outside of the sneaker looks too breathable to be waterproof and the inside looks like a thick, warm sock. I worried they'd be too hot for an August day, and I even thought the kid was just parroting something he read about the shoes when he declared them to be "cooling" to his feet on his first day wearing them. But he wasn't making it up—even on a 90-degree day, they didn't feel hot.
We both noticed right away that the insoles were supportive—a rare feature in kids' sneakers—and the outsoles were extra cushiony. Through long walks in the park, my feet continued to feel bouncy and energized. During that aforementioned three-hour volunteer shift (stocking groceries at my local co-op), my back and arches were great.
Sabrina Rojas Weiss
My kid's Vessis came with no-tie lace toggles, for which I'm forever grateful on mornings when we're running late (all of the mornings). Mine tied, but the shoes are stretchy enough to slip on and off without untying.
A note on sizing: Vessi does not make half sizes for their shoes. The company recommends sizing down, meaning a size 7 for my size 7-1/2 feet. Personally, I found it more comfortable to size up to an 8. If you're not sure, order both sizes and send one back, like I did. Returns are free, as long as you haven't worn them outside!
Waterproof Sneakers Are Waterproof
We started off testing the sneakers in the wet grass, which, when we're wearing our typical Nikes, leaves our socks soaked after five minutes. My son spent all day in his Vessis and his socks were completely dry the whole time. After getting a bit of mud on mine on day two, I hosed them off while wearing them, and I, too, still had dry socks.
The real test for my shoes came over the weekend, when I failed to beat the tropical weather and found myself walking for several city blocks in a downpour. Yes, my socks got a little wet, because water gets in from the top when you're drowned-rat-level soaked, but the bottom of my feet were actually the driest part of my body when I got home. By the next day, my sneakers were dry again, and I wore them in lighter rain. The result: They really worked as well as rain boots during normal bad-weather conditions.
Vessi Sneakers Are Easy to Clean
My kid was not wearing his Vessis during the storm because his shoes were undergoing a different test: How should we clean off what looked like a year's worth of dirt, which he'd somehow accumulated over five days? Their lavender color is not meant for camouflaging so much grime. But since these are machine-washable sneakers, I wasn't too worried. The instructions say to remove the laces and insoles before placing them with the sneakers into a delicates bag and washing them in the machine with cold water and mild detergent on the gentle cycle. I did so, but this Brooklyn dirt was a little more stubborn than my machine could handle, so I did a bit more handwashing and used a shoe brush to get the midsole white. At last, they were as good as new—something I've never managed to do with my son's sneakers before.
Sabrina Rojas Weiss
Hosing off my own sneakers right after they got dirty was easy and effective, so I think in the future, I'll wash the kid's Vessis the same way. This will probably save water, and the inner part of the sneaker can stay dry during the process. I'll save machine washing for when they get stinky.
Should You Buy Vessi Sneakers?
So now we're back to the math: The regular price of a pair of Vessi kids' sneakers, $85, is a bit higher than my normal calculations deem rational. But these are actually more like two pairs of shoes in one. If I were to buy him new sneakers and new rain boots, I'd be spending even more money. I feel the same way about the adult versions. These waterproof sneakers are going to be doing the work of multiple pairs for both of us all season long. Maybe we'll be extra nice and let his dad into the matching Vessi club, too.