Vessi Footwear: A Seattle Dad Review

90 days of wear and 5 key tests in the quest for the best waterproof everyday shoe

Not sure if you’ve heard, but it rains a lot in Seattle.   And with young kids to entertain, lawns to maintain, trash to take out, ski lessons to attend to – I feel like there is just a fair amount of hanging out in the damp in my life.

Enter the quest for the best everyday shoe that pairs well with Seattle dad life.  You wouldn’t think it would be all that hard or all that important, but you’d be wrong my friends.  I’ve been on the quest for years for just the right shoe as my primary everyday wear.  And a left one, too.  (That was a dad joke, in case you were wondering).

And at first, I didn’t think myself all that high maintenance, but if this is a safe place I’ll just admit: I have a lot of requirements:

  • Comfort.   Needs to fade into the background of my life for 12 hours a day of wear.  

  • Style.  Needs to be right in the middle where it doesn’t feel too dressy to wear with sweatpants and a t-shirt but can be worn with a button down dress shirt.

  • Water proof.  Here’s where we get niche, but it needs to repel water to combat that Seattle dampness.

  • Easy on/easy off.  Don’t try to sell me a shoehorn.  I just want something I can take on and off about as easy as plugging in my phone to charge.

  • Athletic enough.   I’ll wear a dedicated running shoe for real sports and working out, but I need to be able to take the kids to the park, build Ikea furniture, or fix the pond pump that has broken yet again in my everyday shoe.

I’ve tried a few different approaches over the years.   Nordstrom’s will sell a generic black not-so-dressy shoe, but still too formal and stiff.   REI will sell a very waterproof trail runner.  Too casual.   Allbirds are like a warm hug to the feet – but even their waterproof version doesn’t stand up to Seattle dampness and they aren’t easy on/easy off.

It was finally the algorithms that helped me out.  Social media advertising introduced me to Vessi Footwear and I bought a pair of their Everyday Shoe.

If you are thinking about buying a pair, check out their website.  Vancouver based (a plus!) and their material is unique in the way it matches waterproofness and breathability. 

I’ve had them for 90 days now so I feel like I’ve been able to put them through the test.

In fact, here are 5 specifics tests that make me 💖 my Vessi’s.

Test #1: Running Through Home Depot Flooded Parking Lot Carrying A 3-Year-Old Test

aka two weekends ago.   #thestruggleisreal

Dry feet through the puddles and enough grip while bearing weight.   Success.

And FWIW I managed to complete a house project with only one trip to Home Depot.  That like never happens.  So you never know they might be magic lucky shoes too.

Test #2: Freeze Tag in the Grass Test

Puddle proof is good and all, and I wasn’t too surprised it passed test #1 given their ads seem to show happy people having fun stomping in pools of water.   But I like my shoes tested like my cars: not only immediate side impact tests, but let’s put it through the long term wind tunnel stress test, too.  Here’s my shoes after 30 minutes of playing freeze tags with my daughters in very wet grass:

You can see perhaps they start to pick up some water on the outside, but my socks were dry inside.  I’ve tried this will Allbirds and even trail runners and Vessi’s outperforms extended dew exposure.  

Test #3: Taking Out the Trash With No Hands Free Test

The fabric feels almost like some sort of more breathable and fashionable version of neoprene.   Very forgiving.  Critically, my Vessi’s will never suffer from heel wear from putting on my shoes without a shoe horn or being harsh on the back of the shoe.

In fact, one of my favorite use cases is for the quick dash with the shoes half on:

I can bolt to the garbage cans with both hands full, put the shoes on full speed, dodge the kids scooters and bike racks in the garage and not feel bad about what I probably look like on the Nest cam.  This speed is critical as you know you have like 37 seconds before the flimsy-all-heck compost bag is gonna break on you.   (Sidenote: You know they could make those bags sturdier, but then we wouldn’t feel like we were sacrificing for the planet anymore).

Test #4: What to Put on After Ski Boots Test

At first blush, this test is a layup.  Wooden clogs would feel good on the feet after ski boots.  But hear me out.   Vessi’s do surprisingly well in the snow:

Snow brushes off them super easily and it’s as if they were never exposed to the elements.   They don’t have as much traction as my snow hiking boots, but they have grip – enough to get around the ski area parking lot.   I’ve even put the Ice Trekkers traction cleats on my Vessi’s once and the soles were strong enough to support them.

And they are extremely quick on/off for when you are trying to stand up with one ski boot on – a huge plus for when the snowboarders are throwing you parking lot shade for the equipment fussing.

Test #5: What to Wear to Work and Match the Trendy Hoodie Test

Finally, style.  Their understated black look with just a bit of pattern is just fancy enough that you can get away with wearing it with a button-down shirt.   They are less formal in general but can be dressed up in a pinch.  You also don’t feel awkward wearing them with sweatpants.  Shorts would be a bridge too far, so I do suppose Toms are still in my future.

In short, they are basically the shoe version of the well cut and fashionable hoodie, except not as mainstream yet so you have time before they become a cliche. 

Of course, all this is an extremely hypothetical test as I’ve yet to be on a Zoom call that included my feet. For now I can say they hold up comfort wise to a full day of home office off camera wear.

Final recommendation

It sparks a lot of joy to stumble across a product that seems perfectly designed to balance all the criteria you’ve been looking for a long time.   I’m very happy with them 90 days in.   They run true to size, feel a bit stiff around the ankle when you first get them, and they are not nearly as warm as Allbirds or most shoes.  I ended up getting thicker socks (bulk in Costco) to wear with my Vessi’s and that was a perfect balance.  90 days in I can notice just a bit of fraying in the fabric in the toes, but overall, they seem to be holding up well and clean very easily. 

Highly recommend – best shoes I’ve ever owned.  Seattle dad approved.

Coda on Privilege

We try to end most newsletter posts with a note on privilege and giving back.   Giving warmth and comfort to those in need seems all the most appropriate this week given the cold snap driving through the nation.  For us in Seattle, Mary’s Place and the United Way are two charities we deeply respect when it comes to helping provide warmth and shelter to those in need.   We also started doing something new that we heard about from a work colleague.   As a family, we fill up Ziploc bags with warm socks, toothpaste, snacks, and a bit of money.   We keep several sets in the car and this feels like a more meaningful handout to give to people we run into who seem in need.   We like the macro and micro contributions approach in the fight against homelessness and the hands on way we can help teach our kids to care.

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