Upon first sight, Chacos convey groovy, connected-with-the-earth vibes. They conjure images of an outdoor enthusiast who strolls along the less beaten path, covers grandioses distances, and waxes lyrical about the environment. This is all superficial, of course. How they perform is much more important.
Putting them on for the first few times can be intimidating. It originally appears, with the Z/2 at least (which includes a toe strap), that there are straps going everywhere. But closer inspection and a little foot-time reveals a logic to their design. There is only one strap running throughout each sandal. Pull some loose in one place, it tightens in another. When you slip your feet in and fasten the strap at the top, this one-strap design ensures the foot can’t wriggle loose – making them a hell of lot more trustworthy than a pair of flip flops.
As a matter of fact, there is no flipping, nor flopping, in Chacos. The very idea of the Chaco is to closely, but comfortably, hold the foot to the contoured arch support underneath. In this way they exceed a lot of other options out there. Wearing them is like wearing a shoe. I find myself assured by the mild downward weight the base puts on the straps when I lift my foot. Its underside is serious too, with a tread like a hiking boot.
Reassuringly, they still look as good as new after a couple of adventures. Although it’s early days I am developing faith in the polyurethane compounds used to construct them – a material which apparently doesn’t break down or compress with wear.
There are a few aspects that take some getting used to. My particular model, the Z/2, has a toe loop, which means taking them on or off takes five to 10 seconds, as I have to loosen the strap to make room for my toe and then slot it into its dedicated space. I’ve also found that my other four toes, less closely held to the sandal, often want to go in the other direction. I expect that’s got to do with my gait, meaning a model without a toe strap, such as the Z/1, would suit me better.
The best part of Chacos, for me, is how they combine the solidity of a shoe with the breathability of a sandal. I know that after a big day of trekking I want nothing more than to rip off my socks and let my feet inhale the sweet, sweet air. But of course, the job isn’t over once you arrive at camp; there’s still hustling and bustling to do. In this world of three horned jacks and leeches, it’s best not to risk bare feet while doing so. But then putting shoes on is simply not viable after 20 Ks. The solution may well lie in Chacos. My pair allow my feet to breathe, while also protecting me from ground-dwelling hazards, meaning I don’t have to tip-toe around.