I love trying out new brands, watch seasoned brands evolve, and learn about new gear on the horizon. It is a rare but awesome occasion when a brand can inspire you across their line with their quality and performance. Chaco won me over about five years back.
I was working as a desert wilderness guide, backpacking everyday, covering insane amounts of ground. My first pair of Chacos was the classic Chaco Z/2. My fellow guides and I would count and compare the miles we had on each pair before they had to be re-soled or have the webbing replaced. My first pair withstood 753 miles before the webbing in the heel started to fray. I could have kept wearing them, but the winter settled in and it called for boots.
The Sole of Chaco: The 753 miles was on the sadly now retired trekking sole. Chaco currently soles their sandals with the diamond stealth or the unaweep option. I prefer the grip of the unaweep. It can take the beating similar to the old trekking version, but is slightly more sticky. This aspect has a give and take. I love the traction because this desert sandal doubles as my river sandal. By making the sole more sticky, it is also slightly softer, and more prone to wear. This sole will likely wear out at 753 miles, when I knew my old pair could have taken 753 more. I am sad about this, but Chaco is still the top performing sandal, and 753 miles is a long way. Then we have the diamond stealth sole. This is geared specifically to the river rats, ultra sticky to provide traction on wet surfaces. The stealth would not hold up as well in desert treks. The miles of sandstone would be like taking sand paper to the rubber of a climbing shoe. If a boat is your primary application for the sandal, I would go for the diamond stealth, but my unaweeps handle the 4 weeks a year they get on the river just fine. I have had no slippage problems.
Chaco has an awesome recycle program. They donate new and used sandals to developing countries and others in need. I donated the loved Z/2, and tried out a pair of Chaco ZX/1s. We will break down the differences right here…
Z/2 vs. Z/1 and X vs. standard: First thing first. The “Z” is letting you know it is a classic Chaco sandal, which will leave you with the coveted Z shaped tan-line on the top of your foot. The “2″ is letting you know there is a loop specifically for big toe. After hiking long days in my Z/2s I found my feet swelling, nothing extreme, but I was getting a compression line around my big toe and it was a growing nuisance. I found myself flossing the toe loop tight to the sole of the sandal and stepping on the compressed loop.
I loved my Z/2s, but I wanted to try something new: the ZX/1. The “1″ model is the standard Z, no toe loop. Without a toe loop you loose a small amount of control when hiking down hill, as your foot wants to move forward with your direction and momentum. In my personal situation, I did not miss it. I revel in the comfort of my toes free. There is some security lost, but it is negligable in less you are a downhill only hiker.
Now on to the “X”. The X is letting you know there are two smaller parallel straps running side by side in the Z pattern. I prefer the two separate lines of contact. I had stress fractures in the tops of my feet from climbing, as a result I have crazy shaped bones on the top of my feet. The dual strap give me personally, a better fit. Chaco makes Z/1, ZX/1, Z/2, and ZX/2, something for everybody.
All Chacos in the Z model have the BioCentric construction. The arch is abrupt and strong, providing great support. Chaco had health in mind when constructing their sandals, specifically combating heel rotation and pronation (flat feet). I have hiked and hiked in these sandals. There is phenomenal support. It is reassuring to know your feet are not sore even after a heap of miles and terrain.
The Chaco Rundown:
- Chaco Zs are a high performance, enduring sandal
- 2 for toe loop (Z/2 and ZX/2 come with the toe loop)
- 1 for standard Z without toe loop (Z/1 and ZX/1)
- X for double, thin straps (ZX/1/ and ZX/2)
- Amazing support of the arch, designed to improve the health of your foot
Care: Love the gear you are in. Chacos are super easy to maintain. The straps are adjustable. Floss the straps through the sole of the sandal from time to time, to prevent wear in the webbing. The sandal can get a fit of a smelly funk after sustained use. To prevent or eliminate funk, just toss the sandal in the washing machine with the strap fully loosened and wash just like you would laundry. Love your gear and these sandals can last you a lifetime.