Which Chaco’s Are Best For Hiking?
Which Chaco’s Are Best For Hiking?
Hiking boots aren’t for everyone, sandals are a popular choice for short treks in hot climates and exploring the area around your base camp and Chaco’s are ideal for all that and more. If you are asking yourself which Chaco’s are best for hiking then you are probably already aware of the brand and what they are about. There are over 15 different styles of Chaco’s as well as multiple signature models and color combinations, so which are best for hiking?
Best Chacos For Hiking
What Are Chaco’s?
Started by a Colorado rafting guide in 1989, Chaco’s are most famously known for their outdoor sandals but also make other outdoor gear. The sandals are made up of just 8 simple components including a single strap running through the base that is totally adjustable to your feet. They have a rugged sole with excellent arch support which makes Chaco’s more suited to hiking than your everyday sandal.
Who Are Chaco’s Designed For?
Having being founded by watersports enthusiast, you better believe these are great for walking through water and getting wet. Designed to be rugged, comfortable, durable, and supportive, Chaco’s are perfect for active outdoor people who want open toe footwear. You can wear them on rock, sand, and dirt as well as in the sea and through rivers which make them suited to hiking in general. For backpacking trips where you need more than a pair of boots, Chaco’s are great as a back-up or alternative on casual day hikes without a pack.
What Are The Different Kinds Of Chaco Sandals?
There are two main styles of Chaco sandals as well as some cool variations of each. The first type of Chaco is the open toe style (Z1) which are easier to wear socks with and reduce the risk of getting blisters on your big toe. The second style (Z2) has a strap/loop for your big toe which increases dexterity and foot control on descents, and it can always be tucked out of the way by tightening the strap if you don’t want to use it. The other variations include the X series with dual straps, the cloud series with soft padding, and the Volv series with eco-friendly materials.
Customize Your Chaco’s
One of the coolest features of Chaco Sandals is that they can be totally customizable from the grip on the soles to the color of stitching and fabric. This allows you to get exactly what you need in terms of traction and sizing as well as giving you exactly what you are looking for in terms of style and personal taste. You can do all of this on their website or check out the links below for some inspiration.
Why Wear Sandals For Hiking?
Hiking in sandals has its time and place for most people, but for others, wearing them as much as possible seems to be somewhat of a mission. And I get it. Walking barefoot feels great and socks/boots/shoes can feel restrictive, but after walking over a few thorns and jagged rocks, you realize you need some kind of protection for your poor feet.
Sandals are the perfect solution for people who prefer not to wear shoes but are tired of standing on sharp things. They allow your feet to breathe when it’s hot and getting them wet isn’t a problem if you’re constantly walking through streams and crossing rivers. After some breaking in, sandals can be used for all kinds of hikes but are best suited to well-defined trails.
Problems With Hiking In Sandals?
While it can be nice to only look at the benefits of wearing hiking sandals, there are some issues that you have to be prepared for. Perhaps the first problem people think of when considering buying or wearing a pair of Chaco’s for hiking is the lack of protection from above. Personally, I have never found this to be an issue apart from the odd stinging nettle or branch. Instead, I find blisters and rubbing to be of more concern.
Getting used to wearing sandals can take some time, and like hiking boots, they take some breaking in. It is best to do this before you plan any kind of a hike to toughen up your feet and hopefully avoid blisters. Something else you will have to get used to is getting debris between your foot and the sandal, which has to be constantly shaken out as you go.
Walking Long Distance Trails In Chaco’s?
While Chaco’s, and indeed all sandals, are not particularly suited to hiking long distances with a heavy pack, some people find a way to make them work for them. The soles are certainly tough enough but the lack of ankle support and constant friction from the straps against your skin will increase your chances of blisters and injury. That being said, you can always wear a thick pair of wool socks underneath if you are determined to wear Chaco’s for distance hiking. I don’t recommend it though.
Sizing For Chaco’s
Which Are The Best Chaco Sandals For Hiking?
These are not in any particular order in terms of ranking but please read to the end for the conclusion.
Chaco Z1 Sandals
While the materials have gotten better, the Chaco Z1 Sandals design remains very much the same today as it did back in 1989 and are still some of the most popular hiking sandals to this day. The are simple and rugged yet comfortable and incredibly adjustable so as to be worn next to the skin. If you want a classic, no-nonsense sandal to wear outdoors then these are the right Chaco’s for you!
Chaco Z1 Classic Athletic: Comprised of just 8 components including Chacogrip sole, these are the streamlined version of the ever popular classic.
Chaco Z1 Unaweep: A BioCentric footbed and durable Vibram Unaweep outsole keep feet centered and gripped to slippery surfaces.
Chaco Z1 Pro: Super grippy Vibram rubber tread that excels on both wet and rocky terrain is perfect for navigating stepping stones.
Chaco Z1 Yampa: Lightweight and slip-resistant Vibram soles give good traction and weight less than the Classic.
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Chaco Z2 Sandals
The Chaco Z2 Sandals are very much the same as the Z1’s apart from having an extra loop for your big toe to slot into. This extra strap allows you to key the tips of your sandals closer to your feet and in theory, help prevent debris getting under your foot as well as providing better dexterity. Keeping the sandal close to the soles of your feet can help provide better feedback about the ground you are walking on and in turn allow you to have faster reactions to prevent injury. You can always pull the toe loop tight enough to sit flush against the insole if you find you don’t like using the toe loop all the time.
Chaco Z2 Classic Athletic: Comprised of just 8 components including Chacogrip sole – an original but updated/streamlined Classic
Chaco Z2 Yampa: Lightweight and slip-resistant Vibram soles give good traction and weight less than the Classic.
Chaco Z2 Unaweep: A BioCentric footbed and durable Vibram Unaweep outsole keep your feet centered and gripped to slippery rocks.
Chaco Z2 Pro: Super grippy Vibram rubber tread that excels on both wet and rocky terrain is perfect for navigating stepping stones.
Chaco Z2 Colorado: Limited edition, LUVSEAT insole and non-marking TC-1 Vibram outsole with 3 mm lugs for extra grip.
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Chaco ZX Sandals
The Chaco ZX1 Classic Athletic Sandals are almost identical to the Z1 apart from instead of having a single webbed band, it has a double strap system. This allows for an even better fit as both straps run parallel to each other but also work independently to find the best fit for your foot. They feature Chacogrip soles with 3.5 mm lugs and organic canvas webbing. If you worry that a single strap may be uncomfortable or dig into your skin then give the ZX series a go.
Chaco ZX1: Open toe double strap with Chacogrip
Chaco ZX2: Toe loop double strap with Chacogrip
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Chaco Z Cloud Sandals
The Chaco Z Cloud series features an additional layer of super soft PU for a slipper-like comfort and as the name suggests, it feels like you are walking on clouds. You can get the Cloud series in both the open and to loop versions as well as the X variation of having double straps. Not the lightest model but if comfort is your thing then treat your feet to a pair of these.
Chaco Z Cloud: Open toe with ultra-soft PU cushion layer and Chacogrip soles
Chaco Z Cloud 2: Toe loop with ultra-soft PU cushion layer and Chacogrip soles
Chaco Z Cloud X: Open toe double strap with ultra-soft PU cushion layer and Chacogrip soles
Chaco Z Cloud X2: Toe Loop double strap with ultra-soft PU cushion layer and Chacogrip soles
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Chaco Z Volv Sandals
The Chaco Z Volv sandals are made with vegan-friendly materials and Ecotread soles which use 25% recycled rubber compound. They are also 20% lighter underfoot than Classic Chaco’s which makes them even better for backpacking and hiking. The spongey soft PU mid layer is comfortable and forgiving but also makes sure they always float to the top if you loose them in water.
Chaco Z Volv: Open toe and vegan-friendly with Ecotread sole
Chaco Z Volv 2: Toe loop and vegan-friendly with Ecotread sole
Chaco Z Volv X: Open toe double strap and vegan-friendly with Ecotread sole
Chaco Z Volv X2: Toe Loop double strap and vegan-friendly with Ecotread sole
Deciding which Chaco’s are best for hiking is somewhat of a difficult task because they are all very similar, all work very well and everyone has different intended uses. You might prefer the open toe style whereas the next person might prefer having the toe loop as an option, even if they don’t use it all the time. For me though, being as lightweight as possible is as important as comfort so I would normally choose the Yampa outsole over the more rugged Terreno.
I prefer having the big toe loop found as opposed to open toe and because I don’t hike long distances I prefer the lighter models over the comfier cloud version. If you are determined to use your Chaco’s as a stand alone hiking shoes then I would be less worried about the weight and more focused on the comfort and having deep lugs in the outsole. Given the choice to pick any pair of Chaco sandals right now, I would probably choose the Chaco Z Volve 2‘s simply because they are eco-friendly and more lightweight than the classic.
One thing can be said with certainty though is that they all work well in water and for hiking short distances. They are great for traveling, crossing streams/rivers, and as a back up to your walking boots on long distance hikes. I wear mine on a daily basis in summer months and would recommend them to anyone looking for a top quality sandal for rugged outdoor use.
Hopefully, we have helped guide you to choose which Chaco’s are best for hiking, but stay tuned or subscribe for our upcoming reviews of the Keen and Teva sandals.