Few things are as comfortable as a sandals, and few brands are as iconic as Chaco when it comes to producing them. Their Z/Cloud line of sandals combines their classic design and styling with a soft, pillow-top footbed.
Starting with the build, the sandals are essentially three layers. The top two layers come together to form a dual density PU midsole that’s been treated for antimicrobial resistance. There is the stiffer PU layer that makes up the core of the sandal, and the soft, squishy, pillow like PU top. The outsole is a rubbery ChacoGrip compound with relatively deep 3.5 mm lugs for extra grip, and the straps are all polyester jacquard webbing with an injection molded buckle to tie them together and provide size adjustments. The sandals retail for $110 and come in a variety of colors, available now.
What I liked
The first thing that’s evident with the Chaco Z/Cloud sandals is how enormously comfortable they are. The midsole is molded to perfectly fit the shape of the foot, and fills in the arch and heel quite well. The soft PU upper layer adds a nice amount of squish and grip, without flattening out under repeated use. When combined with the already flexible but firmer layer beneath it, the sandal flexes and moves naturally while walking and provides excellent impact absorption while still protecting from sticks and rocks beneath. The webbing sits gentle across the foot and has a nice silky feel to it, which helps prevent blisters during extended periods of wear. The buckle is basically not felt at all, thanks to its position on the outside of the webbing and flat overall profile, and the sandal as a whole just seems custom molded to every inch of my foot.
The build quality is also quite excellent. After miles of use on rocks, dirt, concrete, in the snow (yes in the snow) and even under water, they show little in the way of wear. The molded midsole has held strong to the webbing , and the webbing itself is still fray free. They have even managed to fiend off odors, even after being worn for hours while wet. Plus, Chaco offers a lifetime warranty and offers repairs on most models, including straps and soles.
Trail performance is quite good. The upgraded tread pattern on the 2017 line provides excellent traction even on wet, slippery rocks, and the sandals always stay in place on steep climbs and descents, improving control and stability all around. The footbed is wide and generous, providing a little extra protection around the feet, while also boosting grip just a touch. While I don’t recommend them for backpacking due to the limited support, for light hiking, trips around town, or just messing around at the house, they’re excellent.
Visually, the Chacos are really nice. They simple, understated, but can be colorful if you prefer (I do). I love the textured webbing, and the molded buckle proudly displays the brand name, without jumping out and begging for attention.
What I didn’t like
Perhaps I just have tiny feet (9.5 U.S), but I found that the degree to which the straps had to be adjusted down to hold my foot in place to cause a minor annoyance. How? Well, the strap extends far beyond the base of the shoe, and thus drags along the ground everywhere I go. There is no intrinsic way of mitigating this issue, but I imagine a small band or magnetic clip might do the trick, just to pin it against another strap. Honestly, I can’t feel it and it doesn’t get it the way, so it’s not a real issue, but knowing it touches the ground and that it looks a little wonky while doing it is somewhat bothersome. Perhaps I should have went a size smaller to prevent this (I’ve not tested this to see if it’s a solution), but I wanted the wider footbed of a size 10 as I will be hitting the trails with them (I’m between sizes 9 and 10 at a 9.5, so sizing for me isn’t perfect to begin with). I’ll post an update if I apply a satisfactory modification to correct this.
The toe end of the sandal is not adjustable, which results in a little more wiggle room than I would prefer. Again, likely a result of my narrow feet.
The sandals can take a surprisingly long time to dry, for a sandal. After enjoying a nice evening shower at a semi-local campground (the luxury!), I was surprised to wake up the next day with stylish footwear that were still quite damp. They took roughly 18 hours to fully dry in several instances during times of mild weather with high humidity. Granted, this was after a downpour of water that lasted for several minutes (shower), and they were sitting out mostly during the night, but I have other sandals that dry much quicker. Once wearing them they shed the water much faster, but if just left out to dry, they can take some time.
The Z/Cloud Sandals from Chaco are, in a word, excellent. The lightly textured yet soft and springy footbed does wonders for all day comfort after long hikes on the trail or tedious hours on the feet around town. The webbing straps do a wonderful job of keeping the sandal secure, without slipping about and causing blisters. The simple yet elegant one handed adjustment via the molded buckle allows for a mostly custom fit, except for the toe end. Aside from the minor complaint of the potentially dangly top strap (for my short and narrow feet), there really isn’t much to moan about. They’re tough, stylish, and work well on and off the trail, while providing excellent ventilation and comfort on. After a long day of hiking, I love throwing them on around camp, or just tossing them on for a nice evening in town after a long day of work.
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I want to extend a huge thanks to Chacos for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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