Ah, Chacos. Is there any product more central to the outdoor lifestyle? Since its earliest days as a sandal built for professional white water guides, the Chaco has left a footprint on countless adventures and its signature tanline on many feet. We’ve tested the wide version of one of their models, the Z/2 Unaweep.
Chacos Z/2 Unaweep Features:
- Polyester jacquard webbing upper
- Adjustable high-tension webbing risers
- Injection molded ladder lock
- LUVSEAT polyurethane footbed
- Wide widths available
- 4.5mm lugs
- MSRP: $100
Chacos take a licking, keep kicking
I’m in a pretty great spot in life right now – I travel between Nevada and Washington regularly and there’s a huge contrast between the high desert and coniferous forests. These are two hugely different climates and the gear I use needs to be extremely flexible. These two settings are the background for testing out the Chacos Z/2 Unaweeps; lots of hiking in and out of water on everything from granite talas to needle-covered pathways. The Z/2’s are my preferred model of the Chaco – I’m a big fan of that toe loop and all of the control it provides. For reference, my feet are size 10.5 width E, which means they’re quite wide; I’m reviewing the size 10 Wide models which are the best fit I could find.
Anyone who’s worn Chacos before will tell you that they take a little getting used to. Chacos’ trademark Z straps are highly functional and offer a really sweet custom fit, but feet don’t necessarily take to them right away. Break-in times will vary widely from individual to individual – mine took around three weeks before I could slip them on and walk for miles without any ill effects. I quickly developed calluses at the base of my big toe and a mild on on the inside of my heels from the webbing risers. I do have one friend whose Chacos didn’t hurt him at all from the very beginning, but I’d say he’s a bit of a rarity. Expect a break-in time of a few weeks to a month if you’ve never owned Chacos before.
One of the Z/2 Unaweep’s main methods of making the break-in process a little easier is the design of the webbing riser. Other Chacos (especially older models) were built with plastic risers which were awfully unfriendly to the skin – the webbing starts off a little rough but is really a nice, malleable material that quickly assimilated to my feet.
Chaco has put a tremendous amount of research into making their sandals fit great and help your feet stay healthy. Their LUVSEAT footbed has prodigious arch support and a comfortable heel cup, all of which are on a supple-yet-supportive PU midsole. To their credit, Chaco has worked with pediatric doctors to develop sandals that help keep your feet from rolling too far inward (overpronating) and I was totally confident on tricky terrain in my Z/2’s. I’m particularly prone to overpronating due to some bad ankle sprains from high school soccer, so the fact that I had no trouble in my Chacos bears testament to their design.
The other fundamental characteristic of Chacos is how easy it is to get a customized fit out of the Z straps. The webbing runs throughout the sole of the foot and I like to think of them as sandwiching your whole foot in support, rather than just securing your foot from the top down. There’s a scientific way to adjust Chacos but a little bit of tinkering always seems necessary to get the toe loop just right. That said, I’m a big fan of the toe design since it offers a ton of control over the front of the sandal; what’s more, if you feel crafty, you can pull it flat and pretend that you bought the toeless sandals. Talk about versatility.
Finally, the Unaweep sole deserves lots of credit, too. Chaco has been through a wide swathe of soles over the years and the Unaweep is a real grand slam; its classic pattern takes hold of wet and dry surfaces with total disregard for petty things like friction coefficients. These things just grip. I’ve hiked plenty of climbing approaches in them as well as played around with my raft guide friends – versatility is the absolute hallmark of the Z/2 Unaweeps. The burly 4.5 mm lugs provide tons of traction over dirt and rock, while the soft compound carefully balances durability and grip. Another boon is that the front of the sandal is built up enough to offer a certain amount of toe protection in case you stub your toe. It’s not as substantial as a KEEN sandal, but it’s still there.
- Z strap design provides one of the best fits in the sandal world
- Wide availability in sizes (geddit, I’m testing a wide model?)
- Webbing riser is much better than the old plastic ones
- LUVSEAT footbed is wonderfully comfortable and supportive
- Burly Unaweep sole offers excellent traction
- Blisters and calluses are a fact of life for most new Chaco wearers
- Tend to be rather heavy if used as camp shoes while backpacking
The Bottom Line
I love Chacos, we love Chacos, you’ll probably love Chacos if you’ve never tried them. The Z/2’s are a great example of how the characteristic Z strap fit can be made to break in more quickly while their Unaweep sole makes up for its weight by gripping on everything under the sun. Lastly, big kudos to Chaco for making a wide model that fits feet like mine – I’m stoked for many years of adventuring in these babies.
Buy now: Available from Backcountry.com