If you live in the Mountain West, this may come as a shock to you but here in California we don’t really wear outdoorsy sandals. Flip-flops, sure, wear them too much probably, but not the full ankle-strapped Chaco and Teva-type shoes. Whatever those are called. Do they have a name besides sandals? River sandals? Water sandals? Tan-line makers?
Anyway, anytime I’m in Montana or Utah or Colorado the first thing I notice is, whoa, everyone is wearing these big, chunky things. On the trails, at the bar, when it’s hot, on cold and dry days, fishing, at the bank, probably even at weddings, job interviews, wherever.
But California just hasn’t embraced them. Well, retirees have. And in high school I wore Tevas with white tube socks underneath (I even had a girlfriend with that look—hey, the 90s were weird), but sandals are most certainly not on everybody’s feet here. They’ve not broken through the California fashion wall. Not even close. Please take no offense, Mountain Westerners, but a lot of us have long viewed these sorts of sandals as inescapably dorky.
However, I will admit, I’ve been intrigued for some time. Obviously, mountain people dig them. And I like mountain people. I trust their judgment. The sandals looked comfy and capable, two of my very favorite things. How bad could they possibly be? So early this summer I snagged a couple pairs of Chacos without telling my California friends.
Okay, okay I get it now. I’m hooked. I’ll wear these things. I think I love these things.
I’ve worn the Chaco Z series of sandals a ton for the past couple summers, and into early fall seasons. Big fan of the Z1 Classics. I’ve hiked in them. Sometimes with a 25-plus pound backpack. I’ve crossed rivers in them. I’ve used them as wet wading shoes while fly fishing. I’ve even worn them to nice dinners. They can kinda look cool with the right pants. They grow on you real fast. These things are great. What took me so long?
The Z series have a soft, supple PU footbed that is a pleasure to walk on. The polyester straps, or webbing, are are smooth and supportive and haven’t caused a blister yet, even on my strap-averse heels. They’re also fully adjustable, as they slide through channels cut into the shoes so you can tighten or loosen them to your heart’s desire. If I had a complaint, it would be that my long and flat feet don’t seem to be girthy enough to tighten the straps down without having a good four inches of extra strap flapping about. I’ll probably just end up trimming that part off and going about my sandaled way.
They boast grippy outsoles that hold on slippery rock, wet gravel, and muddy trails. I’d happily wear these things on a non-demanding backpacking trail and I have no doubt they’d hold up just fine. More often though, I just pitch them into the mesh outer pocket of my backpack to use for river crossings and after hike-kicking back at the tent. Can’t beat ’em.
And you know what happens if you can’t beat ’em.
$100 • BUY
Chacos Not grabbing you? Try these
Our editor, Steve, loves Bedrock sandals. You can get a pair of their everlasting Cairn sandals, and have them maybe forever. $105.
The Oboz Selway Sandal have all the goodness of the Zs, but they’re slaps—no ankle straps. Grippy and robust. $55, or so.
The Teva Original Universals have the classic Teva strap system running along the top of the foot so they’re stable, comfy, and ready for the trail. Also, they’re only $50.
Top photo: Emma Frances Logan