As someone familiar with the Chaco brand, I have come to appreciate their dedication to producing high-quality footwear.
Having tested the Chaco Z/1 Classic hiking sandals extensively on two challenging trails in Southeast Asia—the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in Singapore and the Batu Caves in Malaysia—I can confidently say that these sandals perform admirably.
I wore them for almost four weeks, giving them ample opportunity to prove their worth.
The Z/1 Classic lives up to the brand’s reputation, delivering on its promises of durability and performance.
While there was a break-in period required for optimal comfort, the adjustable polyester straps, Vibram rubber outsole, and LUVSEAT footbed ultimately provided the necessary support and cushioning during my backpacking trips.
For a detailed review of my experience and findings, continue reading below.
- Luvseat polyurethane footbed
- ChacoGrip rubber
- Polyester Jacquard webbing
Things We Tested When We Reviewed Chaco Z/1 Classic
In terms of traction, the Z/1 Classic outperformed many competitors. The combination of the Vibram rubber and the lug pattern provided exceptional traction that instilled confidence during my treks.
These sandals addressed some common issues that can affect the grip, such as shallow lugs or inferior sole materials.
With the Z/1 Classic, I no longer had to worry about slips or slides on slippery surfaces.
Moreover, compared to previous versions of Chaco sandals, I noticed that the lugs were more pronounced (3.5mm) and strategically placed, maximizing traction on challenging terrains.
However, it’s important to acknowledge the limitations of open-toe sandals in general. While the Z/1 Classic performs admirably, it may not provide the same level of adherence as hiking shoes or boots.
Having previously worn Chacos, I continue to be impressed by the durability of the Z/1 Classic model. It possesses all the essential qualities that make a hiking sandal outstanding, such as a rigid sole and sturdier overall construction.
This sandal is crafted using top-notch materials, including a robust polyester jacquard webbing upper that is highly resistant to abrasion and shows minimal signs of wear, even after prolonged usage.
Furthermore, the stitching on these Chaco sandals is solid and reinforced, ensuring their ability to withstand stress and maintain their structural integrity.
Like any hiking footwear, the Vibram soles will eventually wear out if you frequently use them for climbing on challenging terrain.
However, during my tests for this gear review, this sandal has demonstrated its remarkable ability to endure the demands of outdoor activities, remaining structurally sound even after extensive use.
Compared to other sandals in its class, the Z/1 Classic excelled in terms of comfort. The combination of the contoured footbed and adjustable straps made a noticeable difference in how my feet felt, even after hours of walking.
It’s evident that Chaco has paid great attention to detail in creating a sandal that prioritizes comfort.
One aspect that stood out to me was the sandals’ ability to prevent foot fatigue. The LUVSEAT midsole technology provided just the right amount of cushioning, reducing the impact on my feet and joints.
I felt like I could walk for miles without experiencing discomfort or pain. Additionally, the sandals’ lightweight build added to their overall comfort, making me feel as if I was walking on my bare feet.
Like many high-quality sandals, this Chaco initially felt slightly stiff and required some time to mold to the shape of my foot. However, after a few outings and adjustments to the strap tightness, the sandal gradually became more comfortable and formed a better fit.
Featuring an open-toe design combined with polyester straps, these Chacos allowed for ample airflow around my foot, preventing overheating even during intense hikes in hot weather.
I found that the sandal effectively wicks away moisture, keeping my feet cool and dry throughout my adventures. The breathable materials helped to minimize sweat buildup, reducing the chances of blisters and unpleasant odors.
Even during long hours of hiking, I never felt my feet becoming excessively sweaty or uncomfortable.
While it is true that, when crossing streams, water seeped into the footbed, temporarily affecting breathability, this was a minor inconvenience, and the sandal quickly regained its breathability as it dried out.
Weighing in at 2 pounds and 4.64 ounces for a men’s size 12, this Chaco pair falls within the expected range of a premium pair of hiking sandals.
While not the lightest option available, the weight distribution felt well-balanced, contributing to a stable and secure stride, especially on uneven terrain.
Compared to previous versions, Chaco has made efforts to optimize the weight without compromising durability, utilizing lightweight materials and a streamlined design.
The result is that wearing Chacos doesn’t feel overly burdensome during long hikes, allowing outdoor enthusiasts to maintain comfort and enjoy their adventures without sacrificing performance.
During my testing, I discovered that the Z/1 Classic excels at water management. The polyester strap system and fast-drying materials allow the sandals to handle water encounters with remarkable efficiency.
When crossing streams or encountering wet conditions, they dry relatively quickly, minimizing discomfort and the risk of blisters.
This approach acknowledges that complete waterproofing can sometimes trap moisture within the footwear, leading to prolonged dampness and discomfort.
By allowing water to flow through and facilitating quick drying, this Chaco shoe ensures that your feet won’t slip to the point that it leads to skin rubbing.
This protective sandal features a contoured LUVSEAT™ footbed that provides excellent arch support, promoting proper alignment and reducing fatigue on long trails.
Moreover, the Chaco straps allow for a customizable fit, providing additional protection around the ankle and midfoot areas.
I noticed that the sandals offered good stability, even on uneven terrains and rocky surfaces.
The durable build and reliable strap adjustment kept my feet securely in place, preventing any slippage or discomfort.
While the PU midsole can feel a bit stiff if this is your first pair of Chacos, in my experience, the sandal becomes more comfortable with time.
8. Fit and Sizing
This sandal is available in both men’s and women’s sizes, offering a wide range of options to suit different foot shapes and sizes. Based on my first-hand experience with them, the shoes generally run a bit narrow, so if you have wide feet, as I do, I recommend sizing up.
While some said that they prefer the toe-loop design of the Chaco Z/2 Classic due to the stability it adds, for me, the simple design of the Z/1s meant less chafing around my big toe and smaller efforts in dealing with blisters during the first days.
The straps on this model can be easily adjusted using only a single buckle and have a soft, padded feel against the skin, which enhanced their overall comfort.
How Does it Compare with Other Products?
During our review, we found that the main difference between the Chaco Z/1 Classic and Chaco Z/Cloud lies in the footbed design.
The Z/1 Classic presents a LUVSEAT footbed, known for its excellent stability, which makes it ideal for rugged terrain.
On the other hand, the Z/Cloud incorporates an extra layer of cushioning with a podiatrist-certified LUVSEAT PU footbed, providing enhanced foot comfort for those seeking more sole cushioning and a softer feel.
Priced at $100, both models share similar polyester straps and a durable build, but the Z/Cloud may be better suited for users prioritizing additional cushioning without compromising support.
See the full product description in our Chaco Z/Cloud sandals review.
Keen Newport H2
Retailing at $125, Keen Newport H2 is a popular alternative to the Z/1 Classic, offering its own set of unique benefits.
One notable distinction between the two is the Newport H2’s closed-toe design, providing increased protection in rugged environments.
This construction makes the Newport H2 a preferred choice for beach activities or rocky trails where toe stubbing may be a concern.
Both the Z/1 Classic and the Newport H2 feature durable outsoles, with the Chaco utilizing Vibram rubber and the Newport H2, featuring a non-marking rubber outsole with multidirectional lugs.
However, while both outsoles offer a reliable grip, the Newport H2’s lug pattern may provide slightly better adherence in certain conditions.
Learn more about this product by checking the Keen Newport H2 sandals review.
Xero Z-Trail EV
The Z/1 Classic from Chaco and Xero Z-Trail EV are both minimalist-style sandals but differ in their design and features.
The Z/1 Classic offers a more robust build with a durable polyester upper and a LUVSEAT footbed for support.
The Xero Z-Trail EV, on the other hand, has a lightweight and flexible design with a thin sole for a more natural barefoot feel.
It is worth mentioning, though, that the outsole of the more affordable Xero Z-Trail EV ($79.99) incorporates a multi-directional lug pattern for decent ground adherence, but it may not match the Z/1 Classic’s grip on challenging terrain.
Discover everything you need to know by checking the review of the Xero Z-Trail EV sandal.
Where Chaco Z/1 Classic Performs Better?
These Chaco sandals perform exceptionally well in rugged and rocky terrains where stability and traction are paramount.
The sturdy Vibram rubber outsole, with its deep lugs, provides excellent grip, allowing you to confidently navigate challenging trails, uneven surfaces, and slippery rocks.
Furthermore, the sandals are ideal for warm and hot weather due to their excellent breathability.
The open-toe design and polyester straps allow for ample airflow, preventing your feet from overheating and minimizing discomfort.
They are particularly suitable to wear during river crossings or while exploring coastal areas, as the fast-drying materials and humidity-shedding capabilities ensure your feet recover swiftly from water encounters.
Where Chaco Z/1 Classic Falls Short in Performance?
While the Chaco Z/1 Classic excels in many aspects, I want to be honest about a few areas where I found it fell short in performance. One common issue I encountered was the initial tightness and discomfort of the straps while wearing Chacos for the first time.
It took some time and patience to break them in and adjust them to a comfortable fit. However, once I got past the initial adjustment period, the straps gradually softened and conformed to my feet, providing a more pleasant experience.
Additionally, the open-toe design, while offering excellent breathability, leaves the toes more exposed to potential impacts or stubbing.
While this wasn’t a major issue for me, hikers who frequently encounter rocky or rugged terrains might appreciate a closed-toe design for added protection.
Do We Recommend It?
This sandal may not be the most fashionable, but it is sturdy and provides good adherence on almost any surface area, including sand and slippery roads.
As with most Chaco shoe versions I tried, I quickly added the Z/1 Classic to my list of favorites.
I’ve worn it with socks and without socks, and even if there was a brief break-in period, Chaco’s Z/1 proved excellent resistance against chaffing and felt almost like a pair of sneakers in terms of comfort.
Retailing at $100, this Chaco is easy on the foot, has good strap adjustability, and uses an excellent material for the outsole, so it is overall a good investment for the summer.
For the Chaco Z/1 Classic, it is generally recommended to size up. The versatile strap system allows you to customize the fit, but starting with a slightly larger size ensures a comfortable and secure fit, especially if you plan to wear them with thicker socks or during longer trips.
Yes, the Chaco Z/1 Classic is designed for hiking and outdoor activities. With their durable non-marking Chaco grip rubber sole and supportive footbed, these sandals are well-suited for various terrains and trail conditions.