Chaco Z/1 Classic - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Versatile, adjustable, excellent traction
Cons: Doesn't fit all feet, tricky to adjust at first, heavy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
As the name implies, the Chaco Z/1 Classic is Chaco's original, old-school model. This sandal stands the test of time, offering outstanding traction, stability, adjustability, and versatility. While we love this sandal, there aren't many instances where we'd recommend it over the Chaco Z/2, which is exactly the same but with a toe strap for added stability and comfort.
Like all the Chacos we tested, the Z/1 Classic has a strongly molded footbed that doesn't soften or break down at all with continued use. If you have medium-to-high arches, you'll probably love it! If you have low arches or flat feet, it's possible that these will never feel comfortable.
Beyond the footbed issue, this model takes a little bit of breaking in, but once you've done it, the materials feel great against the skin, and the wide, perfectly adjustable straps distribute pressure and feel like a big old sandal hug. We have heard reports that Chaco's straps seem to have gotten stiffer in recent years, so don't be surprised if it takes your feet a few miles to feel good in these.
The Z/1 shines here, as do all the Chaco models in our test. From loose dirt trails to uneven boulder-hopping to river crossings, this model basically never slips. We're so confident in this sandal's traction that we happily wear it as our primary shoe on multi-day backpacking trips, knowing it can handle whatever terrain we encounter.
For a sandal with such excellent traction, the outsole on the Z/1 has surprisingly shallow lugs. This, combined with the relative thickness of the sole, give this model slightly less monkey grip than more flexible and deep-lugged options. If you want your feet to be able to contour around really uneven rocks, consider more aggressive lugs.
Ah, the famous Chaco flow-through strap! This adjustment style is admittedly a pain at first, but once the sandal is dialed, you won't find a better fit.
The straps on the Z/1 are actually one continuous piece of webbing that flows in and out of the footbed to create three straps across the top of the foot and one heel strap. To loosen one strap, you tighten another. This takes some getting used to — depending on how familiar you are with Chacos and how good you are at following instructions from Youtube, it might take 10-15 minutes for you to get your sandals fitting properly out of the box. From there, you can easily tighten or loosen the ankle buckle to get the sandal on and off, but adjustments to the other straps usually require removing the sandal and tinkering.
Once you have a good fit, the straps tend to stay in place, so you'll only have to do this song and dance once or twice. And when you're done, you'll have a sandal with straps that are perfectly customized to your feet.
The difference between the Z/2 and the Z/1 (reviewed here) is the extra toe strap: the Z/2 has one, and the Z/1 doesn't. This means one less strap to adjust, but it also means there's nothing to secure your toes to the sandal, which feels wonky and can leave a big flap of sandal to catch on rocks in the trail. The Z/2's toe strap can also be folded down when not in use, effectively creating a Z/1. For this reason, we recommend the Z/2 over the Z/1, though we realize that many folks do not want a strap over their toe.
The Chaco Z/1 offers outstanding stability. Its footbed is thick but supple, so it accommodates inconsistencies in the trail without transferring them to your feet. At the same time, the straps keep your foot securely in place, so this model feels rock solid. Again, the Z/1 is only edged out here by the Z/2, because the Z/2's extra toe strap adds even more stability.
The Z/1 provides excellent stability across a variety of terrain, from steep scree slopes to snowfields (admittedly, probably not the intended use for a sandal, but we like to live dangerously).
We're as happy wearing this model for gardening as we are using it as a primary shoe on multi-day backcountry adventures, so the Z/1 is a standout here. This sandal is comfortable and durable enough to withstand the varied terrain of the backcountry, while still being simple and pared-down enough to slip on for a quick bike ride around town or a walk to the coffee shop. Besides trail running, there aren't many outdoor activities we wouldn't be happy doing in the Chaco Z/1.
Perhaps best of all, this model can be worn with socks. While this might not make for the most fashionable getup, it's a real treat on cold evenings at camp.
Chacos have become so ubiquitous in many mountain towns that they're almost invisible. While some may be offended at their chunky silhouette and decidedly outdoorsy style, most people seem to think these look anywhere between fine and great. While they're probably not delicate enough to go with nicer dresses, they certainly feel right with a pair of jeans or other casual outfits. This year's Z/1 is offered in a handful of zany colorways, but if you don't like the stock options, you can design a custom pair from an almost unlimited number of colorways for a few extra bucks.
Chacos are famously durable (our lead tester's first pair is still going strong more than a decade later), and they can be used for almost anything you want to do outdoors or around town. Given that, we think the Z/1 would be a steal at twice the price.
As long as the molded footbed of the Chaco Z/1 fits your arches, this comfortable, super-adjustable model will be your constant companion. From off-trail wanders in the backcountry to bike rides around town, this sandal offers outstanding traction, stability, and even a hint of style.
— Joanna Trieger