Chaco Z/Cloud 2 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Stable and supportive, stylish, durable
Cons: Annoying to adjust, uncomfortable for the flat-footed, heavy
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Z/Cloud 2 is a classic Chaco with something of a cult following. This shoe has traveled with many an avid outdoor wanderer for years and years, and its durability is among the highest in our test. It features an extra layer of PU on the footbed for added cushioning and comfort, but this doesn't make much difference in performance. We'd choose this cushier option for longer backcountry days, but also feel really comfortable in the Z/1 Classic model, which doesn't have the Cloud layer. The biggest difference between these models is the toe loop: this model has one, and the Z/1 doesn't. Personally, we prefer the Z/Cloud 2, but if toe loops make you cringe, you'll likely be happier in the Z/1.
It seems confusing at first, but it helps if you understand Chaco's naming conventions, which go something like Z/(footbed)(straps). This model, the Z/Cloud 2, features an extra layer of cushy PU on the footbed (that's the "Cloud" part) and a toe loop (that's the "2"). The Z/1 Classic has a standard footbed and no toe loop (that's the "1"). The Z/Volv X2 features their lighter, pared-down footbed ("Volv"), double straps ("X"), and a toe loop ("2"). Still can't make heads or tails of this? Just look at the pictures.
As has almost always been the case, Chacos have a reputation for comfort that varies from user to user. The Z/Cloud 2 scores in the middle of the pack in this category, but you will probably either love it or hate it based on the shape of your foot.
The sole on the Z/Cloud 2 is one of the thickest and stiffest we tested. That said, we found this to be a big benefit. The stiffness protects your feet from sharp substrates and makes it very durable. However, more flat-footed testers may be frustrated by this model's high arch, which will not break into a flatter foot. Despite some debate about whether or not the Z/Cloud 2's sole is optimal for a broad enough swath of users, our testers unanimously declare the Chaco's strap system as one of the most comfortable.
As long as Chaco's molded footbed works with your foot, you won't find a more comfortable sandal for hiking long distances with a heavy pack. The thick sole is essential for taking on the extra weight of a pack so that your joints aren't jarred with every step, especially on downhill stretches. The Z/Cloud 2 kept us even more comfortable than most hiking boots! The models with thinner soles make hiking less comfortable when weighed down.
The Z/Cloud 2 is one of our top performers in this category. We tested these sandals on every type of terrain we could think of — from Sierra granite to duff-covered slopes to river crossings to city sidewalks — and the Z/Cloud 2 performed well across the board. Its sole provides outstanding traction on pretty much every surface, and while it's thick, it's also supple enough to bend and grip in ways that a clunkier-soled shoe cannot. The footbed also has great traction, and it helps that the super-adjustable straps keep the foot firmly in place.
The models from Bedrock in our review slightly edge out the Z/Cloud 2 concerning sole traction, but their footbeds aren't quite as grippy. We think all are outstanding in this category, and which one works for you will depend on whether you're looking for a thick, cushy sole or a thin, highly flexible one.
If there is one adjustment system in our test group that makes us go "Huh?", it's the one on the Z/Cloud 2. Once you get the hang of it, though, this really is one of the most adjustable models out there.
One continuous piece of webbing makes up the sandal's strap system, and this piece wraps around the foot in multiple locations. To adjust one of the straps, you have to lengthen or shorten one of the other ones, which usually leads to adjusting all of them. This system has its pros and cons. It means that micro adjustments and a hugging feeling are 100% possible, but that simple, quick adjustments are sort of out of the question. Adjustments can take many attempts to get just right. When you're in the backcountry, your feet tend to shrink and swell based on altitude, hydration levels, and miles traveled. We love that we can get the Z/Cloud 2 to fit perfectly, but wish there was a less Rube Goldberg-ish way to do it. For a more intuitive system that still leads to a well-adjusted sandal, we recommend the Bedrock models.
With full-coverage straps and a sturdy, supportive sole, the Z/Cloud 2 edges out the competition in this category.
The sole is thick but still supple. This makes the sandal feel stable by absorbing your weight while contouring around small variations in the trail, so you're not wobbling over every lump and bump. This is especially important while carrying a heavy pack. The footbed grabs and cups your heel and provides arch support, and the toe loop provides additional stability by stopping your foot from sliding forward. The only reason that the Z/Cloud 2 doesn't score perfectly in this category is that its significant heel-toe drop earns mixed reviews from our testers, and its weight tires some testers' legs enough to make them feel more unstable on technical terrain.
We love the adaptability of this model and that it transitions easily from rugged outdoor pursuits to urban adventures.
If you lead a casual enough lifestyle, the Z/Cloud 2 could theoretically replace every other shoe in your closet. It's durable and burly enough to handle the roughest trail hike. It has the traction and material design required to withstand tons of time in the water. It's chic enough to be presentable around town. It has a thin enough fore-sole to work with a flat-pedal bike. And, critically, you can fold the sandal's toe strap down so you can "rock socks with Chocs" on chilly mornings in the backcountry. This is an impressive range of performance from a single shoe.
The only area that limits the adaptability of the Z/Cloud 2 is its weight. This is the heaviest model we tested, so it's tough to take along as a secondary shoe when traveling light.
The Z/Cloud 2 is attractive and sleek. When we surveyed family and friends, this model received one of the highest style ratings in our test group.
Subjectively, our testers think this is one of the most stylish models, rivaled only by a few other options. If you're looking for variations on the Chaco style, the Z/1 Classic looks just like the Z/2 but without the toe loop, and the Z/VolV X2 has double straps and a toe loop.
This model isn't cheap, but with one of the burliest soles we tested and straps that are ready for years of use, we think it's a steal given that you may only have to buy two or three pairs over the course of your entire hiking life. That's the kind of quality and value we wish we found in every piece of outdoor gear.
The Chaco Z/Cloud 2 is ready for action, whether you're hiking to the crag, strapping in for a weekend of backpacking, or hitting the local frisbee golf course. While some testers found it uncomfortable, users with higher arches who need support love it and we happily award it a Top Pick Award for Distance Hiking.
— Joanna Trieger & Shey Kiester