Hands-on Gear Review

Chaco Z/1 Classic Review

Price:  $105 List | $91.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Extremely supportive, insanely durable, good stability.
Cons:  Heavy, lack of traction when wet, uncomfortable before break-in.
Bottom line:  Great support and stability come with this all-rounder, but its weight and poor traction on wet rocks knock it down a peg.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Sizes:  7 to 15
Weight:  2 lb
Sole Material:  Polyurethane
Manufacturer:   Chaco

Our Verdict

The flagship model of Chaco's empire of sandal footwear, the Z/1, is a no-nonsense, robust and functional sandal that doesn't back down from anything. With its unprecedented support and stability for a sandal, it's built for serious adventures…well, at least serious adventures where you don't care about weight. At two pounds a pair and reasonably large (both in width and thickness), this hunk of rubber is substantial. However, if you're that guy who needs the burliest everything, then step right up to the Chaco Z/1.

Product Update
The Z/1 Unaweep is replaced with the Z/1 Classic. Purchase links will take you to this new model (pictured in the main photo above) since we believe it will be more available. Keep reading to learn more!



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Sandals for Men


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Tommy Penick

Last Updated:
Thursday
October 31, 2013

Share:

The New Chaco z/1 Classic versus the Unaweep z/1


While the z/1 model continues to be a staple of Chaco's pedigreed sandal line, it is now offered with the ChacoGrip outsole instead of the Unaweep outsole. According to Chaco, the ChacoGrip is an upgraded rubber compound with new tread designs which is better for wet traction. We're currently testing this model and will let you know what we think when the full review comes out. This new model looks to be very similar to the model we reviewed, but we're awaiting information from Chaco to learn of any other changes which may have coincided with the outsole switcheroo. The line features fun new color and pattern options for the strapping system and continues to be priced at $105.

Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the new z/1 Classic pictured on the left and the z/1 Unaweep shown on the right.


We haven't had the opportunity to test out this new version of the z/1's yet. For now, the text and ratings below reflect the performance of the z/1 Unaweeps.

Hands-on Review of the Chaco z/1 Unaweep Sandals



Comfort


The Unaweep's chassis is dense. Very dense. While we wouldn't say "hard," we would absolutely say dense — yes, even for a third time in three sentences. Though at first the dense footbed is a bit off-putting, we were ensured by fiercely brand loyal Chaco wearers that soon enough our shoes would be worthy of calling family, just like they do. The fierce brand loyalty seems to stem from their insane durability, dependability and overall ability to eventually form into your foot's natural profile.

At first wear you'll notice the aggressive diamond pattern to the footbed, and it really doesn't feel that good. But soon enough, your Chacos, too, will be filled in with dirt and foot slime and that pesky diamond pattern will soften out but still function as built to provide positive grip between the foot and the footbed. After sitting down with the box and your new Chacos, dial in those straps for a while. It might take an hour your first time, but have faith — this will only happen once.

After the initial setup and break-in, they do become comfortable. But they will not be nice and cushy like the Teva Hurricane XLT or the Keen Newport H2.

It may be reiteration but let me clarify some of Chaco's terms: z/1=no toe loop, more comfortable, less stability, and z/2=toe loop, less comfortable initially, more stability. These options are available on all of their shoes. Check out the video review to learn more about the straps.

We apologize for any confusion, but if you're dedicated to purchasing a Chaco product, you just pick the footbed, then pick if you want z/1 or z/2. It's not actually as difficult as we may have made it out to be.

Stability


The chassis of the Unaweep is unparalleled and doesn't back down. It would even be a worthy chassis to throw into a hiking boot. Chaco designed their shoes well. In addition to an advanced arch support system and deep heel cup, they've utilized the points of the foot that are worthy of having straps next to. If a shoe company put a strap halfway down your arch, it would be all floppy, simply because it is anchored to a part of the foot that is built to move around. Instead, Chaco has placed its layered straps outside of the ball of the foot, on both sides of the heel and just past the pinky toe at the base of the toes. These points of contact offer a great amount of stability, utilizing the anatomy of the foot rather than fighting it.

Fit and Design


As previously mentioned, Chaco's footbed contour, including the arch support and heel cup, is admirable. We frequently would grab a Chaco product out of our arsenal of sandals whenever we knew we'd have to be standing around. In addition to improving the less exciting parts of life like standing in line, our feet were happy to have the Unaweep as a brave companion throughout our more core adventures.

Durability


This thing is bombproof. There are few other ways to praise their durability as effectively. While there isn't really a bunch that can go wrong (total parts list: buckle, webbing, sole, footbed), we were really impressed with the craftsmanship of the Unaweep. After asking around for a long time, we finally found a few folks who could comment on the lifetime of their Unaweeps. Most people claimed between eight and ten years before their Chaco products kicked the bucket. But no, no, these shoes didn't go in the trash, they just went back to the factory for a ten-year checkup, with either a new sole or new straps, for a pretty reasonable charge.

Traction


So far we've been pretty positive about the Unaweep, but it's about to get a little nasty. While we found the Unaweep to be unbelievably robust, well designed, and more or less comfortable after a pretty harsh break-in period, we can't get used to the traction…or lack thereof. In comparison to the Chaco Z/2 Classic, the Unaweep has an improved sole, but the lugs pretty much sit under the arch and are ineffective. The Vibram soles did OK on dry, grippy rock, like granite through the Sierras. But we found ourselves falling a good bit on the polished, slimy, muddy, mossy rocks of the Appalachians. However, the footbed didn't slip on our foot, even when our feet were falling off rocks, so we guess that's a bit of a consolation prize for less than desirable wet traction.

Best Applications


These things bring home the bacon for running for coffee, looking stylish (in select areas), hiking in dry areas and jumping off things a bit too high for sandals, but they start to fall apart a little bit when it gets slick out. At the very least, they're great shoes to have around to kick it in, since some of us never learned how to really walk all that properly in flip-flops.

While the Unaweep disappointed us a bit in terms of its traction performance on the banks of rivers, it's actually amazing when you're in a river. Whether you're accidentally swimming out of your raft or in your raft, the shoe performs great until you've got to climb out on some slippery rocks. Besides, that was the sandal's original purpose.

Value


Yes, they list for $105 and are really just some big pieces of rubber and a strap. Anyone can do that, right? Well, they can't make one that lasts for ten years. Some simple mathematics will show us that 100 usable days a year (+/- depending on location/pain tolerance) across 10 years, for roughly $100 dollars isn't too bad at all ($.10/wear). Compared to a lot of other outdoor gear, those are pretty solid numbers.

Conclusion


If you treat gear like grizzly bears treat bear cans, this is your shoe. You can't hurt it, go ahead and try (but don't blame us when you get hurt). If you're going to be running up and down the sides of creeks and rivers, muddy banks and roots, maybe look into something with some better grip like the Teva Terra Fi 4.

Tommy Penick

You Might Also Like

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 28, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.5)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 33%  (1)
4 star: 67%  (2)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Hiker

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Jul 28, 2015 - 08:23pm
andrewf · Hiker · cabin john

I thought it was interesting that the two primary downsides to this review are the weight of the shoe and the slickness of the sole. The weight comes with the territory - this is a heavy duty sandal no matter how you slice it. if you want something ligher weight, you get another brand.

regarding the sole, opt for the sticky rubber "pro" sole. it might mark up your floors or decks or canoe bottoms a little bit, but it's excellent in the water and on slick rocks. I have pairs of Z/1 and Z/2 pros, both several years old. i wore them so much that i had each re-strapped a few years ago. it's a great shoe.



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.

Camper

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Mar 17, 2015 - 08:29pm
kzerbe · Camper

I love my Chacos. They aren't the lightest sandals available, but I'd wager to say they will last as long as any of 'em. I've had mine for 2 years, and they are my go-to shoe during warm weather. Their adjustability (is that a word?) is second to none, allowing you to really dial them in. Mine did take a few days of break-in, which meant I wore them around the house with socks on while my fiance laughed at me.

I use them for anything involving water during the summer. They've been with me kayaking in Virginia and floating the Missouri in Montana. I've used them on a couple small hikes (<3 miles), and wouldn't recommend them for longer treks. Probably my favorite use for my Chacos is to throw them on after having my feet cooped up in hiking boots all day. Doesn't get much better.



Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.


Have you used this product?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...