Hands-on Gear Review

Chaco Z/2 Classic Review

Chaco Z/2 Classic
Top Pick Award
Price:  $105 List | $104.89 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Durable, great stability, great arch support, available in other options and colors
Cons:  Heavy, uncomfortable footbed at first
Bottom line:  A classic among sandals, this model is most loved for its stability and adjustable fit.
Editors' Rating:   
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Sizes:  7 to 15
Weight:  1.75 lb
Sole Material:  Polyurethane
Manufacturer:   Chaco

Our Verdict

From the original Unaweep to the Yampa Z/2 to the current Z/2 Classic, this sandal continues to be refined. It's easy to adjust across the upper with its tried-and-true strapping system that made this shoe famous. It's also more lightweight than the original and features a new, aggressive outsole. Still, its weight is by no means low, especially compared to the Bedrock Cairn Adventure sandals. Despite its weight, the Chaco does bring some nice things to the table. Their innovative design gives a great fit for most wearers, with adjustment in almost every zone, and depending on your location you might be the trendiest person in the room. Or not.

Product Update
The Yampa is no more. Its replacement, pictured above, is the Z/2 Classic. The only differences are a switch to a proprietary outsole and some new colors/designs in the straps.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Tommy Penick

Last Updated:
Monday
October 30, 2017

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The Z/2 Classic vs. the Yampa Z/2


Chaco dropped the Yampa from the production line. Its closest replacement is the Z/2 Classic, which is the same sandal with a new outsole and color options. The photo comparison below highlights the differences in the outsoles, with the Z/2 Classic displayed in the top two photos.

Chaco Z/2 Classic
Chaco Z/2 Classic - Outsole
Chaco Yampa Z/2
Chaco Yampa Z/2 - Outsole

Here are the key differences:
  • New Outsole — The Z/2 Classic features a more aggressive, proprietary ChacoGrip outsole in comparison to the Vibram outsole offered on the Yampa's. We were not impressed with the traction of the Yampa model, and hope the new outsole improves this sandal's purchase.
  • New Look — Chaco added new patterns and colors to compliment the switch from the Yampa to the Classic. Solid black, as seen in the photos above, is still an option.

With the performance-related changes taking place only in the outsole, we estimate the changes to be limited to traction. Our hands-on test was with the Yampa, not the more recent Classic. Therefore, the analysis below reflects the Yampa.

Hands-On Review of the Yampa Z/2


Mac McGee tests out the Yampa in a consequential environment while portaging a Class VI rapid on the Elk River in Tennessee.
Mac McGee tests out the Yampa in a consequential environment while portaging a Class VI rapid on the Elk River in Tennessee.

Comfort


Picking up a Yampa makes you think, "That's one dense shoe." And it feels about the same the first time you wear it. Although Chaco reduced the weight from two pounds per pair down to a pound and a half — down 25 percent — it is still substantially heavier than any other open-design shoe we tested. Nothing about it feels soft other than the supple and perhaps colorful straps they've supplied. The sole feels hard and dense. "Chaconians" told us to be patient — the reward comes with time. And it turns out they were right. As the shoe started to form to our feet, and the aggressive diamond pattern of the footbed softened out (read: filled in with dirt/grime), we started feeling more at home in the sandal.


The comfort benefits increase not only as the number of days you wear them increase but the number of hours per day. If you've got to stand in a line for eight hours, reach for the Yampa. The well-designed arch support system and the highly supportive midsole material (well, at least for a sandal) are really impressive.

Stability


The Chaco's wide stance and high profile footbed offer tons of stability for an open shoe. Additionally, the firm material used through the midsole offers substantial support where other minimalistic shoes such as the Teva Hurricane XLT fall short initially.


Though Chaco's tread design lacks the amount of traction we were hoping for, it makes up for it in stability. Instead of wiggling on top of flexible, tall teeth, the Yampa's relatively flat sole provides a firm foundation.

We've got a bit of beef with the "z/2" strapping system (see below), which includes the toe loop. But its main purpose of eliminating front-to-back movement within the shoe works like a charm. By adding the strap between your toes, Chaco essentially added an additional anchor, opposing the direction of force from the heel strap. This is effective, leaving the Yampa z/2 to be the most stable open-design shoe we tested.

The Chaco Unaweep z/1 in a small creek crossing.
The Chaco Unaweep z/1 in a small creek crossing.

Fit and Design


Chaco's bold and noticeable design is clever. The recognizable webbing routing allows for tons of precise adjustment by running one continuous webbing strap below the footbed. This eliminates the need for any additional buckles, Velcro, snaps or other fasteners. The singular cinch fastener is quicker and easier to use than any other system we tested. However, the strapping isn't immediately intuitive. While the webbing routing may take scouring the box directions like a manual for a fancy piece of technology, once you get your fit set they will remain secure, and you won't need to worry about it again.


However, Chaco's cunning strap routing does have its flaws. Unlike most of our winners, you can't change the heel strap length. Some folks may not have any issues with this, but for some of our testers heel slop was unavoidable and it left their heels falling off the back of the shoe.

In addition to the lack of adjustability for the heel, more problems arise with Chaco's z/2 system, which includes a big-toe loop. The loops work spectacularly by adding stability and eliminating front-to-back movement within the shoe. With one caveat: if the distance between your toes to the back of your heel doesn't match the model foot that the folks at Chaco used to develop the system, you're out of luck. Granted, there's a little bit of room for error, but we'd like to see an adjustment for the heel strap. It would eliminate problems in both the Chaco Yampa Z/1 (no toe loop) and the z/2 system.

The left sandal sports the "z/2" configuration  with the toe loop  while the right shoe displays the "z/1". Take a look at our video review of the Chaco line for an in-depth explanation.
The left sandal sports the "z/2" configuration, with the toe loop, while the right shoe displays the "z/1". Take a look at our video review of the Chaco line for an in-depth explanation.

We love Chaco's single fastener buckle that adjusts easily and doesn't easily slip accidentally. It's a breeze to tighten and loosen the strap to wherever you want and has a high-quality feel. Chaco uses a slightly smaller piece of webbing, which is sewn into the main strap.

But enough about the straps. How about that big hunk of rubber? Well, it's pretty thick, and although it is a bit thinner and a bit lighter than the old Unaweep models, it's still…pretty thick. That thickness can translate one of two ways, depending on the person: stability, support, and longevity; or, adversely, it can translate to weight and bulk. The overwhelming "hunk of rubber" feeling that, initially off-putting, is surprisingly not that noticeable when hiking and walking. After a few weeks, we found the weight to not be a huge issue on a daily basis. That said, we did still notice the weight on longer hikes or when packing for a backpacking trip. It's hard to justify a pound and a half camp shoe when a fully functional shoe one-third of its weight is available.

Durability


We're not sure if we've seen any shoe (or any piece of outdoor gear) as durable as the Chaco Yampa. Like all of our gear, we tried to beat these sandals into submission. But except for looking a bit dirty they don't look different than the day we unboxed them. There's not a lot of things that can go wrong with this shoe, either. The only even possible things: 1. You wear through straps, 2. Break a buckle, or 3. The sole wears through. We couldn't do anything of the sort regardless of our abuse. We called our trusted comrades in the outdoors and found only a few people who said they had needed to have their original Chacos restrapped or resoled (and for a reasonable cost). Most people had to ponder for a while how long it took them to send their shoes off before blurting out an answer that averaged around ten years. While the list price for the Chaco Yampa sits a bit higher than its competition, some quick math will show that wearing these 100 days a year for ten years for 105 dollars isn't too much to ask.


Traction


As we've said previously, we've busted up faces, knees, hands, etc., for the sake of testing gear here at OutdoorGearLab. Unfortunately, a lot of those mishaps came while wearing footwear from Chaco. While we've seen Vibram soles in hundreds of shoes that have worked well for us, the tread pattern of the Yampa fell short. If you spend most of your time on dry California granite, you'll love these. The flat sole feels like a climbing shoe on dry rock. But if you're clobbering around the wet banks of some creeks in the Appalachians, you might want to consider how much this will affect you.


Overall, the shoe performs well in dry, settled environments (like bedrock), but fails to bring traction to the table if it's a little slick out there, whether it be moss, wet rocks, mud or loose dirt. Instead, we suggest our Best-in-Class winner for traction, the Teva Terra Fi 4.

On the left is the Chaco Unaweep sole  with more aggressive blocks throughout the center of the tread pattern. On the right is the Chaco Yampa sole  which has a more subdued design. We didn't find much difference in the actual traction.
On the left is the Chaco Unaweep sole, with more aggressive blocks throughout the center of the tread pattern. On the right is the Chaco Yampa sole, which has a more subdued design. We didn't find much difference in the actual traction.

Best Applications


The Chaco Yampa z/2 is a great choice for anyone with foot problems or anyone who will spend most of their time in this shoe on dry terrain. We also found we'd grab the Yampa when bumming around town during the summer or kicking it down by the docks.

Value


Though the price of the Yampa is a bit higher than the shoes from Teva that we tested, we can't hype up the durability of these suckers enough. This is one tough shoe that will serve you for a long time. Like any purchase, it's important to weigh the lifetime of the product against the cost. So how bad is $105 if the product lasts you ten years?

Conclusion


The Chaco Yampa z/2, though flawed in some of its design elements that may make it difficult for some feet, is a solid choice for a casual shoe or a more technical shoe if the traction conditions allow it. We loved the support and stability the shoe offered us, and we felt comfortable standing around all day in it, which made it a great choice for an urban sandal.
Tommy Penick

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