Chaco Z/Cloud Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Comfortable, rugged, grippy on variable surfaces
Cons: Expensive, somewhat heavy
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Chaco Z/Cloud is only slightly different than its sibling the Z/1 Classic. In fact, the only notable distinction we could report is the softer footbed material found on the Z/Cloud. Otherwise, the two models perform similarly across the board. In the past, we've also reviewed the Chaco Mega Z/Cloud that has a similar design but with wider strap material. Most Chaco models feel and perform similarly, with only small nuances setting them apart.
The Cloud series of Chacos features softer, lighter soles aimed at providing more comfort during extended use outings. The softer material may not offer quite the same arch support as the classic Chaco, though it does conform to the foot a little better and helps minimize pressure points. As was the case for other Cloud series models we've previously tested, we found the Z/Cloud to be a very comfortable sandal once adjusted properly.
The straps of the Z/Cloud allow for a comfortable and precise fit. Our testers agree that the Cloud series is an excellent choice for comfort, assuming that you prefer the pronounced arch support that this brand typically provides.
Chacos are known for being ultra-rugged and sporty sandals that handle everything from river floats to rocky approach hikes to days at the beach. In our experience, the newer Z/Cloud offers the same traction we've grown to expect from the Chaco family. This model features the same ChacoGrip rubber and tread pattern that can be found on the traditional Z/1 Classic model.
Throughout the testing process, the Z/Cloud performed well on a variety of wet and dry surfaces. Even though it has a thick sole, the rubber is forgiving enough to bend and grip on contoured terrain better than other similarly bulky models. Additionally, the footbed material has a diamond tread pattern that helps to lock in a secure footing, which ultimately aids in overall traction.
The softer and lighter midsole material makes this sandal only slightly less stable than its classic Chaco counterpart. While it sports the same rugged outsole that is substantially thicker and stiffer than most sandals, there is noticeably more flexibility in the Z/Cloud when compared to the Z/1 Classic. This model is a step back from the ultra-sporty original, though we still think it can hold its own against most of the competition.
The proprietary Chaco webbing weave keeps your foot secure during dicy scrambles and even maintains solid footing when you've gotten them wet after impromptu river crossings. The Z/Cloud is ousted only by its burlier brother the Z/1 Classic, when it comes to overall stability. It is still an extremely solid sandal, just not quite as stout with the softer footbed material. Other Chaco sandals with the additional toe strap also help dial in an even more snug and stable fit.
The Chaco interwoven webbing loops provide a good amount of adjustability provided you take the time to learn how to get the fit dialed-in correctly. While some may prefer a sandal with more independent points of adjustment, our testers remain convinced that the Chaco system is capable of providing a highly-customized fit. Once past the initial learning curve, the webbing loop can be adjusted to accommodate the nuanced features of your foot.
We found that the Z/Cloud requires less tweaking on the trail than some other Chaco models because the webbing is a bit thicker and has a greater tendency to stay in place during use. It is worth noting that because of the softer footbed on this sandal, a tighter fit is preferred to keep your foot from sliding around too much. But overall, the Z/Cloud has an intuitive and reliable adjustment system that works great once you know how to use it properly.
Chacos are known to handle all sorts of outdoor activities with both style and grace. The Z/Cloud is no exception. Rugged construction and a grippy outsole mean that this sandal can handle everything from watersports to long treks on the trail to approach missions with fully-loaded packs. Without the additional toe loop, this particular Chaco model also gains the bonus of being compatible with socks for those chilly nights at camp. Similar to its Chaco brethren, the Z/Cloud scores high in versatility for its ability to serve as a daily sandal that is also capable of any objective you set out to accomplish.
With one of the highest list prices in our lineup, the standout comfort and performance of the Z/Cloud certainly doesn't come cheaply. However, we've been shown time and time again that Chacos can stand up to years of abuse no matter where you take 'em. Bomber construction, coupled with a guarantee to repair or replace blow-outs, makes this shoe a valuable investment in the long run.
The Z/Cloud is a comfortable and refreshing update to the classic Chaco sandals that many people already know and love. The softer insole material provides greater shock absorption and comfort, with only a small compromise in overall stability. Otherwise, the traction and adjustability of this sandal are on par with most of the higher-scoring models in this review. If you're already fond of Chacos and would like a sandal with no break-in period and greater comfort for extended use, we highly recommend the Z/Cloud.
— Nick Bruckbauer and Rob Woodworth