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Chaco Z/1 Classic

rated 4 of 5 stars
photo: Chaco Z/1 Classic sport sandal
Version reviewed: Custom Z/1 Classics

This is a review of a custom pair of Chaco Z/1 Classics I purchased a few years ago. It’s a pair of Z/1 Classics customized via Chaco’s website; still a nice sandal for walking and water stuff, super-durable, equally happy on moderate trails, in/around the water, on canoes, and at the beach. My only gripe is that the very durable straps have one place where my feet tend to develop a blister, even after a few years; I wear a small piece of tape over that spot. I’m also sprinkling in some ReChaco comments, because I re-strapped and re-soled an old pair of Chaco Z/1s.


  • Custom options so you can get the feel underfoot, sole, straps, hardware you want.
  • Same simple Chaco strap design—adjustable and highly durable
  • Comfortable and supportive for walking and good wet surface traction
  • Very durable
  • Custom Chacos are made in the USA, in Michigan


  • On the heavier side for water shoes
  • Straps I chose are very hard-wearing, I blister in one place unless I tape that area of my foot
  • Custom is more expensive

I bought my first pair of Chacos around 2008 after I broke the hardware on another brand of water sandals. The brand works well for my feet. A few years ago, faced with significantly worn straps and soles on an old pair of Chaco Z/1 Classics, I took a two-pronged approach: I sent the old pair back to Chaco for a fresh pair of straps and a new sole, and I also went on their site and made a custom pair. 


A few things come to mind about Chaco’s sandals. First, they’re very durable. I wear them a lot and beat them up, and they last for years. Second, you adjust the fit in two simple ways: you pull a strap across your instep tight through a slider, and the rest of the strapping except for the heel is one continuous piece of polyester that slides underneath the footbed to customize the fit. I think that simplicity lends to their exceptional durability. Third, the footbed, the piece under your feet, is robust and nicely contoured to make walking and wearing comfortable. Moreover, you can buy either the traditional, harder polyurethane footbed, or you can buy the "cloud" footbed with similar contours but made from a more cushioned material. 

Chacos provide a comfortable walking experience, the ability to customize the strapping to get a secure fit to your feet without using hook/loop (aka Velcro) that wears out, and there is only one piece of plastic hardware to damage or break. The thicker midsole or footbed, while heavier, shields your feet from harder surfaces and rocks, so they’re good for a hike so long as you avoid stubbing your toes. 

Take some time adjusting the straps at first. It can take some patience to slide them under the footbed and get the fit where you want it. Worth the effort, though. 

Chaco Z/1 from the top. Note the tape—it’s a wear point I will address.
These are ChacoGrip soles after walking a number of miles Oceanside. 


Chaco’s website has a custom tab across the top if you want to build your own pair. In addition to the Z/1, you can customize slides, flip flops, and three other varieties of Chaco sandals that have a skinny double-strap design (the ZX/1 and ZX/2) or the Z/2, which is a pair of Z1 sandals with a strap over the big toe. I wear a pair of Z/2 sandals, a stock version, if I want an extra-secure fit in the water. 


The logo patch comes in 24 colors—or you can go without it. I chose plain red for the strap running through the slider. Interestingly, that strap is softer than the topo map straps.  
You can customize a lot. I just counted 65 different strap colors on the site for the main straps. You also pick colors for the heel strap, risers (from sole to strap), buckle straps, buckle color stitching color, type of footbed, type of sole, sole and footbed color…you get the idea. They’ll even embroider up to 8 letters onto the heel strap. Worth noting that unlike stock Chacos, which are now manufactured overseas, custom and ReChaco work happens in the US—if that matters to you. Both pair that Chaco built or worked over for me in Michigan were very well done, but I can’t comment on current stock/shelf model quality because I haven’t bought a pair of those in years. 
On the beach. By the way, that black stitching could have been one of many colors, and there are a few colors of buckles. Had I wanted a different color for the heel strap, no problem. 

I mostly kept it simple but chose the softer Cloud footbed and the ChacoGrip sole for mine. The standard polyurethane sole has a nice contour, but it’s a hard-wearing material without much cushioning. ChacoGrip is sort of a standard sole for all seasons; you can also pick the Terreno sole with deeper lugs for hiking, or the Colorado Vibram sole that has broad flat areas and shallow treads—ChacoGrip is fine in the water, but Colorado is the better choice on wet rocks. The fabric I chose has a topo map pattern.

Custom straps - they have faded slightly from regular/heavy use

In the interest of variety, as I noted, I also re-strapped and re-soled an old, worn pair of Chaco Z/1 sandals. I put the Colorado sole on those. 

Green straps on the ReChaco old pair of Z/1 sandals. These have the harder footbed which I have worn since 2008.


Colorado sole, slightly better for wet rocks. Less traction for walking otherwise, though.

A few observations: First, neither of these strap patterns are available today, though there is a lot of variety, however, the red and green straps are not made from the same material. The green ones feel like polyester, they’re reasonable soft, and they have never caused a blister on my feet. The red strap is more firm and less forgiving. I would be hard-pressed to wear out the red straps, but the harder/more durable material has a cost—I still get a blister near the smaller toes if I walk long distances in them. So, I have learned to tape that one area of my feet before long walks, particularly if I’m in and out of the water for multiple hours. 

One thing to keep in mind—I had no way to know the red straps were thicker and less forgiving, they weren’t identified as such. Hopefully, Chaco has standardized the strapping so it’s all made from the same material, a polyester that’s relatively forgiving, as most people prefer to avoid blisters or taping their feet. All the stock Chacos I have checked out in stores recently have pretty forgiving polyester strapping. 

Another thing—the softer cloud soles cost $10 extra when you customize. Custom Chacos cost 30-40% more than the normal retail price for a non-custom pair, and you can often find stock Z/1 and Z/1 cloud Chacos (discontinued, less-appealing colors) for as low as $50-60 on some outdoor website outlet or clearance sections if you don’t care at all how they look. 


I recommend the cloud midsoles. I’m used to both at this point, but the softer and more cushioned material is more comfortable and still wears extremely well. Soles, colors…up to you if you customize. 

I like Chacos generally because the design works for me in a lot of situations. They fit my wider, flat feet well. Don’t buy them if a thicker, heavier midsole might bother you. There are a number of more slender options out there from Bedrock, Xero, and other brands if that suits you better. If you crave toe protection, Keen’s toe bumpers are awesome.

As an overall sandal, I have been happy with Chaco, and the customizing—both the full custom version and the ReChaco—was fun and got me strap colors and patterns I like and that you don’t often (ever) see. 


I have worn the custom and ReChaco sandals for more than two years. I walk in them, take them to the beach, and use them for light hiking and canoeing.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $120 (a few years ago)

About the Author

Andrew Friedman is a New Hampshire native who loves the Presidentials and spent his college summers guiding trips in the Adirondack High Peaks. He loved introducing his children to hiking and the outdoors. In addition to New England and the Adirondacks, he has hiked the shores of the Great Lakes, the Tetons, a number of California's state and national parks, the Albanian Alps, and trails in India, Asia, and the Middle East. Andrew logged his first review on Trailspace in 2007 and joined the Trailspace Review Corps in 2011. Andrew lives and works in the DC metro area.

I own ten pairs of sandals and bought these Chacos in San Francisco at REI a few years ago on a trip to the USA from England. I had heard rave reviews about Chacos from everyone I spoke to but at that time you couldn't buy them in the UK.

Mine have the heavy duty Vibram sole and they are VERY hard wearing. The Polyurethane straps however are beginning to fray slightly around my big toe and I find the footbed quite harsh on my feet, although I can walk in them all day without a problem.

My biggest gripe is that they weigh a ton! Having now owned two pairs of Teva Terra fits as well as the Chacos, the Tevas get my vote, being more comfortable, much lighter and also very hard wearing. Chacos definitely have "pose" value here in the UK as all my friends wear Tevas.

I also own Source sandals, Merrells and spend 10 months of the year or so exclusively in sandals. The Chacos are good, but no way as good as the almost legendary status they seem to be accorded by many Americans I have spoken to.

Materials: PU straps Vibram sole
Use: Pretty well everything in summer
Break-in Period: none
Weight: Too Heavy!!!!!
Price Paid: $90 (I think?)

Version reviewed: Custom Z/1 Classics

These sandals will keep you comfortable all day long. They are sturdy, have good traction, and will hold up no matter what you put them through.


  • Comfortable
  • Good traction
  • Sturdy


  • Price

These are one of the best sandals you can buy. I have gone on numerous float trips and even a 5-mile hike in the mountains in them and they have held up. They have pretty good traction so you can hike fairly well in them. I also never have gotten any blisters in them.

One downside is that when walking in water they tend to get pea gravel stuck between the sole and your foot, but that is just because they are open toed. 

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $35

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The Z/1 Classic replaced the Chaco Z/1 Pro.


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