Are Chacos good for walking?
When my buddy Joe first told me he was thinking about getting a pair of Chacos for our upcoming backpacking trip, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. As someone who has logged countless miles on trails all over the country, my beat-up hiking boots felt like an extension of my own two feet.
“Aren’t those just glorified sandals?” I asked Joe, picturing the infamous tan-strap sports sandals I’d seen on frat guys and sorority girls. “Do you really think those will work for serious hiking?”
But Joe went on to explain some of the key benefits of Chacos that made them surprisingly well-suited for outdoor adventures…
Why Choose Chacos for Hiking and Walking?
As I dug into the features and benefits of Chacos more, I’ll admit – my buddy Joe made some excellent points about why they can actually be a smart choice for certain hiking and walking scenarios.
- Custom Arch Support: One thing I didn’t realize about Chacos is that they are designed to mold to your feet, providing personalized arch support that can rival even the best hiking boots. For those with foot pain or injuries, this custom contouring can make a huge difference in comfort over long distances.
- Secure Fit: Between the heel strap, adjustable toe loop, and cinchable midfoot strap, Chacos lock your feet in place in a way you wouldn’t expect from a sandal. This extra security goes a long way toward preventing stubbed toes and rolled ankles.
- Grippy Sole: The proprietary ChacoGrip outsole lives up to its name, giving you reliable traction even on wet or uneven terrain. Over the years I’ve been amazed at the things I can scramble up wearing Chacos.
- Quick Drying: When you inevitably end up crossing a stream or marching through some mud, Chacos drain and dry fast compared to waterlogged boots or shoes. Less moisture equals fewer blisters in my experience.
- All-Day Wearability: Between the contoured LUVSEAT footbed and adjustable fit, Chacos stay comfy mile after mile. I’ll take a well-loved pair of Chacos on an all-day hike over stiff hiking boots any time.
Potential Downsides of Chacos for Hiking
However, as much as I’ve come to appreciate Chacos, Joe and I did agree they aren’t necessarily ideal for every hiking scenario. There are a few potential downsides to consider…
- Minimal Toe Protection: Unlike a sturdy boot, Chacos leave your toes exposed, increasing the risk of stubs, scrapes, and root jams on technical trails.
- Debris Hazards: It’s not uncommon for little rocks, dirt, and other trail debris to work its way uncomfortably between your foot and sandal.
- Limited Warmth: Chacos + cold temps don’t really mix well in my experience unless you wear Wool Sox or something similar. Definitely not my first pick for winter hiking.
- Muddy Conditions: While the open-toe design is great for stream crossings, thick mud can get trapped between your feet and the sandals’ footbed.
Optimizing Chacos for Hiking: My Top Tips
Through plenty of trial and error out on the trails (including a few unexpected tumbles!), I’ve picked up some best practices for making Chacos work for hiking…
- Carefully tighten the heel and toe straps so they hug your foot snugly – this minimizes rubbing and hot spots.
- Consider wearing hiking socks if you’ll be covering long distances or rugged terrain – they cushion your feet and prevent debris from working its way in.
- Apply a friction-minimizing balm or tape to known blister-prone areas as a preventative measure.
- Always break Chacos in before a big hike! Take them on a few short walks first to allow your feet to adjust.
Are Chacos the one-size-fits-all ideal hiking footwear? Probably not – but with the right prep and expectations, they can definitely pull their weight in plenty of scenarios.
Choosing the Best Chaco Styles for Hiking & Walking
With so many Chaco sandal styles and iterations available today, it can get a little overwhelming trying to select the right model for your needs.
Based on my firsthand experience, here’s a quick breakdown of some of the best Chaco models for hiking and walking…
- Z/Cloud: With its soft, cushioned footbed, the Z/Cloud is my top pick for all-day comfort. The extra padding helps reduce foot fatigue over long distances.
- Z/Volv: This athletic-inspired style features stretchy, fast-drying upper straps, making it perfect for hiking scenarios that involve getting wet. The integrated toe guard also helps prevent stubs.
- Terra FI Lace: One of Chaco’s closed-toe hiking shoe options, the Terra FI Lace offers a bit more protection and support for rugged terrain, while still giving you Chaco’s signature custom fit.
I always recommend trying on multiple Chaco models at your local gear store to test the fit. An ill-fitting pair can undermine even the best sandal’s performance on the trail.
Caring for Your Chacos: 6 Maintenance Tips
Investing in a quality pair of Chacos means committing to keeping them in good shape for the long run. Here are my top six tips for extending the life of your Chacos:
- Rinse/scrub off dirt after muddy/sandy hikes before it has a chance to dry and cake on.
- Stuff with newspaper or shoe trees when not being worn to help wick away moisture and maintain shape.
- Apply fabric protector spray to the straps once or twice a year to prevent fading.
- Check screws/buckles periodically and tighten/replace as needed.
- Consider resoling once the tread wears thin – far cheaper than new sandals!
- Use leather conditioner on occasion to keep leather/suede straps supple.
With occasional TLC, a trusty pair of Chacos can log serious miles out on the trails with your for years to come!
The Verdict: Are Chacos Good for Hiking and Walking?
At the end of the day, deciding whether Chacos are the right choice or not comes down to personal preference and the conditions you’ll be up against.
For mellow to moderate day hikes in decent weather, I firmly believe Chacos can be an excellent option that prioritizes comfort and versatility. The custom arch support and secure yet quick-drying fit make them ideal for the humble day hiker.
However, for extreme temperatures, highly technical terrain, or multi-day backpacking trips requiring heavy loads, a sturdier boot with ankle support and weatherproofing is likely the smarter way to go.
As with most things related to hiking, only you can decide what footwear option gives you the right blend of performance, protection, and enjoyment out on the trails. Hopefully weighing the pros and cons of Chacos above helps you determine if strappy sandals deserve a spot in your hiking quiver!