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The Chaco Z/1 Classic Sandal needs to be in your go-to beach gear list.

This sandal has changed my ocean-centered life.

By: Shea Donavan + Save to a List

I’m a big shoe guy. Keeping those toes intact and covered has always been on top of my list. That’s why I’ve always had trouble with sandals and what came with them - rubbing and rashing, tiny rocks getting stuck in the straps, or suffering from them being too loose or too tight. This all changed when I strapped a mean green pair of Chaco Classic Z/1 Sandals on my no-sun-seeing feet.

Growing up adventuring in the rivers and mountains of Colorado, I absolutely knew about Chaco, but some part of me had always said I wasn’t going to be a sandal man. This has since changed.

After making the move to the mellow, small, surf town of Encinitas years ago, I would occasionally wear a pair of flip flops on my way to surf, but I just never felt like I truly belonged in them. Inexpensive and flimsy flops were good for chilling, but past that, I had always run into problems. So instead, I started to just go barefoot, thinking that my natural state might do me some good!

However, this winter, I found a pair of Chaco Classic Z/1 Sandals at my feet. It seemed late in my life, but... was it perfect timing? Was it fate? The pair I picked out was called “Olive Night,” which was an olive green sole that had matching straps. I thought that the monochromatic scheme looked really clean and had a bit more of a low key ‘street’ look that I seem to find myself going for more often than not. I felt like this colorway would be really versatile around Encinitas since it would look natural and not too flashy while on the beach, but could also be paired with nicer clothes and really heighten a look that I’m wearing out on the town.

I started slowly into my relationship with this new pair of sandals. I first started wearing them with socks, maybe to the coffee shop down the street, out to breakfast, or to the park. Mellow little trips that helped me just dip my toe into this new 'shoe-sperience'. I found that every time I strapped them on, I began to like them more and more.

When some friends came into town and wanted to hike a trail down to the ocean, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put them to the test in a proper rugged area. We headed down south to the sandy ocean cliffs of Torrey Pines State Reserve. The trail was loose and rocky. My Chaco sandals on the other hand? Completely opposite. They stayed tight and comfortable. No little punk rocks slipping underneath those straps. Plus, the contoured arch support that Chaco builds into these sandals had my feet feeling like they were on cloud nine for the entire hike, all the way down to the beach!

These beaches tend to be scattered in ocean rocks during the winter and springtime, and the low tides reveal the tide pools on the sharp reef along the water’s edge that my friends and I love to explore. These sandals were made for this type of beachy adventure. Walking across the scattered rocks and stepping up to the slippery algae covered reef was almost too easy. With the thick rubber sole, and straps that I could make certain were perfectly tight to my foot, slipping wasn’t even an option.

Even walking through the ocean’s shallows, where I might normally be nervous about stepping on a stingray or a sharp piece of reef, became a breeze in my Chaco Z/1 sandals. These things just aren't bothered by the trials of nature that used to ail my bare feet. They seemed like they were just waiting to get wet so they could show me all they had.

We looked for octopus, skipped rocks, and explored around the pool for a while before deciding to start the climb back up the cliffs. This was another test. I’ll admit - I was a bit nervous. Would the now wet sandals, combined with the rocky sand of the trail, force the under-strap blisters that I normally experience in cheap flops to make their first appearance? This might be the biggest problem for me and sandals. A few blisters and your feet are in pain for days. These Chaco sandals though? No such thing. I didn’t even think about my feet on the trail until we got to the car when I realized they were still tight, holding no rocks, and were already dry. I couldn’t believe it, asking myself, “Are these my new go to kicks? What took me so long?”

We got back to our car, and changed out of our hiking clothes before making the short drive to grab a bite downtown. I threw on my pants and some socks, glanced at the other shoes I had packed in the car (just in case I needed to look a bit more dressed up for dinner) and decided to slide my feet right back into my Chaco sandals. They still looked so clean, and went so well with my “downtown ‘fit,” that there was no point in wearing the other shoes I had brought.

Since that day, my Chaco sandals have developed more of a full-time schedule on my feet. With the easy quick-adjust strap system, wearing them to check the surf in the morning, on an evening skate down the street for a taco, or even on a night out, only makes sense. And with Southern California’s weather, there’s not even one single thought about cold toes.

As I’m writing this, I’m on my way up to the central coast of CA for a surf trip, wearing the same pair of Chaco Classic Z/1 Sandals. Headed up to catch some waves, do some beachside camping, and hit some more seacliff hikes. These sandals are the only footwear that I’ve packed for this trip, but I’m 100% confident that they couldn’t be more prepared for the adventures to come.

One thing that I would recommend to future Chaco-lovers: Double-check Chaco sandals size chart before purchasing. They only offer full sizes (no half sizes) so sometimes it can be a bit difficult to decide whether to size up or down, and it's important to get the right fit because of the ergonomic arch support (these sandals are APMA-accepted).  Since I like my shoes to fit the sole of my foot pretty closely, I found these sandals to run a little bigger than I usually prefer, and I ended up sizing down from my normal half shoe size.

If you're not sure what size will fit you best, check out these great independent gear shops that carry Chaco sandals. There, you can do a sit-and-fit to ensure your feet feel properly supported and ready for adventure. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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