By Brendan Leonard

Photo by Hilary Oliver

My friend Lee sometimes jokes that he has “walking-across-the-parking-lot” shoes, making fun of the fact that as rock climbers, we often have approach shoes, crack climbing shoes, sport climbing shoes, all-day climbing shoes, mountaineering boots (summer and winter), ad nauseam. Which is true. Most people who have a lot of outdoor interests probably have a huge shoe collection.

Sometimes I get a little lazy and don’t want to change shoes for a certain activity. Or I just don’t want to trap my feet inside socks and shoes. So I just continue to wear my Chaco Z-1s, and adapt. Scared about smashing your toe into a rock? Be more careful. Worried you don’t have enough support? Don’t worry about it, try it first. A few weekends ago, a friend asked me to help him move some things, and I showed up in Chacos, unaware that we were going to be lifting 350-pound flagstone slabs into and out of a pickup. That was probably a little bit much for open-toed footwear. But really, you can get away with Chacos quite a few things they weren’t originally intended for.

Like golf. Unless you’re on a golf course that has a super-strict dress code, Chacos are great, especially when you have to fish a ball out of a water hazard. Or easy bouldering, on a backpacking trip or a walk on the beach. Or day hikes. Really, as long as there’s no snow, they’re pretty ideal. One of my favorite pairs of Chacos I inherited from a cousin who had to buy them as part of his groomsmen’s outfit for a friend’s beach wedding, so obviously at the right event, they cross the line from casual into formal. 

I most often find myself wearing them for approaches to rock climbs, and they’re great for it, once you master basic rock-climbing and scrambling in them. Then you kick them off at the base of the crag, and if you’re cragging for the day, you’ve got the easiest shoes to slip into between pitches. Are they ideal? Maybe not—I’ve scraped up my toes more than once, gotten a rock under my foot several dozen times. But overall, they are the best sandals for scrambling, and way better than wearing shoes and socks. 

If you’re wondering if Chacos are the proper footwear for an activity, the answer is yes, unless you are wondering about skiing or ice climbing. Chacos currently are not ski- or crampon-compatible. But everything else is pretty much fair game. Are the risks—a couple stubbed toes, a couple small cuts on the toes, a few people at the cocktail party looking down disapprovingly at your exposed toes—worth the rewards? To me, they always are. 


Comments (2)

By hellokatier 12/1/2013

just had this conversation with a friend recently.. my husband and i were diving in the bahamas earlier this month and forgot the bootie inserts with our fins.. so we wore our chacos with fins and it was a perfect fit. goofy look, but sure beat losing a fin at 100ft down!

By user_135196 12/2/2013

I'm always trying to convert friends and family to be chaconians. :) So I'm always having this conversation "yeah, you can definitely do that in Chacos!" I tried to wear mine for a SUP lesson, but the guy wouldn't let me, "you'll have to leave your sandals on the beach." I don't know why, but I wasn't too pleased he called them "sandals." lol

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