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BACKPACKER Gear 360 Review
“The Cadillac of Sandals” is a phrase that might not exactly roll off the tongue, but it describes the Chaco Z/Cloud perfectly. This hiking sandal is as full-featured and comfy as a luxury car, and offers a smooth ride over variable terrain. The key feature here is the Z/Cloud’s footbed: A soft layer of polyurethane that conforms to your foot rests on top, with a denser layer underneath. The dual-density construction grants a pillowy feel without sacrificing support, and the design is further bolstered by ample arch support and a deep heel cup. (While the footbed shape is similar to the venerable Z/1 Classic, that sandal only has one type of PU.)
On the steep, 3-mile hike to Chiquito Falls in southern California’s Cleveland National Forest, the Z/Cloud provided a stable platform on which to hop among basketball-sized boulders. “When pressure spiked at the heel or toe as I hiked up- or downhill, my feet would sink into the insole instead of threatening to shear off-center from the sandal’s surface,” one tester says. “No matter the angle that I put my foot down, I always felt planted.” He also notes that the sandal’s 3.5-millimeter-deep tread held fast in soft dirt; on hard rock, it was a bit less grippy.
The Z/Cloud’s single-pull adjustment straps hold the foot in place snugly and never loosened. We did wish, however, for the ability to independently adjust tension in the forefoot. That’s the only miss, though, and it’s a minor one; the Z-Cloud will largely keep your feet cruising along in comfort, mile after mile. Just like a Cadillac.
Active Pass Member Review: Zig Lewon
I used the Z/Cloud on a monthlong sea kayaking trip on the Sea of Cortez, in Baja, Mexico. I wore them every day: as water shoes, hiking shoes, and camp shoes, everywhere from sandy beaches to rocky desert terrain. This sandal is plenty sturdy, and showed no damage after more than 30 hard days of wear. On the last day of the trip I hiked up a steep, crumbly slope for a summit sunrise. The Z/Cloud gripped well on the loose dirt and rock and stayed secure on my feet, which is very important in that type of terrain. The sole provided good protection against volcanic rock and desert thorns, but it was still soft and comfortable and conformed well to my foot. The straps slide through the sole for fine-tuning but need little adjustment after the initial fitting, which is good because the system was hard to move after two weeks in saltwater (the buckle still worked fine). It’s not the lightest sandal out there, but the combination of comfort, grip, and durability can’t be beat.