Gear Review: Custom Chaco Z Sandals

Navigating 450+ colorway options to design and test two pairs of Michigan assembled sandals in New York

Like many New Yorkers, I’ve long avoided wearing sandals in the city. The streets here are just too gnarly—where else can you find neon green puddles that linger year-round? Then this past summer I got my first pair of Chaco sandals, and to my surprise, this changed. The freedom from full-cover footwear made the city’s infamously hot and humid days more bearable while also making river trips and beach days seem just a bit more fun. Which is why we decided to partner with the iconic sandal purveyor to help spread the word about their custom sandal program, MyChaco.

As it turns out, the Michigan-based brand has a special factory right in their hometown of Grand Rapids, where they hand assemble custom orders placed online daily. From the color of thread and type of outsole to the style and pattern of strap, they’ll put together most any concept you can come up with, allowing you to fully express yourself. A.K.A. let your freak flag fly.

At least that’s the idea. So we figured we’d give it a shot, and test out the custom program for ourselves. As a source of inspiration we looked to Chaco’s recent partnership with roaming creative residency Cabin-Time, wherein each of the 14 attending artists each made their own custom sandals. Some were wacky, some were wild, and some were monochrome. (Check out the artist designs in detail here). Even with all those rad references, being extremely picky AND indecisive made choosing from over 450 different strap colors and patterns, and dozens of other component options, easier said than done.

Still, five days later my classic Z/1 sandals arrived. I adhered more or less to New York’s dress code of all black everything, save for a nod to Jerry with some dancing bear embroidery on the heel leash. I also opted for subtle navy stitching, a classic black logo badge, an upgraded cloud footbed (worth the $10 upcharge), and heavy duty, American made Vibram Terrano footbed with 4.5mm lugs for Upstate adventuring. For me, the point of going custom was to create something I’d actually want to wear often—not just see how zany I could get—so with my design, less is more.

Amanda, product tester number two, on the other hand was feeling a bit more adventurous. She opted for the ZX/1 Sandal with double straps and a more bold design overall. The National Parks Foundation pattern heel leash and combination grey footbed and sole are her favorite parts of the design. The lack of logo badge keeps them clean, even with all the purposely clashing colors.

But how do they fit? Feel? We’ve been testing ours for a few weeks around all of New York City. From biking through Brooklyn and commuting by subway uptown to camping Upstate and running errands everywhere in between, we can say, our custom Chacos are comfy as heck. Once I got used to seeing my goofy feet exposed all over town, I really began to enjoy the freedom, and even began to anticipate socks and sandals season, which, thank goodness, has finally arrived.

In short, there’s a reason both genuine explorers and armchair adventurers alike chose Chaco for everything from river rafting (where the brand got its start) and backpacking to the daily commute—they’re comfortable, supportive, and built to last. And now come in practically every color and pattern you can imagine.

visit MyChaco directly to explore making your own custom sandals

and find out more about the Cabin-Time x Chaco partnership here

Related Reading:
Backcountry Introduces the Touring Collection for Winter 2019
Whitewater Icons Chaco and NRS Release Custom Z/Sandal
Gear Review: HOKA ONE ONE x Engineered Garments SS18 Hupana
Danner x Topo Designs Made in USA Collaboration