The era of the sports sandal has arrived, sort of.
If you’ve ever hiked in boots, at some point you have probably said to yourself, “There has to be a better option.”
Then you remember the person you saw wearing sandals and they had nothing but praise for them. It’s more and more common to see hiking sandals out and about, whether you’re on the trail, at the beach, or cruising around town.
Sports sandals are lighter than boots and way more comfortable than your average hiking boot. Your feet breath easily and at the end of the day your socks don’t end up wet and stinky.
Whenever sports sandals are brought up, the inevitable questions arises…
Do you wear Chacos or Tivas?
Which one do you like better, and why?
If you have absolutely no clue on what either of them are, you most likely have seen one of the two brands. We are going to break down the what they are best for and which one is the best fit for you. At the end of this article, you’ll be well versed in the Teva vs Chaco debate.
There is a time and a place for everything and sandals are never going to completely replace hiking boots.
What they will do is change the way your feet feel about hiking. If you haven’t ever put on a pair of Chacos or Tevas, stop reading now and go try them on, if you don’t have time for that… Keep reading.
|Chaco Women's ZX2 Classic Athletic Sandal||4,507 Reviews||View on Amazon|
|Teva Men's Original Universal Sandal||View on Amazon|
|Teva Men's Hurricane XLT Sandal||View on Amazon|
|Teva Men's Katavi Outdoor Sandal||View on Amazon|
What are hiking sandals and why should you care?
Hiking sandals are open toed and/or close toed footwear with a rubber sole and straps. The straps wrap around the back of your ankles and across the top of your feet.
They are lighter than boots, easier to carry and let’s be completely honest, packing around hiking boots can be a pain in the ass. Especially if you have to get on a plane or you only travel with a carry-on.
Sandals can be thrown in the bottom of your bag, or strapped to the outside of any backpack. Just don’t wear them on a plane please, bare feet on planes should be against the law.
If you have ever hiked where there is water, you understand the struggle of taking off your boots to get across a creek or river. You never know how sharp the rocks are, and it’s easy to slip and fall in bare feet. With sandals, you don’t even think twice about getting your feet wet, and you’ll be the first one across the creek with your feet dry in a matter of minutes.
What to look for in the best hiking sandals
The best pair of hiking sandals is going to have good traction on the sole so they don’t slip in the water and a strap system that fits comfortably during intense activity. When it comes to deciding which hiking sandal is best for you, ask yourself these questions.
- How do I plan on using them?
- How heavy are they going to be?
- Are they going to last?
- Can I take them with me everywhere?
- Open design?
- Closed design?
- How are they going to fit my feet?
How do you plan on using them?
Are you going to use them for hiking, traveling, hanging around the house, and/or getting around town? How you plan on using them is going to directly impact the model of Chacos or Tevas you choose.
Hiking sandals are built to be used on the trail, be lightweight, with a low profile while having decent foot support. There are multiple options from both Chaco and Teva that are designed for different adventures.
- How often do you go to the beach?
- Are you planning on hiking for long distances?
- Are you using them around town?
Ask yourself these questions before you buy. The selection of sports sandals from both Chaco and Teva can be overwhelming.
Whatever activity you plan on doing the most in the sandals, that’s the style of sandal that you want.
How heavy are they?
There’s an old backpacking rule of thumb, one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back. In literal terms, it means that you can carry an extra 8 ounces of water (4 lbs) if you shed one pound off your boots. This all came from a 1984 study from the US Army, and How Stuff Works breaks down whether or not this old saying still holds true today.
Throwing extra weight in your pack just because you have lighter boots isn’t the point, less weight on your feet equals less weight on your back. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a day hike, a week long trek, or a long-term trip backpacking trip through SE Asia. The lighter the load on your feet, the lighter the load on your back and body.
Are they going to last?
Both Tevas and Chacos are made to go the distance, they are designed for outdoor wear and tear and will last for years.
Tevas have been in this game forever, have a loyal following, and are the OG in the outdoor sandal game.
Chacos are no slouch either… They typically have a slightly heavier sole and are made for more rugged activity.
Both are designed to last for outdoor use and abuse.
Quick side note here, Chaco will repair anything that breaks due to normal use. If they get melted by the campfire, you’re not covered. If any part of the sandal breaks during normal use, you’re in business.
Which one is more durable? That’s a tough one, they both are durable, and both made to last. If one has a leg up on the other, it’s Chacos, because they offer to repair any part of the sandal that breaks.
Can I take them with me everywhere?
In terms of portability, hiking sandals take the cake. Trying to travel with an extra pair of hiking boots is not easy. If you have hiked enough in faraway places, packing your hiking boots is always a pain point.
The straps on both chacos and tevas compress down to not much more than the sole of the sandal. You could pack three pairs of sandals in a day pack in the same amount of space that one pair of hiking boots takes.
Sandals can easily be tossed into the bottom of your luggage, or strapped onto the outside with a carabiner. With how easy it is packing them, it leaves you wondering why you ever lugged around your big ‘ol hiking boots in the first place.
One of the main concerns when making the shift from hiking boots to hiking sandals is how well your feet are protected. There are rocks and prickly bushes everywhere and your toes and most of your feet are going to be exposed.
Open toes sandals are going to be lower volume, lighter, and simpler in design. They are compact, breathable and flatten down to an area not much bigger than the sole.
On a hike, your feet will be at risk of rocks trying their best to knock off a toenail or two.
Open design sandals are best suited for day hikes, water, or casual everyday use. Be smart with how you use them, even if you are experienced and you decide to take them on a rough trail, get used to a few cuts and scrapes.
Closed design sandals have complete coverage over the toes. They offer a buffer between you and all those nasty bits along the trail that are doing their best to bust up your feet.
Closed design sandals generally have a thicker sole and are made for more rugged conditions.
They are best used for medium to long-distance hikes and activities that you’re in the water for more than a simple creek crossing.
They are covered with cloth and stitching and tend to break down a little easier than open toed sandals.
Unfortunately, they do not dry as quickly as open-toed, simply because they are thicker and made of more material.
How are they going to fit my feet?
Every pair of sandals are going to fit your feet differently, and there are all types of feet. Wide feet, skinny feet, big feet, small feet, smelly feet, green feet and feet that need arch support.
If you have wide feet, Tevas tend to be on the wider side and will be a good fit for you. On the other hand, Chacos lean towards the narrow side, so if that’s you, Tevas are your go-to.
If you have high arches and need a sandal to accommodate your arches look into the Chaco ZX3. Chacos ZX3 sandals are designed for hikers with high arches, while most of the other hiking sandals do not offer the same arch support.
The fit of your sandals or any shoe for that matter is the most important factor to consider. Everyone’s feet are a little bit different in size and shape, and not every sandal is a good fit for every foot. There are a number of styles from each company and chances are that you will find one that will fit you comfortably.
Chaco hiking sandals reviews
Chaco sandals were created in 1989 by a whitewater rafting guide named Mark Paigan. He needed a sandal that supported his feet, made of quality material and suited his personal needs.
He focused on 5 points of improvement…
- Synthetic materials
- Anatomical strap placement
- A continuous pull-through strap
- Top shelf components – outsoles from Vibram
- No Velcro
He whipped up a couple pairs with a pull through strap and brought them to local retailers in Colorado to sell, and most importantly, to get some feedback. It started with small shops, slowly grew from there and the rest is Chaco history.
Chacos are a classic travel and river sandal and are super comfortable, especially after the soles mold to your feet.
The first thing you notice when you put a pair on is how they fit and how well they stay on your feet. You’ll find yourself wearing them everywhere, even after your friends tease you for wearing them, or at least my friends (I still wear them, and have owned both brands).
Being initially designed by a river rafting guide and made specifically for the getting wet and drying quickly they live up to the hype. The grip on the sole keeps you from slipping, they float, and the foot straps keep them attached to your feet even in strong currents.
You can wear Chaco’s on rock, sand, and sea.
Are Chaco’s good For hiking?
Short answer, shit yea. They are built for war… Or at least built for extremely rugged conditions. The thick and some would say heavy sole, is made to last and handle nearly every imaginable trail you throw at it.
They were initially built for water and they still hold up in any watery conditions, however, they have morphed into the everything sandal. Chaco is so confident in their product that they will fix any pair that has normal wear and tear issues.
Benefits of Chaco’s
- Strong and durable
- Thick sole makes it a good hiking sandal
- Adjustable straps
- Non-slip footbed
- Chaco grip sole
- Molds to your foot
- They repair nearly any sandal
They can’t be perfect though…
They’re not perfect, there are areas where the sandals can be improved. First off, they are heavier than Tevas, they weigh on average about 35% more than their sworn enemies.
Secondly, the footbed will eventually mold to your foot, unfortunately, it does take time and patience. It doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a week, the break-in period can be annoying.
The price on Chacos is higher than Tevas in general, this isn’t to say that they don’t have less expensive models. In general, they simply cost more than Tevas.
Who are Chaco’s for?
With their thicker sole and lack of velcro straps, Chaco’s are for anyone who is serious about using them the majority of the time off-road. They are built to withstand rugged outdoor abuse in nearly every condition.
With the repair policy in place, you can do pretty much anything you want to them with confidence. If they do break, you simply take them to get repaired for free.
Chaco Classic Z1
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Chaco Classics are the flagship model of the Chaco brand of sandals. The Z1 is a tough and durable sandal that can take a beating. It has great stability and support, and the sole is made to last. The sole takes a little bit to break in, but once the sole is adapted to your foot they fit like a glove.
They are made up of 8 pieces and come with the patented Chacogrip sole (all Chacos do) for all your adventures on water, land, and sand.
They weigh around 2 pounds per pair, so they are a little bit on the heavier side due to the size of the sole, but overall a tough sandal.
- Hard to break in
- Slippery when wet
- Athletic sandal with jacquard-webbed upper featuring adjustable and durable high-tensile heel risers
- LUVSET PU midsole. Width: Medium
- Non-marking ChacoGrip rubber outsole with 3mm lug
- W or C/D indicated wide width and B or M indicates medium width
The ZX2 shares many of the features with the Z1, the main difference is the double strap as opposed to the single strap. The double strap takes a little getting used to, but once you get a feel for it, it allows for increased stability and comfort.
The sole on the ZX2 is stiff, and it protects from sharp objects underneath your feet that you would feel in other pairs of sandals. The toe loop in the sandal ads to the overall stability and security.
The toe loop has been known to tighten on its own for people with high arches, so if you do have high arches the ZX2 may not be the best fit.
- Arch support
- Tough to break in
- Not for high arches
Chaco Z Cloud Sport
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The Chaco Z Cloud Sport is well received due to its comfort, stability, and adjustability. This sandal is used for everything from long distance hikes to jamming around town and has built a loyal following.
The strap system that the Chaco Z Cloud Sport uses super comfortable synthetic material and the soles are strong. The strong sole makes this sandal stand up to all types of terrain making it a great choice for any activity.
As you can tell it has a high heel on the sole, so if you do have high arches, again, this may not be the best choice.
- Strong soles
- Not for flat feet
- Adjustment issues
Teva sandals Reviews
Mark Thatcher was a river in the Grand Canyon in the early eighties and was having issues with his flip-flops constantly falling off. Needing something that would stay on his feet, legend has it he took the wristbands from two watches and made a heel strap to prevent them from slipping. He then went to work in his basement designing a sandal that would work for him, and in turn, birthed the empire known as Tevas.
Teva and Chaco are often used in the same sentence because they are both respected brands in the same industry. Teva hiking sandals feel more like putting on a pair of flip flips with velcro straps. They are lighter and have a more familiar feeling when you first put them on.
There is an argument that Tevas aren’t as rugged as Chacos that’s simply not the case. Teva makes models for every occasion, and while the sole and straps may be a little different the concept is the same, a hiking sandal that can weather most conditions.
Are Teva’s Good for Hiking?
Sure are, they are lightweight and comfortable from the first day you try them on. The classic Tevas are best suited for a day hike or wearing around camp.
They do have models like the Katavi which are built specifically for more extreme conditions.
Tevas are a good for casual hikes and as a do-it-all camp shoe. There are so many options to choose from today, that no matter what you plan on doing in your Tevas, there should be a model that suits your needs.
Benefits of Tevas
- OG of the sandal game
- Adjustable straps
- Quick drying
- Familiar feel
- Anti-microbial sole
- Good grip
The Can’t be Perfect Though…
The one argument that you hear talking Chacos vs Tevas is that Tevas simply aren’t as durable as their counterpart. This is true when comparing the classics at face value.
The classic Chacos have a thicker sole than the classic Tevas. The lighter weight and thinner sole equate to you feeling more of the earth underneath your feet.
The sizing of Tevas can be an issue for people that have wide feet or need arch support. In that case, you can look to other models that they make and most likely you will find a sandal that fits you.
Another complaint is the elevated edge on the sole of the shoe, it can be a nuisance.
Who Are Tevas For?
Teva’s are best suited for a casual hiker who’s tired of using boots in the blazing heat of summer, on whitewater rafting trip, or a camping kayak trip.
They aren’t for the ultra hardcore backpacker who’s looking for a sandal to take on the PCT in place of the trail runners or hiking boots.
All in all, Tevas are a great sports sandal for everyday use. They make a great replacement for flip flops if you plan on walking all day, and are great in 90% of conditions.
Teva Original Sandal
The Teva Original is the first of its kind, the OG of sports sandals. The design and style can be spotted from a mile away. The people that wear them, swear by ’em.
The original has two adjustment points for the straps, one near the toe and the other in the heel.
The sole is much smaller than the Chacos and because of that, they are significantly lighter in weight.
This sandal will handle most situations with ease, however, because of the lightweight design extreme rugged activities should be avoided.
- Good for daily use
- Not for extremes
- Adjustment issues
- Classic sport sandal featuring nylon straps and lugged outsole. Rugged Durabrasion Rubber outsole is extremely durable and supplies great traction .
- Features EVA-foam midsole for lightweight cushioning and also features nylon shank which stabilizes and supports your foot on uneven terrain
The heir to the throne if you will. This sandal is the successor to the original and you can see the added improvements just by looking at the picture. It has a nice and soft footbed which feels good out of the box with little to no break-in period.
The three strap design ensures a tight fight and while it does sound like a nuisance to have to adjust the sandal in 3 different places. In reality, it gives your foot an extremely snug and secure fit.
The shoe itself only weighs 8 ounces (per sandal), and the sole resembles the Chacos sole, however, without the added weight.
- 3 straps
- Good soles
- Lacks support
- Not for extremes
- Soles may fit loose
- Open-toe sport sandal featuring three adjustable hook-and-loop straps and rear pull-on loop
- Nylon shank for stability
- Durabrasion Rubber outsole
The Teva Katavi doesn’t resemble any other sandal on this list, it has more coverage than your standard sports sandal. This sandal is built for most outdoor environments, and anyone who says Tevas are not as rugged as Chacos should take a look at the Katavi model.
This sandal has a sturdy sole that holds up in sand and water. The straps have padding on the underside so they don’t dig into your feet.
Overall this sandal is good as a long distance trail sandal, camp shoe, or river shoe.
- Padded straps
- Lacks arch support
- Dries slowly
- Tough to break in
Which Sandal Takes the Crown?
So what’s the right answer in the Chaco versus Teva battle royal? What’s the best sandal for hiking and the outdoors?
As lame as this answer sounds, we can’t pick a winner for you. It all depends on what you do with them, how you plan on using them, and which ones you love.
Tevas are generally lighter in weight and more of a middle of the road, multi-use sandal. They are perfect for a day hike, a weekend in the sun at your favorite campground, or jamming around town. They have a familiar fit and a loyal following for a reason. Check out their full selection here.
If you are looking for something to use on a thru-hike or deep in the wild, then Chacos are your best bet. They take a little longer for the soles to break-in, and when they do it’s well worth the wait. With the option of having everything on the sandal replaced, they can withstand anything you throw at them. Check out their full selection here.
Now that we’ve made it clear as mud, we hope you have a better idea of what both sandals have to offer and which one is best for you.
Keep calm and hike on.