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The Best Sandals for Travel and Life: A Love Song

The best sandals ever, worn on my Honeymoon in Belize.

The best sandals ever, shown on my Honeymoon in Belize.

I have been wanting to write this article for seventeen years. All this time across my life and world travels, a certain sandal has supported my footsies and made me deeply happy.

Tragically, many people still haven’t heard of this brilliant brand, nor understand the joy it can bring. Here is a story from this week to illuminate the power of these shoes. Spoiler: it ends with my sandals getting stolen.

We were on a farm in Ohio with my two kiddos and beloved mother-in-law, Diane. “Hey, what are your sandals called?” Diane asked. My eyes lit up, as eyes do when a gal is asked to speak of something her heart loves. “Chacos!” I sang, spinning around to launch in.

(Note: If you want to shop these shoes, I’ve provided affiliate links throughout this article, and here’s an easy Amazon search for Chacos, ranked by customer review, and the Zappos page for the shoes. Free returns with both sites, and purchases support this site at no cost to you!)

Sporting Chacos on a farm in Ohio this week.

Sporting Chacos on a farm in Ohio this week. Toddler: “What you doing, Mommy?!”

“Chacos were introduced to me in 1999 by my college roommate, an avid hiker from the West Coast,” I began breathlessly. “They’re the only sandals I’ve found that give perfect arch support, adjust in every dimension, and are sturdy enough for serious hiking, yet look cute enough for a night out on the town.

“And believe me — I’ve worn them on some insane hikes, AND on many nights out on the town… even to fancy clubs! I pack them on every trip and wear them each warm day at home and abroad.”

“Can I try them on?” asked Diane, whose feet are almost the same size as mine, just a tad longer.

“Yes, of course!” I grinned, recalling that first blissful moment I slipped my foot in, years ago.

These sandals go with dresses, too, as seen in Ephesus, Turkey.

These sandals go with dresses, too, as seen in Ephesus, Turkey.

Diane’s reaction mirrored the one I had almost two decades ago. “These shoes are actually supporting my arch!” she exclaimed. “They feel GOOD. And this strap — oh my gosh — the whole thing adjusts!”

“Exactly,” I replied, pulling the mid-foot strap to embrace my mother-in-law’s tootsies. “All three lines of the ‘Z’ strap are connected inside the sole of the shoe, so for people with narrow feet like us, we can FINALLY get sandals that fit.

“But while other adjustable shoes have a million messy closures, Chacos display a clean visual line secured with a single pull tab. The sandals also come in Wide widths, Men’s, Kids‘, and a bevy of styles.”

With my favorite shoes at La Mezquita of Cordoba, Spain.

With my favorite shoes at La Mezquita of Cordoba, Spain.

“Does the sole feel too hard against your foot?” I asked Diane, who shook her head no. “It’s the new ‘Cloud’ model at work,” I proclaimed. “The ‘Classic’ model has a firm footbed that I was fine with, but some of my friends found not squishy enough. This one you’re trying is called the ‘Z/Cloud X(Zappos link here) which features a softer (yet still super-sturdy) footbed. It feels so delicious that the day I got those shoes, I walked six miles home from Downtown Boston instead of taking the bus. The Z/Cloud X is my all-time favorite Chaco model.

“I love these sandals so much,” Diane murmured. (This is foreshadowing. Please imagine dramatic music playing in the background.)

On a hike in Ghana, West Africa along the Volta River.

On a hike in Ghana, West Africa along the Volta River, Chaco-clad.

“Speaking of new models,” I continued in a state of sandal euphoria, oblivious to any plots underway, “Chaco has started a line of leather shoes which I’m psyched about, since they combine good arch support with classy design.”

I then proceeded to pull two of these designs out of my bag and photograph my feet in them in front of the farm animals. These are the things that happen when one is a blogger who takes her shoe reporting job extremely seriously. Here is a photo of the “Sofia” sandal… in front of some goats.

(2019 update: It appears that the Sofia and Dorra models are now discontinued, but the real classics — the “Z” line remain, and that’s what’s most important!)

Sofia leather Chaco sandals in front of goats.

Sofia leather Chaco sandals in front of goats in Ohio.

I like the Sophia best of the new leather Chacos. The shoes, like all Chacos, come in a variety of colors, and I picked the dreamy purple “Malbec.” I’ve worn these sandals on several date nights with my husband and have been extremely comfortable, but do note that the more dainty sole of the leather line is best for calmer walking exploits.

This contrasts to the Z/Classic and Z/Cloud Chaco line, which I’ve taken hardcore hiking everywhere from a volcano in Hawaii, to ruins of temples in Cambodia, to mountain towns in Ghana.

Side view of Sophia sandals in front, cow in back.

Side view of Sophia sandals in front, cow in back.

The other thing to keep in mind about the new leather line of Chacos is that they don’t have as many adjustable straps as the Z/Classic and Z/Clouds. But they make up for it in cool style! Here is the Dorra leather sandal

The Dorra leather Chaco sandal at Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio.

The Dorra leather Chaco sandal at Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio.

Showing off my Dorra sandals out the back window of a tractor ride at the Ohio farm.

Showing off my Dorra shoes out the back window of a tractor ride at the Ohio farm.

Cue dramatic music again. I should have seen the plot twist coming. When I glanced back at Diane, she was gazing so passionately at my Z/Cloud X sandals that I at last realized something was up.

“Do you think these shoes are a little big on you?” she asked innocently. “Don’t you think you should order a smaller size?” I stared at my precious sandals, dizzy at the thought of a single day without Chaco feet. Diane gave a charming smile as she added, “Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that your too-big sandals fit me perfectly?”

I had to admit, it was an amazing coincidence. And Diane looked so happy…

In Cuba I sprained my ankle in flip flops, but Chacos kept it supported.

In Cuba I sprained my ankle in flip flops, but Chacos helped support me to heal.

So… we came to an agreement. I would order a new pair of Chacos in a smaller size for myself, and Diane would keep my size tens in exchange for three big boxes of the famed protein meal bars she sells with Shaklee.

BUT the caveat was this: I REFUSED go a single second Chaco-less. The deal would under no circumstances get underway until my new shoes had arrived. Diane agreed, though during the three days we waited for the package, her eyes followed me balefully each time I donned the shoes she could not yet have.

At last, however, my new ones came! And didn’t I pick a cool color? “Fired Adobe,” baby.

My new Z/Cloud X Chaco sandals in Fired Adobe, by Brandywine Falls, Ohio.

My new Z/Cloud X Chaco sandals in Fired Adobe, photographed at Brandywine Falls, Ohio.

There are several morals of this story. First, I’m noooot cut out to be a foot model, but at least I tried. Second, the comfort of the shoe you wear has a direct correlation to your happiness, and I’m committed to all people — but especially women — boosting happiness through the most comfortable-yet-cute shoes possible.

My hope in writing this love poem is that a few more folks might discover Chacos and experience the joy they have provided me all these years.

These shoes are great for dancing, too, as shown in these ancient ruins in Turkey.

These shoes are great for dancing, too, as shown in ancient ruins in Turkey.

So what do you think? What are the most comfortable shoes you’ve ever owned? Had you heard of Chacos before this article? Do share!

Want Chacos? Shop them through this easy Amazon link, this Zappos link, or any of the links in the article above. At no cost to you, a small commission will support this site.

The best sandals for comfort, arch support, durability, and fashion, during travel and daily life: my love song for Chaco shoes.

Enjoy this article and use Pinterest? Pin this!

I asked Chaco to partner on this article because I love them. They kindly provided the two leather sandals and the first pair of Z/Cloud X shoes (which were subsequently commandeered by Diane), but I bought the next pair with my own cash. Yeah, my adoration and opinions are genuine!

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Zane Tamane

Sunday 3rd of September 2017

Hi, could you help me with sizing? I am ordering from Europe, so no possibilities to return. What size are you wearing? I am somewhere between 8 and 9 i guess, so i need someone to check the exact length and width in cm of standard/wide? zcloud. I would really appreciate this help!

Lillie

Sunday 3rd of September 2017

Hi Zane, I really hope you like the shoes! Too bad there isn't a local place to try them on. If you're between an 8 and 9, I'd go for the 8 because I find they run a bit big, and the width is adjustable. Sorry that I don't have a tape measure here to check for sure. If it helps, here's the official Chacos size conversion chart: http://www.chacos.com/US/en/content?caid=combined-sizechart&sma=sm.001pld58caqmcty113r21fpj7lgw0 . Best of luck, and let us know how it goes!

Frances

Friday 30th of June 2017

What color are the dorra sandals you have?

Lillie

Friday 30th of June 2017

Hi Frances, The Dorras are in "Mecca" color. Enjoy!

Katherine

Tuesday 28th of March 2017

I am going on my honeymoon to hydra, greece. the only modes of transportation are walking/hiking, donkey, and boat. many of the best beaches require a hike to get to them. I'm looking for a sandal that i can wear with the sundress (cute) and can also put up with the terrain. Can the dorra make it or should i stick to another (more traditional) style?

Lillie

Wednesday 29th of March 2017

Hi Katherine, Congratulations on your exciting upcoming Honeymoon! My opinion is that the Z/Cloud Chacos are a better match for the durability you're seeking, and I think they look cute with a dress. The Z/Cloud also does better getting wet, and you'll be at beaches. That said, you might be able to make the Dorra work. Let us know what you end up finding, if you have a chance. Have a wonderful time!

Nancy D. Brown

Tuesday 2nd of August 2016

I'm a Teva fan because I have a wide foot, but after reading this review, I'm willing to try Chacos.

Lillie

Wednesday 3rd of August 2016

Yes! They come in Wide! Use the above links to Amazon or Zappos Chaco offerings and filter by Wide.

Mary @ Green Global Travel

Monday 1st of August 2016

Thanks for sharing your favorite sandals. It's so hard to find cute, comfortable shoes that will match a multitude of travel outfits. The Dorra shoes are my favorite. It might be time to replace my Tevas!

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