There are two kinds of people in this world: the toe-loopers and the non-toe-loopers. Those who enjoy (and apparently even become addicted too) the security of a piece of webbing between their big toe and, and those who can’t stand to be violated in such a manner. Lindsey is a toe-looper. I am not. Somehow we are still friends.
Recently, Chaco sent Lindsey a pair of snazzy new Updraft sandals, rigged with vibrant red webbing. They were a sight to behold. They also were missing the ever-loved toe loop. Lindsey’s feet couldn’t adjust. She’s more of an Updraft 2 kind of girl. Lucky me.
I’ve been wearing them for two months now–hiking in the Sierras, tubing the Rio Grande, shopping for souvenirs at the Spanish market. I even danced in them at a Hank III concert, where my husband had to spend most of the evening protecting me and my poor feet from a horrific and spontaneous occurrence that apparently happens at rowdy concerts: a mosh pit.
I love these sandals. I love that they felt good on my feet the moment I slipped them on. I love how adjustable they are. I love that I can slip them on and be stylishly ready to go at a moment’s notice (yes, I am one of those people who thinks their Chacos go with every outfit). I love that I don’t have to tighten the straps for them to stay on my feet. I love that they have such solid arch support and the cushion-y feel. I have already hiked several miles in a day in these things without ever regretting my choice of foot wear. And I love that they aren’t shoes.
The downsides to these shoes are the same as the downsides with any sandal: your feet aren’t protected. If it’s cold outside, your feet will know. If you’re in a crowd of people, your feet will know. If there’s a root sticking out of the trail, your feet will know. I find, however, that, in most situations, my feet don’t seem to mind.
Some of you who have owned Chacos before might recall the hefty feel the old classics had–like a sturdy boot or a pair of heavy-duty Carhartts. That was the solid vibram sole. I distinctly remember when I put on my first pair of Chacos eight years ago*. They felt like bricks hanging from my feet by an elaborate bit of webbing. I got used to it within days, and after so many years of heavy use, I have worn the soles down to the point that the weight is hardly noticeable.
The Updraft differs from the ‘classic’ Chaco sandal in that it is lighter weight. The designers went with a vibram ‘shell’ for the sole (at least, that’s my interpretation of their word ‘outsole’ after examining the design closely), rather than solid vibram all the way through. They also cut out a little bit of material between the ball of the foot and the heel. The difference in weight is immediately noticeable, and very pleasant. Putting my old Chaco on one foot, and the new one on the other, I can definitely tell the difference.
There’s one other difference that I see between my old Chacos and my new ones–whereas the old Chacos used thick black webbing to attach the sole of the shoe to the straps, the new Chacos use a plastic piece for the same connection. This chafed the delicate skin below my ankle bone a bit during the first week or so of wear, though I don’t notice it at all anymore.
And the price? $110 at the time that I write this. A bit high at first glance–I am programmed to balk at any item other than mortgage payments and car payments that run over $100 a whack. But doing the math, if these shoes last me five years, that’s $22 a year for sandals. I could pay that much each year for flimsy sandals that might not last the summer season. I’m almost certain that those cheaper sandals would give me blisters and make my feet ache by the end of every day. Save up your dollars, wait for an off-season sale, and go with the pricier sandal. You’ll be happy you did.
Are they as durable? So far, yes. It’s only been two months (albeit of daily use), but they show no signs of wear just yet. I don’t know how the trade-off between lighter weight and hardiness will play out over the years. Perhaps these shoes won’t make it eight years like my last pair because the sole will give way before then. Time will tell.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying my fancy-schmancy shoes.
*–someone had left them as an anonymous gift on my desk at work with a note that said “All God’s children need travelling shoes”– Thank you my anonymous friend