I must admit, at first I was skeptical of the Chaco shoes. Originally I was a Keen guy only. I must’ve gone through three or four pair of Keen river shoes when I realized that they just don’t hold up to the kind of abuse someone like me inflicts on a pair of shoes. I even bought their extremely overpriced hiking boots, only to wear the soles completely off in just two or three months. Its the curse of a landscaper. We walk. And walk. And walk.
My first interaction with Chaco shoes was seeing Marisa wearing hers. I used to make fun of them, calling them her Chaco Tacos. She has had two pairs, both of which she still has, one pair (the one shown on this post) is about 8 years old, and is still in great shape. The other pair is about 10-12 years old, and looks almost new. That wouldn’t be the case for me, seeing as how I destroy shoes, no matter what the brand!
I was also tearing through flip flops, close to three or four pairs per summer! So the first chance I gave to Chaco was trying their flops. These things were comfortable as all get out, and still are 3 years later. After three years, the sole is worn down about half way, and the only thing wrong is that the strap that goes from the shoe to the bands, holding it all together, is starting to wear out, and has separated from the sole. I know it won’t be long till the other one goes. But I mean, hey, I’ve hiked in these. Yes it hurt after a while, but I did it anyway.
So 2 years ago, when I signed up to be a World Kayak Ambassador, I was pleased to find out Chaco was a sponsor. I was even more pleased to find out Chaco would be sending me a pair of sandals to try out. I was really worried about the weird strap over the big toe deal, so when they sent me the closed toe “Ponsuls”, I was exuberant! These things are AWESOME, the perfect shoe for doing work in the river. They had a rubber enclosed toe, a light neoprene sock, and straps to tighten it all down. A thick grabby sole also made me feel more confident when walking through the river, carrying the next rock, while building play holes. And if I missed when placing my rock and it rolled down over my toe, at least I had a little protection down there. And I’ve really tested these things, wearing them to cut the grass and weedeat, hike, fish, swim in whitewater, you name it. The only drawback to the shoes, is that after a few consecutive months of wearing them, in and out of the river, they really start to smell bad. Mine kind of smell like old Cheetos with a side of funk. So you really have to be careful where you take them off, or you’ll stink up the room!
This year, after a full year of those Chacos proving theirselves to me through daily life, I was sold. But still not on the funky toe strap model. So when they sent me them, I was definitely skeptical. Marisa had to show me how to put them on. At first I thought they were too complicated, I mean how would I ever fit my great white ape foot in something like that? It was definitely not love at first sight. In fact, I hated them. But Marisa said I should give them a full day. I obliged her, and at the end of the day I had started to release my grudge against the Rex Sandals. But I was not completely sold on them, so she asked me to give them a whole weekend. I wore them to the Ocoee for the weekend. I fell in love with the way these shoes fit me and got to where I didnt mind the weird funky strap, in fact I was growing to like it for that extra slip resistance when walking. So now I wear these bad boys all the time. The only two drawbacks I’ve noticed were only during river construction. I hate how the sand and small pebbles get stuck in between the soles and the bottoms of my feet. Thats where I miss the Ponsuls, because in them your foot is in a sock that keeps out the grit. I spend more time trying to get the rocks out of my shoes in the new ones, than I do moving rocks. Also, recently we were working on our spillway in the river, when it gave way, the current pushing heavy, sharp rocks down over my feet. I was cut in two places on my foot, not severely thank you! I definitely cursed myself for not wearing the Ponsuls that day, as it probably would’ve just been a bruise if I had!
So for day to day wear, and all out comfort I would definitely go with the weird funky strap model. But if you’re spending all day in the river moving rocks, fishing, attending a Swift Water Rescue Class, etc, then you should probably go for the Ponsuls or some of their closed toe models. And as for their flops, you can’t lose. They are awesome all around!
I would like to take this opportunity, to personally thank Chaco Footwear for sponsoring World Kayak and taking such great care of all us Ambassadors. You Rock!!! And guess what? You’ve sold me, I’m a Chaco man now, to the core!