For years, Chaco’s classic Z sandal has been a staple around boat docks, campgrounds, and the main streets of mountain towns. The brand is famous for its burly outsoles and highly adjustable strap design. Today, the Colorado-born footwear company launched the newest addition to its line of technical sandals: the Chaco Z Canyon 2 ($120).
At first blush, the Z Canyon 2 looks and feels like a typical Chaco, with one notable exception: a molded TPU, EVA-foam padded heel strap in place of the traditional webbing. (The rest of the straps are still made of webbing.)
The plastic heel strap is wide and stiff enough to prevent your foot from sliding up and down. As someone with narrow heels, I noticed an immediate difference between these and my old Chaco ZX/2 sandals—the heel strap doesn’t slip down, nor does my foot lift up with each step. As a bonus, the rigid strap makes sliding the sandal on and off a bit easier. I don’t have to wrestle with the webbing getting caught beneath my heel.
I haven’t been able to test this shoe in water, so I can’t say how the exposed EVA foam in the heel strap will hold up to repeated exposure to saltwater—though its comfort next to skin is definitely a perk.
The other major change in the Z Canyon 2 is not immediately visible: a “running-inspired kinetic rebound plate” inserted into the midsole. This wedge is designed to mimic the energy return of a running shoe, making the Z Canyon 2 even better for long portages or days that generally involve a lot of walking. I’ve had my hands on a pair for only a couple days, so it remains to be seen if the midsole truly makes for a bouncier, more “responsive” experience. I’m also skeptical of how useful the new midsole insert will be—I use my Chacos for carrying boats to and from the put-in and the occasional short shoreline hike, but for any hikes longer than a mile, I’ll change into a pair of running shoes.
I can say, however, that the shoes feel noticeably less clunky than my old Chacos, which earns comfort points. A layer of extra-soft cushioning in the heel adds to the all-day wearability of these shoes.
In true Chaco style, the Z Canyon 2 features a nonmarking rubber outsole, but with a new diamond-shaped tread pattern for better traction on muddy or loamy surfaces. At the toe and heel, the outsole is smoother and bows outward, designed for grip on slick, smooth surfaces. Time and further testing will reveal if these features give the shoe a performance boost to match the added comfort.