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Eight fan favorites. Three head-to-head rounds. Only one winner. (Illustration: Mark Todd)
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Sandal Battle

The Sandal-Battle Championship: Chaco Versus Birkenstock

Six contenders have fallen from the mix. It all comes down to this. Your vote decides the outcome.

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This article is part of Outside’s Sandal Battle. View the full field of contestants here. Here’s our recap of the Elite Eight. Below is our breakdown of the Final Four action. Plus, we preview the championship round.

Here it is, folks. The final matchup. After more than 20,000 votes across two previous rounds, you’ve picked your favorites. Hearts have been broken, hopes have been sent down the drain, and rallying cries have been shouted out (some turning to whimpers after early-round exits and upsets). But what else would you expect in such an intense tournament? This is the championship round of the Sandal Battle. Vote below!

The Bracket

The Final Four: Results

(1) Chaco Versus (3) Keen

Winner: Chaco

(Illustrations: Mark Todd)

My college-basketball analogies from the Final Four turned out to be semi accurate. Keen simply couldn’t compete with Chaco and its army of rabid supporters, who wolfed down more than 72 percent of the vote, while Keen struggled to round up 800 votes in this penultimate battle. Take heart, Keen, and your devoted camp of close-toed enthusiasts. This matchup is an important reminder about the nature of the Sandal Battle. The point is not to pick the best sandal, because that can vary, depending on the activity. Instead, it’s to go with your gut and pick your favorite. So don’t sweat it, Keen. You’re a sandal that will forever be loved by dads and river rats alike. Chaco just shined a bit brighter today.

(2) Teva Versus (5) Birkenstock

Winner: Birkenstock

(Illustrations: Mark Todd)

It’s a sad day for Teva fans. And given the brand’s huge fan base, that means it’s a sad time for a lot of people: hikers, bikers, climbers, walkers, city dwellers—you name it. Second-seeded Teva triumphed over Rainbow in the first round but couldn’t withstand the Birkenstock wave in the Final Four. It was a close contest, though, with Teva netting just under 44 percent of the vote.

Articles editor Frederick Dreier expressed his discontent with the result. “Shame on you, voters, for your very wrong take that Birkenstocks are superior to Tevas. While Birks may win the comfort battle, Tevas have that strong nostalgic connection to all the 90s kids out there, myself included. I can remember a time in this country (in the mid 90s, to be precise) when every man, woman, and child who identified as an outdoor enthusiast proudly sported a pair of Tevas,” he wrote. “Sure, the sandals were flawed, but we Teva aficionados didn’t care. We displayed our goofy tan lines and leathery foot calluses like badges of honor. And at night, we happily plugged our noses to ward off the stink that emanated from every seasoned pair of Tevas. That is, until our moms wisely tossed them outside. I will always stan for Tevas.”

We all have a sports friend who will brag after correctly predicting the outcome of a game, especially if it’s an upset. Yes, very good, Scott, you called it. Well, now you know one more person like that. Not to tell you “I called it!” but I called it. A number-five seed taking down a number-two seed makes this the biggest upset of the tournament. Might you call it the biggest upset of the century? I won’t put words in your mouth. Joking aside, Teva had a good run. The sandal will continue to bridge streetwear and casual recreation with outdoor adventures for years to come. Cheers to you, Teva.

The Championship: Voting

(1) Chaco Versus (5) Birkenstock

(Illustration: Mark Todd)

How do you preview a heavyweight bout like this one? The vote comes down to what both sandals represent. “Chaco is the shoe you fasten on for any active summer adventure—rafting, rock scrambling, running away from scary sounds in the night, and pretty much anything that happens in between,” writes associate managing editor Tasha Zemke. “Birks are the shoes you slip on after the day is done and you’re kicking back to unwind. Both equally exceptional in their regards, but distinct, too.” What makes this vote so hard is that Chaco and Birkenstock represent the purest duality: sweaty activities in the sun, and chill time for relaxation afterward. You need both experiences to have a complete day.

I’m not really sure how this one will go down, but there can only be one winner. Birkenstock devotee and podcast producer Maren Larsen expressed a bit of worry going into the championship round: “I just think the Chaco stans are powerful,” she wrote me. She might be onto something, because it seems like Chaco is gaining converts. Outdoor gear group director Will Taylor, perhaps a bit sore from Teva’s exit from the running, is all in on Chaco: “If Birkenstock wins the championship in an outdoor-sandal contest, all hope is lost,” he writes.

Now is the time to make your voice heard, reader. Cast your final vote below to crown the ultimate sandal. No pressure.

Lead Illustration: Mark Todd

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