Ode to My Chacos

Before I moved to Utah, I was a Teva girl. Wore ’em all the time, had several pairs. But shortly after I discovered the great, empty (well, in the southern portion) state of Utah, I also discovered Chacos. Everyone was wearing them. My coworkers. Native Utahn tourists. The rugged outdoorsy guys I liked. The kickass outdoorsy women I emulated. Hell, I think there were some dogs running around in little Chaco footies. (Kidding.)

So I finally went out and bought my first pair of Chacos back in 2002, and the future of my footwear changed forever.

will go anywhere

I freaking live in my Chacos during the warm season. Live in them. Other than riding boots or hiking boots, I pretty much wear only Chacos on my feet from April-October, give or take a few weeks depending on the weather. I hike in them, I go to dinner in them, I work in them, I wear them to the store, the post office, the hair dresser. I’ve been known to drive tractors while wearing them:

hippie cowgirl

On trails, on the sidewalk, in my backyard when I’m gardening.

I wore them in Hawaii last year. Shrug: I just love my Chacos.

on Hawaiian lava rock

Current count of Chaco pairs owned: 8.

Current count of Tevas owned: 2. (And although I still really like them, I just rarely wear them.)


The first fascination belongs to some sort of coolness factor. Have you ever seen those Chaco ad posters, with the feet that have Chaco tan lines? Something about that screams friends, fun, outdoors, rugged, laid-back, in the sunshine. And most of my friends here were living that actual life. As a result, I wanted it too. (Take a bow, Chaco marketing department. Your ads live in real life, and they apparently work.)

tan lines

Secondly, Chacos are functional. Sure, you can wear them in the water, they’re sturdy as all get out, and they last a long time depending on how hard you use ’em. But I mean they’re also just functional for everyday use, as I noted above. I approve of that. Heck, I have many friends who’ve gotten married in their Chacos. (Too bad Chaco doesn’t make white pairs…yet. However, you can buy white webbing and get it attached to your footbed. Cool!)

Another reason why is that they’re easy. It’s simple to slip them on, kick them off, throw them in the back of your truck. You can attach them to the outside of your pack to use as camp shoes or river crossers. Washing them is no problem. It’s okay if they get dirty (and really, they’re meant to), so you don’t have to watch every foot placement for fear of scuffing them. (Oh, the horror.)

going where angels fear to tread

Final reason why: the famous Chaco foot tan. Dude. It’s ridiculously fun, silly, cool, and a clear demonstration of the kind of life one leads. For example: whenever I visit my family in southern California, I notice how few Chacos and Chaco tans I see. ‘Nuff said.


Okay, Chacos aren’t really meant to be hiked in. They’re supposed to be river sandals. But most of the people I know hike in them, me included. Have Chacos, will trail travel.

I know people who’ve backpacked in them for miles, pack upon back. (No, I’m not recommending that, as you can seriously mess up your feet if you twist your unsupported ankles.) I often hike in my Chacos all day.

on the trail

Do I sometimes need to put on sneakers instead, do I get hot spots, have I worn my skin raw, especially if multiple water crossings happen? Yes.

ready to take the plunge

Have I been stabbed so many times by those damned leaping cacti (I swear to all that’s holy, the cactus around here lies in wait for the unwary Chaco-clad foot and then strikes with deliberate intention)? Oh, yes.

Do stones and pebbles launch themselves with stinging force at my bare toes when I unwittingly kick them at my own feet? Uh, yes.

But even with all that, I still hike in my Chacos.

happy feet

Tell me about your Chaco experience. Wear them? Love them? Hate them? Prefer a different outdoor sandal brand? Have tips about using them? Leave a comment and let me know.


Filed under Random Musings

15 Responses to Ode to My Chacos

  1. tom taylor

    chacos (with buckles) are perfect for running rivers or dryland hiking. velcro traps sand and reduces effectiveness. but chaco let me down. they used to be made in paonia, colorado in the united states of america. but they moved production to a foreign country and caused job loss in the good ol’ u.s.a. i sent ’em a letter scolding them, they sent me a reply with their “tail between their legs”….

    • Jessie

      I’m not sure about this specifically when you wrote the article, but know they offer a Made in the USA option. It is 25 dollars more than the made overseas Chacos, but in my opinion well worth it.

      • Julie

        I’ve no inside info on Chaco, but what I do know is that they had moved production from Paonia, Colorado, to China several years. Production costs, etc. etc. I believe that happened after Wolverine Worldwide bought the company. (Again, I’m not a spokesperson, this is general industry knowledge I’m vaguely recalling!) Last year, in an apparent answer to significant consumer comment (dare I say backlash?), it looks like they started to produce some in the USA again. Here’s a link about the “new” made in the US Chacos, which is just a press release. The ones made in the USA are a little more expensive than the China-produced ones, from what I can tell.

        I would go for the Made in the USA option myself. Thanks so much for the comment, Jessie!

  2. Julie

    I was unhappy as well when production moved from Paonia to outside the U.S. Didn’t make me stop loving my Chacos, but the coolness factor of the company went down for me. I’d be curious to read the contents of the letter you got from them, if you’d care to share.

  3. Brittney

    I love my Chacos! I found them while lifeguarding in Idaho. They are the only shoes that will provide arch support for long hours on concrete. since then mountains, the Snake River, and yes even farm work has been changed! I even showed livestock in chacos last year because I was running from work and didn’t have time to slip boots on! Good thing dairy goats are light on their feet. One thing I can suggest is chacos are not for caving. Thought it was a good idea till I got in there.
    I’m confused about the not made in the USA anymore comments because I just ordered a new pair this year and mine proudly say “Made in USA”

    • Julie

      Oh, I adore mine, too. “Discovered” Chaco after I moved to Utah in 1999. I own 8 or 9 pairs. And yep, I’ve also discovered they’re not necessarily the best for rock scrambling, things like caving, etc. Bit slippy rather than grippy. That said, I still live in my Chacos in the summertime.

      You must have gotten a recent, genuine Made in the USA pair, then. Some of my old ones were made here, too. I admit I love them regardless of where they’re made…but I do wish all Chaco production was in the States. And, I understand the economic forces driving those decisions. So glad I’m not a ceo of a big company like that! Too many tough decisions.

  4. Tonya

    I adore the ever-living crap out of my Chacos. I was lucky enough to find two pairs on sale for 1/2 off about 5 years ago at a little boutique in my hometown. Everyone I knew had a pair (and loved them), so I jumped on that bandwagon. And boy am I glad I did. I wear my Chacos EVERYWHERE in the summer.
    Seriously, there is some true love between my Chacos and myself.

  5. Christopher

    Im wearing my first pair this year. Bought them at an REI store here in Houston. Anytime i see another person wearing them I give a tip of the hat to them because i know they’re in for an adventure around the next corner. Great Blog. Also, that last photo. Good one.

    • Julie

      Thanks, Christopher! My very first pair ever I bought at an REI in Salt Lake City. I feel the same way when I see fellow Chaconians…they are definitely part of the adventure crew. :)

  6. Hi Julie, I love my Chaos now, but not when I first purchased them. The rough sole really irritated the bottom of my toes. I finally when to my shoe repair guy and asked him to sand the sole (in the toe area) smooth. Wow! Now I wear them everywhere. I have feet issues and they’re the only shoes that I can wear so my feet don’t hurt. I recently developed a bunion so my Chacos are really the only shoes I can wear! Even my tennis shoes with my custom orthotics hurt. I don’t know what I’ll do when it turns cold. I think I’ll have to try some Uggs.

  7. Pingback: Chaco Culture | ashleymariewilsonblog

  8. Rachel Littleton

    I just bought my first pair today.. I’m thrilled!

  9. Joshua Rosaaen

    I bought myself a pair while staying in Stinson Beach CA…wore them daily for about 2 years before they split. So I bought another pair, with the intention to send the original ones in. A bit more than a year later, I am just now sending the original pair in for repair, and will be sending the second pair in right after that. I got some for my nephew because I saw him wearing some other sandal that was kind of scaly…and they didnt fit his feet right (has very wide feet). He LOVES the sandals. I cant recommend these enough to people. Love the Chaco tan.

    • Julie

      I still have some of my very old ones, with the straps all frayed. Still wearable, so I still wear them! Though I do really need to send them in for repair soon, I suppose. Once you go Chaco, you won’t go back. Glad to hear you’re part of the clan as well.

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