I'm looking into buying some chaco sandals and tried on pairs with the extra toe strap and without. I've heard chacos can be uncomfortable to wear in and I'm wondering if the extra security provided by the toe strap is worth the additional discomfort?
I have a pair without the toe strap. I wear them daily and hike in them regularly. They did take quite a while to break in and initially gave me blisters (mostly the side strap).
My girlfriend has owned three different pairs of Chacos and here is what she has to say:
The toe loops are worth it but take some getting used to! They are definitely more comfortable if you are going to be doing a lot of hiking/backpacking in your sandals. On steep inclines, I really notice the difference in how much less my foot slides around and how much more secure/stable my footing feels. I was actually surprised how palpable the difference is! They are, however, a bit more of a pain to put on and take off. You can wear socks with them around camp if you are okay with smooshing the loop down under your toes--some may not find this comfortable.
As for break-in, Chaco offers several different soles. I cannot speak to the newest thin/minimalist models. Of the classic soles, The Yampa is lighterweight and more flexible; this would be my choice for casual use. However, if you put a lot of miles on your sandals, especially in backcountry conditions, you will find that the tread wears down quickly compared to the Unaweep sole, which is heavier, stiffer, and more durable--comparable to the sole of a good backpacking boot. The Unaweep takes longer to get comfortable (it gave me blisters at first) but lasts practically forever. The ideal would be to have a pair of Yampas for everyday wear and a pair of Unaweeps for adventure travel.
I have a pair with the big-toe strap, and they're very comfortable when I wear them with toe socks. When I first got them, I tried wearing them barefoot, and found that I could only walk a few miles before I started to get blisters. The blisters weren't at the big-toe strap, they were where the other loop of webbing went over the top of my foot.
No. I have gone through three pairs, two without the toe strap, and one with. The toe strap does not meaningfully stabilize my foot, and it makes my big toe kinda sore.
I ended up shrinking the toe strap so it just tightly clings to the shoe, and my toe is on top. It feels weird without socks, but with socks it's great.
If you have sufficent bloodflow to your feet, they will get acclimated to the toe-strap with relative ease. As a manly man, I realy like the toe straps added lateral grip, as well as generally for the added safety of having additional tacticle feedback from the shoe when managing difficult terrain.
I would recommend wearing toe straps every day two weeks before hiking, and even so, bring medical or eletrical tape on a long hike to wrap the friction areas before it comes to blister.
All-in-all, I would say buy toe straps if you're lifestyle would allow you (and you really want to) to wear a choco daily, and you value a bit more utility out of your sandle. However, if you're not going to wear them at least every other day, and just want a comfortable open-toe'd boot for casual hikes and what not, go strapless. It boils down to a matter of blistering 3hours into a hike, or even waking up sore on 2day of a camp, and realizing you allowed the toe-strap to shred your feet yesterday.
I pretty much wear my toe-straps whenever I'm sure I don't have to walk through snow for long. If you're attracted to the idea of toe straps just hang-tough, stay mindful and wiggle your piggies regularly to keep good blood flow, and you'll be rewarded for your effort.
I love them both. At first I thought they would be uncomfortable too because they are so different feeling than most other sandals but after just a short time I got used to them and now I hate wearing anything else. I started with the non-toe strap variety and then on my second pair they didn't have the one I wanted in that style so I bit the bullet and got a pair with a toe strap. I was afraid I would hate it but within maybe an hour I forgot I even had them on. Now I actually prefer the toe most of the time. I will buy either purely depending on what look I want. Bottom line though is that I now can hardly bear to wear anything else. If you have a high arch or plantar fasciitis then these are great. I went from sore feet anytime I had shoes on for more than a couple hours to hardly ever having sore feet.