When shopping for adventure-ready sandals, it can be difficult to find footwear that’s supportive and comfortable. We’ll compare 2 excellent choices for supportive sandals: Tread Labs’ Albion sandals and Chaco’s Z/2 sandals. Both are premium offerings from strong brands. Let’s dive in.
The Basics –
- The Tread Labs Albion sandal and the Chaco Z/2 Classic sandal are both supportive sandals with a strap between the toes and adjustment with a single buckle.
- Chacos are more hardcore and dry quicker. Tread Labs are sportier and more versatile.
- Chacos are heavier and offer less cushion. Tread Labs are lighter but dry more slowly.
- Both appeal to a similar customer – someone with an active lifestyle looking for the comfort that arch support brings – and the versatility of a sandal that travels well and can go in and out of the water.
What are the differences between Tread Labs Albion and Chaco Z/2 Classic?
This chart shows Chaco Z/2 Classic (left) head-to-head with Tread Labs Albion (right). It’s based on information taken from each company’s website and our own direct observation.
|Chaco Z/2 Classic||Tread Labs Albion|
|Company History||In 1989, a white-water rafting guide Mark Paigen created an outdoor sandal that could withstand the rigors of his job and also provide support to the foot. The first Chaco sandal was born, featuring a continuous pull-through strap of synthetic material and a buckle instead of Velcro.||Tread Labs was started in 2015 by Mark Paigen, founder of Chaco sandals. Building on the biomechanical concepts that made Chaco customers raving brand advocates, Paigen took everything he learned in the 30 years since starting Chaco and created a ridiculously comfortable sandal.|
|Product Description (from website)||“Streamlined and dependable since 1989, our Classic series is comprised of only 8 component parts, making for the simple, timeless sandal design that made our name. Every pair comes standard with adjustable straps that custom-fits to your foot, a toe-loop for additional forefoot control, plus our podiatrist-certified LUVSEAT™ PU footbed for all-day comfort and support. Now featuring ChacoGrip™ rubber for our best performing Classic outsole to date. Designed with repairability through ReChaco”||“Insanely comfortable, and supportive as the day is long. Albion fits your active lifestyle like a pair of well-worn jeans. Anatomic footbeds provide incredible arch support and bring relief when cornered on the sidewalk by your verbose neighbor. Resilient polyurethane midsoles add spring to your step and durable rubber outsoles can be resoled for a long-distance relationship.”|
|Best Use||Rugged Trail + River||Casual, Recovery, Light Trail|
|Style/Adjustment||A single, continuous strap allows excellent adjustment with a single plastic buckle.||Thong style with a heel strap and additional instep straps. Closes with a single aluminum buckle.|
1 = Flat
5 = High Arch Support
Contoured arch support with a raised ‘wings’ on either side of your heel.
Contoured arch support with a moderate heel cup.
|Footbed Surface||Polyurethane||Microfiber suede|
|Midsole||Medium density polyurethane||Ultra-Lightweight Polyurethane|
|Outsole||ChacoGrip™ rubber compound. Resoleable at Chaco.||Durable Rubber, 13% recycled content. All Tread Labs Sandals are resoleable.|
|Upper||Polyester jacquard webbing||3D Knit (Made from 100% recycled polyester)|
|Closure||Single injection-molded buckle||Single aluminum buckle|
5Polyurethane and rubber are durable and long lasting
5Polyurethane and rubber are durable and long lasting
|Break-in Time||1-2 weeks||Nearly none|
|Water-friendliness||Polyurethane footbeds dry almost instantly. Polyester straps dry more slowly. Machine washable.||Polyester uppers dry at the same rate as Chaco straps. Microfiber footbeds dry more slowly than Chaco polyurethane footbeds. Machine washable.|
US Gender Specific Sizing
Women 5-12Men 7-15
US Gender Specific Sizing
Women 6-11Men 8-13
Chaco accepts unworn merchandise within 30 days of delivery. A return shipping charge of $5.00 will be deducted from your refund.
Tread Labs sandals can be returned in new condition for free within 90 days. Tread Labs pays return shipping.
Standard FedEx Shipping $5, free on orders over $50
USPS First Class Shipping (2-3 Days) = Free
Should I buy Chaco Z/2 or Tread Labs Albion?
Tread Labs and Chaco both offer a contoured footbed designed to support the arch and provide lasting comfort. The primary differences between the sandals come down to how you plan to use your sandals: the Z/2 is made for rugged river and trail, while the Albion offers a versatile town and light trail option.
Rugged and water friendly, the Z/2 is solidly in the adventure sandal category. The midsoles are firm, providing a more stable platform for hard-core off-trail use. The tradeoff is a heavier sandal that is not as cushioned at the Albion. The adjustable toe loop holds the foot extremely securely, though some report it self-tightening. We have found that with time, the straps on all Chaco Z-series sandals develop more friction and stop self-tightening. The Z/2 might be the better choice for backpacking and other extreme activities.
The Albion is less rugged, lighter weight, and more comfortable. Its design is based on the midsole of a running shoe, giving it an athletic look and feel. The micro fiber footbed is much more comfortable than having your foot rest on polyurethane, but dries more slowly. Albion sandals are sleeker and have a more contemporary look. (The design is 30 years newer.)
Both sandals offer good arch support, and the midsoles of both will soften up just a bit with use. Both are polyurethane, a material that is very durable. The arch support is robust on both, the Z/2’s arch comes a bit further forward, the Albion’s arch support is a tad higher. The anchor points of the heel straps on the Z/2 are connected to raised sections of the footbed, which buttress the heel for extra support.
Tread Labs Albion sandals feature arch contours derived from Tread Labs’ innovative insoles. The arch is pronounced and there is significant toe and heel spring. (This is the distance from the ground to the contact point of the sole at the very front and back of the sandal.) This contributes to a natural stride, as it allows the foot to roll forward into the next step. Look at any running shoe and you will see similar toe and heel spring.
The Z/2’s unique adjustability has pluses and minuses. The design features a single forefoot strap that passes through the footbed as it encircles your foot. Its benefit is that it is infinitely adjustable and only needs a single buckle. It is truly innovative and secures the foot very well. There are a couple of drawbacks for some users. The straps can ‘self-adjust’ tightening the strap around the toe to the point of discomfort. This tendency goes away in most cases as the sandals are worn in. For those with narrow feet, the continuous strap may run out of adjustment.
The Albion has a simpler system with a fixed upper and a single adjustment strap. It does not provide the customized fit of the Chaco but is dirt simple and will not ‘self adjust’. Though Tread Labs has made the section of strap between the toes softer than the rest of the upper to maximize comfort, it can take a day or two to get used to.
The Albion and Z/2 are both made from PU and durable rubber, and both back up their products with repair and resole offerings. Either way you go, you can expect a long distance relationship.
Chaco recommends that you wash your sandals with a load of laundry on a gentle cycle using mild detergent or baking soda with cold water, and then air dry. The continuous webbing system on the Z/2 features straps that wrap around the foot and through the midsole. Over the course of wear, grit and sand can get in the channels where the straps enter and exit the midsole, which can create excess odor and cause your straps to stick. To clear these channels, Chaco recommends “flossing” your straps.
The Albion can simply be tossed in the washing machine and air-dried. Tread Labs recommends washing your sandals frequently to keep them feeling like new.
Both sandals use premium materials and are backed by strong companies. The Z/2 is $20 less expensive, especially significant if you buy them in a store. The Albion is slightly more expensive, but if bought on-line has the advantage of free shipping and returns.
Your personal taste will be the deciding factor here, but there are things to like about each sandal’s aesthetic. The "Chaco style" has taken on a life of its own, which some people love and some aren't fans of. If you like it well enough, there are plenty of colors and patterns to choose from.
Tread Labs has a minimalist, Scandinavian look with simple lines and saturated colors. They look faster and sportier. The new kid on the block, they do not have decades of history and tradition.
The Bottom Line
While we are biased towards the versatility of the Tread Labs Albion, we tip our hat to Chaco and the adventurous products they make. Whether you go with the Z/2 or the Albion, or another supportive sandal, your feet will thank you for giving them the support they need to thrive. Ultimately the final choice is best made by trying on both styles and seeing what your feet have to say.