The Chaco OutCross Web shoe looks to offer: breathability from its mesh and synthetic leather upper; stability from its  contoured footbed and strapping system; minimal weight from a compression-molded polyurethane midsole; durability and grip from a Vibram outsole. Still, I had a few questions:  Would they slip or grip? Stay clean or get gunky and funky? Drain out the portholes or trap mini rocks?  How much running and hiking would feel alright? How wet can they get?

I first put Chaco’s OutCross Web shoe to the test kayaking on a local trip with my 10-year-old son. The sole’s aggressive contouring, deep heel cup, minimal heel width, and grippy Vibram sole proved comfortable and entered and exited a tight kayak cockpit easily. The toe caps protected my toes from stones when I was wading in and out of the river, the footbed dried very quickly, becoming neither too sticky nor slippery, and the soles balanced decent protection with really good sensitivity and grip. I also found rounded heel and sole sensitivity of the OutCross Web shoe to be excellent as a driving shoe for working the clutch, gas, and brake pedals driving back from the river.

Next, I tried the Chaco OutCross Web Shoe on a 12-mile hike. Turns out the shoe works better at water sports than hiking in the mountains. For a 3-5 mile hike on smoother, sandy trails with some trips in and out of the water, the Chaco OutCross Web Shoe is excellent. The extended scramble up to a melt water lake looking for salamanders was a little too rugged for such a lightweight shoe, since we were scrambling above treeline on sharp exposed, loose rocks. The OutCross Web sandals don’t offer the talus/sharp rock protection of a heavier hiking shoe and certainly nowhere near the ankle support of a heavy hiking boot.

Still, the grip and foot sensitivity were excellent while I was scrambling after my boy while carrying a daypack and juggling a camera. My feet took a bit of a pounding from the hard rocks. A hiker lighter than my 180 pounds with a penchant for minimalist trail running shoes and better balance would probably love the OutCross Web shoe in any kind of terrain short of deep snow.

For water use, I liked how quickly the shoe dries out. There was no need to wear socks, and the insole did not become slippery during immersions. A lightweight pair of hiking socks on a hot, dusty trail kept my feet feeling dry and not getting too sticky or dusty. Small stones and sand weren’t an issue because they cleared easily through the gaps in the strapping and protective mesh. The OutCross Web shoe proved just a little too minimalist for some of the rougher terrain, but for such a lightweight shoe it offers a decent level of protection, great grip, and great comfort in non-mountaineering terrain. Since hiking with my son usually means wading after frogs in hiking shoes or boots that take an eternity to dry and never smell quite right afterwards, the Chaco Outcross Web shoe has worked out quite well.

The initial fit on the size 11 ½ shoes I tested felt great. The length was accurate, the shoe had a high toe box, and the last was  relatively straight. The lightweight OutCross Web shoe had an easy flex at the ball of the foot, felt cushioned and comfortable, and I appreciated that it had a bit of motion control and good arch support. I found the shoes a little more difficult to adjust, enter, or exit than my other river sandals (my Chaco Z sandals); the buckle on the shoe took two hands to adjust (rather than my other sandals, which take one). Still, the extra support is worth it.

Everyone’s feet have unique traits and unique fitting needs: wide and archless; pert, perfectly balanced prancers;  narrow pronators; mini-me heelless wonders. Yet we all need the same things from our outdoor shoes: don’t slip and slam, but give enough protection and control without overdoing it. No one wants to stock up on black toe nail polish to even things out after hiking downhill and jamming their toes into the inside of the toe box. No one wants a loose-fitting heel or such a stiff forefoot that the heel levers up and down and rips off skin. No one wants sudden slips walking down a steep section of trail or scrambling over a rocky river bed; too much bulk; or stone bruises.

Available in Men’s sizes 7-14 in regular widths (including ½ sizes) in colors: Gunmetal, Steel, Bungee. Women shoe available in Raven, Fern, Steel in sizes 6-11 (including ½ sizes).

Bottom Line: Shuck your socks and hit the beach, river, or smooth hiking trail with the lighweight OutCross Web shoes. They provide excellent foot protection and forefoot/midfoot/heel control, with a durable, non-slip Vibram sole.

Manufacturer’s Site: Chacos

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