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Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Chaco OutCross Evo 3 Trail Shoes > Test Report by Curt Peterson
Chacos OutCross Evo 3 Hiking Shoes
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Background and Contact
I live in the Cascade foothills, just 20 mi (32 km) from the Pacific Crest Trail via trails leading right from my backyard. My outdoor time in Washington is spent day hiking, backpacking, climbing, fishing and skiing everywhere from the Olympic coast to rainforests to Cascade volcanoes to dry steppe. I played football in college and often evaluate products from a big guy perspective. My typical pack load ranges from 11 - 20 lbs (5-9 kg) and usually includes plenty of wet weather gear.
With their roots as a sandal company, Chacos has expanded their footwear into shoes as well and they currently feature three collections of footwear: Water, Hiking, and Lifestyle.The Chacos OutCross Evo 3 shoes are part of the "Hiking" line. These are not simply sandals with some mesh covering the gaps. They are full-on trail shoes that share as many features with hiking boots as they do a pair of sandals. I'll admit, I wouldn't have considered Chacos as a real trail shoe, but the OutCross Evo 3s check the boxes for almost everything I look for in a backpacking shoe. I'm excited to put them to the test!
My primary challenge in finding trail shoes is – and has always been – fit. Every time I find a shoe that fits, the model gets “updated” or discontinued. I’ve started to purchase a couple pairs of shoes when I find a good one, but even this strategy doesn’t last forever. There are almost always compromises when such a limited number of shoes fit my high forefoot volume size 14 feet. When I saw the test call for the Chacos my first reaction was, “Those look like almost perfect specs for a trail shoe. Highly breathable. Reinforced toe. Tough sole material. Too bad they probably don’t fit.”
I stopped in a shop to check them out in person, but they didn't carry the Evo 3s. They had the Evo 2s, however, which is similar in specs and presumably made on the same foot last. To my surprise, they fit great! I typically buy wide shoes – either 2E or 4E. The Evo 3s are “normal” width but had lots of toe wiggle room. The upper is unstructured to a large degree, so the foot volume feels really roomy. Finally, a trail shoe that might work out.
When the Evo 3s arrived, they fit even better than the 2s that I had tried on. Very similar, but somehow just a bit more secure feeling. I can't recall ever finding a trail shoe that fits that was not a 2E, 4E, or at least labeled as "Wide". Even better, the Evo 3s are roomy and wide where I want it - up front in the toes. Many wide versions of shoes extend the extra width all the way back to the heel and can feel sloppy. Not the Evo 3s. Secure where they need to be and roomy where they should be.
• Mesh-lined upper with open sidewall construction for ventilation
• Protective synthetic rubber toe cap, mudguard, and ‘heel riser’ overlay
• Adjustable jacquard webbing around collar and across forefoot with lace integration
• Webbing pull tabs for easy on/off
• Barefoot construction, so it can be worn with or without socks
• Aegis odor shield
• LUVSEAT™ PU midsole
• Nylon shank for stability and durability
• Barefoot construction with instant-comfort EVA layer
• OutCross Evo outsole
• Non-marking EcoTread™ 25%-recycled rubber content
• 3mm lug depth
There are a few interesting features to note right away. I've put about 30 miles (50 km) on them already. Typically when I get a new pair of shoes I'll feel it in my knees or back as I adjust to them. It's not a big deal or major joint pain. It's more of a readjustment of my gait, I suppose. I usually wear zero drop shoes with as little sole as possible, so putting elevated heel hikers on is noticeable. The Evo 3s required almost no adjustment. The higher heel was definitely felt, but I quickly acclimated and they've been very comfortable every time I've worn them.
One of the unique features of the Evo 3s is that there is no insole. There's no structured high arch insert, no foam padded floppy liner. Nothing. The footbed is sewn in and permanent. This is so they can be worn with no socks, although I don't anticipate doing much of that. Perhaps for stream crossing or in camp that will prove useful.
Another feature I haven't seen on any of my trail shoes over the years is a boot-style metal lace hook in place of the top lace hole. It seemed like overkill at first, but after a couple weeks of using it I'm liking it more and more. The remainder of the lacing is through webbing loops, so there really aren't any lace holes in a traditional shoe sense. No grommets. No drilled-through plastic. I have had grommets and holes tear out on shoes in the past, so this seems to be a really durable alternative.
The other aspects of the shoes that I like quite a bit so far include a super tough heel grab loop, full coverage toe rand, and extremely breathable mesh. The heel loop is usually one of the first failure points on shoes in my experience. It doesn't really affect performance, but it's annoying that they are so often poorly constructed. On the Evo 3s, I'm not sure I could rip it out if I was trying to. The toe rand is another common failure point on shoes I've owned. Usually it's just the front lip of the sole that wraps up and is glued to the front of the toe area. This almost always detaches and leaves a little gap that slowly gets more and more detached. The Evo 3s don't wrap the sole up to the front of the shoe. Instead, they use a toe rand that wraps around the shoe from side to side to protect the toe area. This is a feature that is usually found in rock climbing approach shoes that I'm glad to see used in a trail shoe. It's not as robust as the approach shoe versions, but it doesn't need to be in a hiking shoe. Finally, the breathable mesh is really breathable. I didn't notice it much in my first couple uses of the shoes, but the other day it was a little breezy for the first time since getting the Evo 3s and I could literally feel the wind on my feet through the shoe. This should be great on hot weather hikes and keep them nice and dry even if my feet are sweating like crazy. Hopefully it means they dry quickly after getting soaked as well.
I hike every week - regardless of weather. Based on my normal hiking pattern, I will hike well over 200 miles (320 km) during the test window. All the typical things - fit, comfort, foot and leg fatigue, durability, breathability - will be reported on thoroughly. They’ll see some early season snow as well as plenty of wet conditions in the soggy Northwest. I'll be on local trails weekly for sure. I typically do overnighters every month or so. I got out more in 2014 than I have in over a decade and I hope to beat that in 2015. I have multi-day trips every month on the calendar so far, including weeklong trips in the Glacier Peak area and Wyoming’s Wind River Range.
The Chacos OutCross Evo 3s I've been testing have definitely seen some use in the past couple months. Besides an average of one dayhike per week, one long and dusty overnight backpack, one overnight in light snow, and two overnights with rainy weather, they've also been my daily shoes about four days per week.
Fit continues to be the highlight of this test. It still amazes me that I'm getting this comfortable of a fit in a shoe that is not designated as a "wide". I did worry a little bit about them getting sloppy because the uppers are so minimal, but this has proven to be no issue at all. They appear almost as structured as the day they arrived. They are roomy, but secure. On downhills my toes are not bashing into the front. The heel area stays snug. To be fair, I almost never get blisters, but I haven't had even the slightest hot spot in the Chacos.
As noted in my Initial Report, there are no removable footbeds in the Chacos. This is, according to the company, to allow for sockless wearing. I've only done this a couple times - and both times were relatively brief. I didn't stress test them barefoot, but they felt just fine. I do worry about the interior getting worn quickly and it's hard to imagine they wouldn't get super funky smelling if worn without socks regularly, but so far they're okay. For me, the greatest benefit of this option that they make very comfortable camp shoes. I've been leaving my flip flops at home because the Chacos are comfortable enough to hang out in camp with and airy enough to give my some feet some relief after a day of hiking.
Despite nonstop rain and muddy trail, the Chacos came through looking pretty good. Mud and water didn't get through the airy mesh like I would have expected. Also note the shallow tread - which so far - has not proven to be an issue.
I really love the lacing system. It's very versatile. I can loosen the toe box and snug down the upper or tighten it all the way down to the toe if I need to. The top "boot" hooks are great. My only minor gripe would be that the laces are a tad long. They're a little floppy and will hang to the ground if I don't double knot them.
The lugs have been fine so far. They're shallow and I worry a little about traction, but so far I haven't been in conditions that have shown them to be insufficient. They handled wet logs and wet rocks well on the coast in Olympic National Park. I did slide off a log and cut my leg on that trip. Ironically, I was barefoot so the Chacos are most certainly not to blame.
Durability has been just fine. It's kind of early in the test to comment much on this, but nothing wrong so far.
Finally, breathability continues to be a strong point. The OutCross Evo 3s are easily the most airy shoes I've ever used. This allows them to dry very quickly and they keep my feet cool on hot hikes. I kind of expected the super breathability to allow tons of dirt and crud in, but so far this has not been the case. Even on the coast with its fine sand, I didn't get dirty toes. I have a couple very dry hikes coming up, so they'll get a good test with the late summer dusty trail powder soon.
Field Report Summary
So far, I really couldn't be happier with the OutCross Evo 3s. The fit is almost perfect. They're secure and amazingly breathable. They appear to be wearing very well - they look much like they did when new. They big tests still to come involve long mileage days and hard rock underfoot. So far, my mileage has been moderate and almost all on soft dirt trails. In August and September I'll be switching to long days and much of it will be on alpine granite. That kind of pounding can show what a shoe is worth at the end of a long day. I look forward to reporting on how they do in a couple months!
Long Term Report
The Chacos OutCross Evo 3s got a workout during the last stage of testing. In addition to some more daily wear and a couple dayhikes, they were my footwear on a 5 day backpacking trip in the Glacier Peak Wilderness and an 8 day trip in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. They were definitely pushed to their limit, but performed well.
I didn't see any rain in the last part of testing - the Northwest has been incredibly dry - but I saw just about everything else. Hot and dusty trails. Long snow fields. Talus slopes. Endless boulder fields. Open meadows. Water crossings. They saw a lot of terrain.
In the Glacier Peak Wilderness, I spent miles on normal trails, but also climbed some really dusty slopes, a long remnant glacier, a ton of rock and boulders, and later endless trail that was so dusty it was almost like baby powder.
In Yellowstone, there was not nearly the elevation of the Glacier Peak trip, but there were many miles and yet more dusty trail. It was also a lot warmer, so this was a good test for hot temperatures. Finally, this trip found me hauling my heaviest load yet in the Chacos.
Both of these trips exposed a few weaknesses of the Chacos.
In my previous reports it seemed like the open mesh was staying ultra-breathable but somehow keeping out the dust. Well, the super fine dust of late summer finally got the best of the open weave. My feet were pretty dirty on both longer backpacking trips. In neither case was it an issue on the trail. It's not like my shoes were full of dirt or anything. But my toes were definitely filthy and needed a good scrubbing every night before climbing into my sleeping bag. Overall - I'm happy to trade dirty feet for the excellent breathability. Especially after the toasty temperatures in Yellowstone, I much prefer the cool breeze in the hot confined space of a shoe to a little bit of dirt.
One of the other places the shoes just about met their match was in rock hopping and off trail conditions. The tread held up better than I expected, but the constant smearing and lateral stress worked over the sole seams pretty good. The shoes are not falling apart by any means, but the glue where the upper meets the sole is definitely pulling away - something that wasn't happening at all in the previous part of this test.
Left - normal sole/upper seam Right - separating sole/upper seam
The final area where the Chacos were at their limit was in heavy load support. I normally carry a total packweight of about 15 pounds (about 7kg). At that load, the Chacos are a dream. Light. Comfortable. Plenty supportive. In Yellowstone with 8 days of food and gear my pack weight crept up to about 30 pounds (about 14 kg). With that much weight I definitely felt the rocks and bumps underfoot. It wasn't bad enough to get sore feet or bruising or anything like that, but it was noticeably weaker underfoot. I don't really blame the Chacos for this - they're not really designed as a heavy load hauler shoe - but it was interesting to discover where the limit is in this shoe. Toward the end of the trip when my weight was back down to a lighter load, they felt as fantastic as they have during previous testing.
Fit remained amazing. Light load or heavy load. Easy terrain or difficult terrain. I never had a blister or hot spot. No toe bashing in the front of the shoe. No heel sloppiness. No matter what I did in the Chacos the fit was nearly perfect.
A couple times in Yellowstone I made a river crossing in the Chacos. They were super secure and comfortable in the river and were the only shoes in camp to dry out before the morning. In fact, they were pretty much dry just a few hours later. My backpacking buddies were trying to dry their shoes near the fire and they were still wet in the morning. I simply set mine on a log and they were good to go and completely dry by morning.
Long Term Report Summary
Overall the Chacos are a fantastic summer trail shoe. Off trail or on serious alpine trips I might want something just a little more beefy, but for the huge majority of my backpacking they're nearly perfect. They're not really targeted as an off-route hard core shoe, so it's not really fair to criticize them in that regard. The fit is fantastic. The laces are beefy and super secure with the boot hooks. The breathability is by far the greatest of any shoe I've used. Durability is completely adequate. They really are a unique pair of trail shoes that are up to the task of backpacking usage.
Chacos are a brand I'd never have considered for a trail shoe, but I'm absolutely impressed. I'll definitely be looking to buy a new pair for future summer backpacking seasons.
My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Chacos for the opportunity to test these trail shoes!
Read more gear reviews by Curt Peterson
Reviews > Footwear > Trail Shoes > Chaco OutCross Evo 3 Trail Shoes > Test Report by Curt Peterson