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Gear Closet: ECCO Biom Chiappo Sandals

Friday, 9 August 2013

Throughout the year, I've been fortunate enough to test and review a couple of pairs of shoes from ECCO, a company that has been revamping its entire footwear line and in the process releasing some seriously great products. First I was impressed with their Biom Lite Helion minimalist running shoe and later I was bowled over by the Biom Hike 1.2 boots.  Both products were durable, attractive and very comfortable, delivering very good performance in their two very different outdoor activities. Recently I've been putting a new ECCO shoe through its paces and like with its predecessors, I'm extremely impressed. Once again the company has found a way to surprise me with their designs, this time offering up a sandal that is built for the trail. 

If you were to compare the new Biom Terrain Chiappo sandal to a motorized vehicle you'd say that it looks like an ATV or even a dune buggy. It has a rugged suspension, in this case in the form of an amazing outsole and a comfortable interior that keeps the wearer safe from harm while allowing them to go places they never thought they could. At least not in a shoe like this one. 

If you turn the shoe over and only saw the bottom, you'd probably guess you were looking at a light hiking shoe. The sole is flexible, yet incredibly sturdy and offers an excellent grip, even on slick surfaces. ECCO may have built the Chiappo to look like a sandal, but this shoe has the heart of a hiker. 

Slipping the shoe on is an eye-opener as well. These sandals cradle the foot nicely and provide an excellent layer of padding that was completely unexpected. I didn't just think the Chiappos were comfortable for a sandal, I just thought that they were comfortable when compared to any shoe. The ergonomically designed footpad felt great and the low profile sole kept my feet well connected to the surfaces that I was scrambling over – something that is very important when moving over uneven terrain. 

ECCO wisely included three straps for adjusting the fit of these sandals – two across the top of the foot and one along the back of the heel. This really helps to dial-in how you want these sandals to feel on your feet. Personally, I happen to like my performance shoes to be a little on the snug side. It helps me get a better feeling for the ground and react accordingly much more quickly as well. Tightening up the velcro straps on the Chiappos achieved exactly that goal and kept them from feeling like they were going to fall off my feet unexpectedly, something I've experienced with some other sandals in the past. 

Made from yak leather, the shoe's uppers feel soft and comfortable while wrapped around the foot. They also happens to wear very well, resisting scuffs, cuts and other damage with equal aplomb. After putting these shoes to the test on the beach, several hiking trails and while kicking around town, I can honestly say they still look like they have been just taken out of the box. The same level of quality that I saw in ECCO's previous shoes shines through here as well, giving you the sense that these are a pair of shoes that will be with you for years and see you safely through all kinds of adventures. 

In terms of styling, I really like the looks of the Chiappos too. Available in four color schemes, I was sent a pair that are dark gray with reddish accents, a combination that is known as Dark Shadows and Lava in ECCO's vernacular. Those color combinations look totally unique and help these sandals to stand out from the crowd. While they do retain a classic sandal styling, the Chiappos also have a design that is modern, unique and all their own. 

One thing that was a bit of a disappointment for me was the design choice to make the Chiappo an open toed shoe. That means that they vent well and allow your feet to breathe better, particularly in hot climates, but it also allows more loose debris, sand and dirt to get inside. This is somewhat common with many sandals like these however and is basically something you accept when you choose to wear them. Closed toes do make these shoes a more viable option when visiting certain areas or participating in some outdoor activity. For example, when I visited the Amazon Rainforest a few years back, we weren't allowed to wear open toed sandals as they didn't provide enough protection. But in that case it wasn't protection from dirt and dust that was a concern so much as it was the snakes. 

That one nitpick aside however, I have to say that I really love these shoes. I continue to be impressed with how good they feel on my feet and how well they perform in the field. If you've been looking for a lightweight, comfortable and durable sandal that you can hike in, your search is over. Pick up a pair of Ecco Biom Terrain Chiapos and get trekking. Similarly, if you want a comfortable shoe for wearing around camp while backpacking, you can't go wrong either. Your feet will thank you when you slip into them at the end of the day and they won't take up much room in your backpack either. 

The Chiapo Sandals carry an MSRP of $130, which is a competitively priced with similar offerings from competitors. 

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