The Best Flip-Flop Sandals Review
What are the best all-purpose flip flops out there? We took 7 top models for multipurpose use and put them head-to-head in every situation they were meant for, and some they were not. We climbed mountains in them, walked miles at a time on rough terrain, and even bled in them just so you won't have to. We wrote this review for people who want to wear flops all day and do just about anything in them. (If you just want flips to get you from your hotel room to the beach, stop reading this review and buy some Havianas Top flips.) So if you are looking for that perfect pair to accompany you on your future urban, rural, coffee shop, mountain, lake or beach adventure; please do read on.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Flip-Flop Sandal
OluKai Ohana Sandal
Best Bang for the Buck
Top Pick for Overall Comfort
Sanuk Yogi 3 Sandal
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Analysis and Test Results
Update Note: April 2015
We have contacted all of the companies and noted any updates, if applicable; we have confirmed that most of the changes were only in regards to color. A complete review was performed in November 2013.
Thoreau said "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads." While we're not here to judge where your heaven is, we do know that having the right pair under your feet is absolutely essential to enjoying yourself in everything you do - or at least everything you do while wearing them. Wikipedia defines flip-flops as "a simple type of footwear in which there is a band between the biggest toe and the other toes." We think of the flip flop as a subcategory of sandals, so a flip flop is a type of sandal but not all sandals are flip flops. Sticking with this definition we recommend that anyone looking for a secure around the foot hiking or outdoor sandal check out our Sandal Review.
Types of Flip Flops
From this more specific definition of flip-flops it is worth pointing out that there are still quite a variety of styles available on the market. Some are designed for wearing around the house or to the beach, for slipping on and off easily, for maximum comfort, for athletic use, for dressier occasions, for decorative purposes, etc There are literally thousands of different options, so for the purpose of our review we look at the best all around multi-purpose models that are reasonably priced ($30-$70), well designed, comfortable, stable for a more adventurous lifestyle, and durable enough to last more than a month at the beach.
The products we tested are made of polyurethane, nylon, rubber, plastic, leather and a variety of other materials, and are designed for strength, comfort, fit, and traction. While some focus a little more on style and others on durability or traction, in general all of the products we reviewed were selected because they met the range of needs that an outdoor enthusiast would encounter, while still providing exceptional footwear for that epic adventure to meet the girl of your dreams at the local coffee shop.
Criteria for Evaluation
We assessed each pair based on their comfort and fit, stability, style, durability and traction.
Comfort / Fit
30%, or almost 1/3 of our rating criteria is weighted toward overall comfort and fit, both initially and after months of wear. We are heavily influenced by extra plush soft material such as the velvety feel of the Olukai Ohana Sandal and the soft squishy yoga mat feel of the Sanuk Yogi 3 Sandal. In addition to softness we also look at how well the sole molds to your foot over time. We like strong arches, but actually devalue one flop (the Reef Fanning Sandal) as the basketball style heel airbag, a bit of overkill in our opinion, makes our heel sit a bit higher than desired. Out of the box we wore each pair, and nothing else (except climbing shoes as necessary) for two weeks straight to test them in all types of activity. During these tests we noticed that both the Crocs Modi and the Rainbow Premier Leather Sandal wore through our skin from rubbing on the hard plastic and leather. Over time the Rainbow's broke in and this problem went away, but the Crocs continue to be abrasive despite an allowed break in time.
We feel that all of the flops reviewed fit pretty snug initially; however reading user comments on the web we recognize that sizing can be an issue for some. Based on the feedback we gathered from multiple sources we found that the Ohana's ran pretty true to size, the Fanning's ran a little big and have the tendency to stretch out, the Phantom's are sized a bit on the tight side which is actually nice as they stretch to fit your feet well, the Crocs have recently changed manufacturers and apparently have shrunk the length of their strap resulting in a much smaller and tighter fit, and the Rainbow's are true to size and do not fit a wide foot very well.
From the standpoint of comfort and fit the Sanuk's receive a perfect score and the Ohana's score exceptionally well across the board. When you first put your foot into each of these, you will know what we are talking about. The Sanuk's are simply exceptionally comfortable, preferable in some cases to those bunny slippers you don't want to be caught dead wearing. The website for the Ohana's describes why they are so comfortable, boasting a few impressive acronyms and seeming to relish the "Vegan friendly" nature of this product. I must admit that while not knowing what most of it means we believe them and are happy to pay the higher price for their comfort alone. And the beautiful part is that the soft material is everywhere; under your feet, on the underside of the straps, and even in the synthetic leather toe strap.
Stability / Versatility
In our review look for a versatile, stable flip flop, not something you only wear around the house or walk to the beach in. Having San Diego roots we understand the idea of literally living in these shoes, and we wanted to reward products that don't limit your movement or create a dangerous situation should you decide to go scrambling through rivers or using them for climbing approaches. We test them above and under water, with and without socks, on a variety of surfaces, and, well I think you get the idea.
We must admit we picked some great flops to test because all of those tested performed extremely well in this category. The Croc Modi Flips perform best by far when wet. The plastic nubs that connect with the bottom of your feet provide exceptional traction in normally slippery conditions. Strangely enough the bottoms of the Crocs might even grip better in wet conditions than they do on dry surfaces. The Chaco Flip EcoTread also perform extremely well in wet conditions and have straps that never stretch out creating a loss in stability.
For dryer conditions we are very pleased by the stability of the Reef Fanning's. Before these stretched out we felt we could hike and rock scramble through anything in them. Unfortunately after a month or so the strap loosened a bit and as a result a sudden sideways movement turned into a rolled ankle making us trust in these a little less than before.
Our overall winner in the category of stability and versatility is the OluKai Ohana (I'm sure you can guess which pair will end up winning our Editors' Choice Award). They fit snug, stay centered on our feet even when jogging or running, are extremely functional wet and dry, and perform just as well at the beach as they do in the mountains. They are also stylish enough to wear out to dinner (we'll get into that in a second). One drawback is that the ultra-comfortable material has the tendency to hold odors, so after pushing the limits of these sandals in strenuous and sometimes sweaty tests we find that they get a bit stinkier than their competitors.
A decent pair can last anywhere from 6 months to 3 years depending on how they are used and their overall quality. During my seven years living in San Diego and wearing essentially nothing but flip flops I have broken the toe strap and in some rare situations worn completely through the sole of many many pairs. For this review we do not have the luxury of wearing each pair for years to see where and when they wear out, so we utilize the vast knowledge base of peer reviewers out there and combine this feedback with some hard core flip-flopping action where we push the pairs we have in the time we have them as hard and as far as we can.
We find very few comments that complain about any of these pairs breaking in less than six months or wearing out very quickly. In over six months of testing we have experienced almost no wear and tear in any of the flips flops reviewed, with the exception of some stretching in the strap. The OluKai Ohana's, the Sanuk Yogi 3, and the Reef Phantoms have the thinnest soles, especially in the area that typically wears out, making us believe these will wear a hole in the sole before the others, but mind you this is just speculation. We know Rainbow's last forever, and have spoken with many people who are wearing theirs after five or more years. The Crocs and Chaco's get exceptional reviews in the category of durability and we can see from the material thus far that they seem all but indestructible.
We are not fashion police, and in this particular author's opinion, I am not very fashionable at all; so in general we try to avoid rating a product on how it looks or how it is perceived by the public. However in this case, we recognize that style and peer perception may in fact be more important to some people than other features or performance characteristics. We therefore give a 10% weight to style and hope you take everything stated with respect to style with a grain of salt; and please feel free to comment on your personal opinion of style including how this author potentially has none.
Listening to my friends on this one (we polled about 30 people for general opinion on style), the clear winner in style is the Rainbow's. Being an engineer I of course asked several people why, and the best answer I got is that they really like the rainbow tag on top. That and the simplicity of them, the fact that they don't have embellished logos or weird features and designs on the side make them stylish!? Also I think people like them because they are leather and look a bit higher quality than the others. The OluKai, Reef Phantom's and Reef Fannings all come in second, although I personally like the OluKai pair I tested in black. Why? I guess because they are pretty simple. In this respect the Crocs, Chaco's and the Sanuk's didn't do very well from the perspective of style because they look pretty cheap and have patterns on them that rub some people the wrong way.
You might not think traction is important, but even if you are not hiking, running, or playing adventurer in your new jandals you will appreciate good traction. The difference in traction from the most grippy pair we test (the Ohana's) to the smooth bottomed Rainbow's can mean lots of wasted energy as your feet can literally slip off the pedals of your bike or cause some serious bumps and bruises resulting from a simple misstep in wet conditions. While we do not put a heavy weight on traction it is worth mentioning that good traction directly corresponds with good stability and versatility in a shoe.
Buying Advice article.
— Brian Blum and Chris McNamara
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