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Hands-on Gear Review
OluKai Lala Review
Cons: Expensive, narrow
Bottom line: The Lala is a beautiful and durable sandal that feels luxurious and is easy to break in.
In our months with the OluKai Lala it never ceased to impress, all the while keeping us at the height of fashion. Because this flip performed so well across all our rating metrics and was also the style favorite of all 11 tested models, we awarded it a Top Pick for Stylish Adventures. We felt comfortable, stable, and confident on slick terrain and the shoe was barely worse for wear despite our rigorous testing. Initially, we were worried about taking such a nice sandal and dousing it with water, but even then the Lala rose to the top, repelling water and drying incredibly fast. The one issue we had with this model is that it runs very small and narrow, so plan to size up if you're in between sizes and maybe look to a wider footbed like on our Editors' Choice, the Birkenstock Gizeh, if you have wide feet.
RELATED REVIEW: The 11 Best Flip Flop Sandals For Women
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Looking for a sandal that will feel great on your feet, easily last you for years, and also turn heads? Our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, the Lala, has you covered on all fronts. While it has a very narrow fit and is also quite expensive, on the right foot and the right person, this is an incredibly impressive shoe.
The Lala (shown in blue below) performed impressively and consistently across all our rating metrics.
The molded polyurethane footbed of the Lala is wrapped in full-grain leather, giving it a slick and smooth finish that feels nice underfoot. The wide, supple straps are also full-grain leather with a microfiber lining and, while slightly stiff at first, they soften and break in quickly.
When you slip on this sandal, you can't help but notice how well constructed it is. The gracefully contoured footbed and wide straps feel both pleasant and secure, and the Hand-sewn leather toe post is comfortable and easy to get used to. Unfortunately, this shoe won't be super appealing to many wide-footed fashionistas, as it runs very narrow. The footbed also runs quite small, so if you have a half size foot be sure to order up. Oddly enough this OluKai is sized completely different than our other one, the OluKai Ohana, our favorite model for comfort.
Some of our other favorite models for comfort were the super supportive Editors' Choice Birkenstock Gizeh and the simple, classic Rainbow Single Layer Premier. For sheer cush that feels like a bedrooms slipper, check out the Sanuk Yoga Chakra with its footbeds made out of real yoga mats.
Support & Stability
The firm molded footbed, and wide straps on the Lala combine to produce a very stable and supportive shoe. While the footbed material can be a bit slick at times, and the narrowness of the design isn't ideal for anyone with wide feet, overall we found this to be a very well-conceived sandal.
This flip-flop has one of the more dense and firm footbeds, an element that added to its stability. However it's super narrow, and the edges don't curve upward very much, so there is the possibility that longer toes or wider feet will spill off the sides. Unless you have very narrow feet, this is a good one to try on in person before purchasing.
The clear winner in this category was the Birkenstock Gizeh, our Editors' Choice. With features like multiple arch supports, a deep heel cup, and a raised footbed edge, we felt incredibly secure. The Merrell Around Town, our Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling, was also impressively stable, as was the Vionic Tide II with its built-in orthotic arch supports.
OluKai knows how to construct a durable shoe and this one is no exception. Despite putting this beautiful sandal through mud pits and cold rivers, it still looked great at the end of our testing period. The shiny footbed got a bit scuffed up by the toes, and the leather straps darkened and softened after being wet, but that only made them feel softer and more broken in.
Both the Lala and the Gizeh are highly durable shoes that can handle a lot of use and should easily last you for years. However they are expensive enough to warrant a bit of extra care, and both are made with materials (like leather and cork) that require some additional attention to keep nice for the long haul. While some abuse short term for our testing purposes barely put a dent in these sandals, if you continued to use them in this manner they would deteriorate relatively quickly. So our scores for this metric reflect the level of durability we feel these sandals have if you take proper care of them. If you want something you can use and abuse without a care in the world, check out the burly rubber and webbing of the Chaco Flip EcoTread or the Vionic Tide II.
We were initially nervous to put a shoe as nice as the Lala into a river and under a hose. But, as with every other one of our rating metrics, this sandal was up for the challenge. The smooth molded footbed repelled and wicked away water super effectively, drying after a full soaking in just 4 minutes. The leather straps, despite their width and thickness, only took about 25 minutes to completely dry. When walking around with a wet footbed, we noticed that it was initially very slick - our foot slipped off the side once - but within only about 20 seconds the water was wicked away and we were back to being secure.
We figured that rubber models with webbing straps like the Flip EcoTread and Tide II would have much better dry times than the Lala, but this wasn't the case. The footbeds all dried in roughly the same amount of time, but the Lala's straps took about 5-7 minutes less time to dry. The models that dried the fastest were the minimal Rainbow Single Layer Premier and Reef Leather Uptown, both taking just 20 minutes for the entire shoe to dry.
Once again the Lala was poised to surprise us. It's easy to look at this sandal and write it off as just a pretty urban shoe, but don't be fooled - this sandal can hang with the big kids. While the footbed on the Lala is a bit slick, the bottom sole felt quite secure, with traction pods that provided great sticking power.
It was the Lala's impressive performance in more "outdoorsy" metrics like this one that inspired us to award it a Top Pick for Stylish Adventures. It earned this title because we were able to do it all: stick on rough terrain, walk in water, and look highly stylish all at the same time. Granted, this shoe is fancy and expensive enough that it's probably not the one to buy if you need a flip-flop solely for outdoor adventures. But what's nice about the Lala is that you can feel confident that, wherever your day takes you, you'll be comfortable and secure the whole time.
For a more rugged sandal that's a bit less stylish (yet still very cute!) and has a similar strap shape to the Lala, check out the Around Town, our Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling. The Tide II also had impressive traction if you want a simpler shoe that's very easy to clean and maintain.
And this is where the Lala took the prize, flying past all the other contenders. We polled close to 20 women and had them rate our tested flips, and this sandal was far and away the favorite.
A sleek design and unique straps elevated this shoe above all the others. It definitely looks better and fits better on narrower feet, so that's something to keep in mind, but for narrow-footed divas, this is a clear winner. The other models that scored near the top were the Editors' Choice Gizeh and our Best Buy winner, the Teva Olowahu.
While the Lala performed well in even our most rigorous outdoor tests, we still feel it's a better shoe for urban activities. It's such a nice sandal, and quite expensive, so we just don't see the point in buying it to purposely beat it up. While it can handle water, dirt, and mud, it's best suited for classy city life where you want the assurance that you'll be comfortable for hours, secure on slippery sidewalks, and dry quickly if you end up in a sudden summer thunderstorm.
This was the most expensive sandal of all 11 that we tested. The Lala retails for a whopping $110, so you'd better really love it to buy it. We do think it's worth the price, as it's an exquisitely made shoe that will likely last you for many years, but if you don't think you'll like it after more than a season or two than you should perhaps consider something more affordable.
We loved this sandal and found it impressive on almost every level. The durable and well-constructed footbed has a comfortable contour and the leather straps and hand-sewn toe post are really pleasant feeling, especially after just a bit of breaking in. The Lala provided good traction, great water resistance, and was the most stylish model of all we tested. Unfortunately, this shoe does run quite small and narrow, so if you have wide feet it may not be a good match. It's also really expensive, so unless you super love it - which is pretty darn easy to do - then you may want to look to a bit more cost-effective model.
— Penney Garrett
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