Hands-on Gear Review

Olukai Paniolo Review

Price:  $85 List | $84.95 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Beautiful colors, ages well, easy to dress up or down, great water resistance
Cons:  Straps stretch out, toe post takes breaking in, expensive
Bottom line:  The Paniolo is a beautifully designed flip-flop that handles water amazingly well and will always keep you looking stylish.
Editors' Rating:   
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Sole material:  Gum rubber infused with burlap
Footbed material:  Compression molded EVA, full-grain leather
Strap Material:  Full-grain leather
Manufacturer:   Olukai

Our Verdict

The OluKai Paniolo is an elegant flip-flop with saddle-inspired stitching covering the footbed. It's a head turner and can easily be dressed up (way up!) or down, depending on the occasion. Despite the expensive leather, this shoe (like the others in our test suite from OluKai, the Lala and Ohana) handles water with ease, the footbed drying amazingly quickly. While we found it took some time to get used to the hand-sewn toe post, the break-in period for this beauty was minimal. The Paniolo is indeed an investment, but it only looks better with age and should have no problem lasting the right person for many years.

For other highly stylish options that are a little more comfortable and supportive, both our Editor's Choice Birkenstock Gizeh and our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, the OluKai Lala are fantastic, albeit more expensive, choices.



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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Penney Garrett

Last Updated:
Monday
May 14, 2018

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For anyone who wants a beautiful summer shoe that can still handle variable terrain and weather, the Paniolo is a great one to consider. The saddle-inspired stitching on the footbed is eye-catching and also helps supply some internal traction. This flip-flop dried quickly, broke in easily, and is highly durable — a reliable option for the fashionista in all of us.

Performance Comparison


Who doesn't love a gorgeous summer shoe that will get better-looking and more comfortable the longer you wear it?
Who doesn't love a gorgeous summer shoe that will get better-looking and more comfortable the longer you wear it?

Comfort


The Paniolo isn't the kind of shoe that's squishy and welcoming right from the get-go. The toe post takes some breaking in, and the footbed takes time to mold to your feet and get soft. And even then, this won't ever be a pillowy-feeling shoe like the OluKai Ohana, our top scorer for comfort. But for those that like a firmer footbed and can be patient with the time that leather takes to get lush, this flip will mold to your feet and heart.

While not as plush as other flips in our review  the Paniolo is still comfortable and gets more welcoming the longer you wear it.
While not as plush as other flips in our review, the Paniolo is still comfortable and gets more welcoming the longer you wear it.

Support & Stability


While not an overly supportive sandal, the Paniolo is decently firm and stable. We would have awarded it higher scores if the straps had been more snug instead of stretching out a bit with wear. This was a common issue we saw mentioned in other buyer reviews online, some people claiming their straps stretched so much as to render the sandal unwearable. That certainly wasn't our experience, at least in our time with the Paniolo, but the straps are noticeably looser than many other models we tested.

For superior support and stability in another classy leather shoe, be sure to check out the impressive Birkenstock Gizeh, our Editors' Choice winner. We also gave top marks to the Astral Rosa, our Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling because of its optional ankle strap.

While the Paniolo provided decent support and stability  it wasn't overly impressive.
While the Paniolo provided decent support and stability, it wasn't overly impressive.

Durability


OluKai always impresses us in this category. High-quality materials and good craftsmanship do add up to a durable final product. Despite the intricate stitching and soft leather of this flip-flop, it came out looking just fine even after all manner of rough adventures from our testing team. And though we only spent a couple of months with the Paniolo, we've seen it after many years of wear, and the leather only seems to get more beautiful as it wears in. Our only issue was the fact that the straps seemed to stretch a bit. We found rubber and webbing options like the Astral Rosa, Vionic Tide II, and Chaco Flip EcoTread to be a bit more bombproof but, with proper care of the Paniolo, not by much.

We took this fancy flip-flop all over the desert  through a river  and to many dusty campsites  and it never stopped looking good.
We took this fancy flip-flop all over the desert, through a river, and to many dusty campsites, and it never stopped looking good.

Water Resistance


This is the other category that OluKai shoes always seem to excel in. Don't let the supple leather and fancy stitching fool you, this Hawaiian-based shoe is no stranger to the water. After walking through a river on a sunny day, the footbed of the Paniolo was dry to the touch in just under two minutes. The straps took about 20 minutes to dry, and you could still feel slight moisture with weight on the shoe until around 30 minutes. This shows more water absorption and wicking than true resistance, but the entire leather shoe was still dry in an impressive time. Our other OluKai contenders, the Ohana and Lala performed similarly well, with the Lala being the most impressive of all.

After walking in a cold Colorado river  the Paniolo's footbed was dry to the touch in under 2 minutes.
After walking in a cold Colorado river, the Paniolo's footbed was dry to the touch in under 2 minutes.

Traction


Traction wasn't a particular strong suit of the Paniolo, though it was absolutely decent. When compared to some of the more outdoorsy or supportive models it didn't quite measure up, but on its own merits this flip did just fine and will serve you well for any kind of urban adventure or simple trek in the outdoors. The stitching on the footbed provided a bit of additional footbed traction as well. If you want to stay stylish but think you'll need more traction, we thought the Lala and Gizeh were a bit stickier on uncertain terrain.

Even the sole of this shoe is attractive. It wasn't the stickiest  but in most situations we found it to be perfectly adequate.
Even the sole of this shoe is attractive. It wasn't the stickiest, but in most situations we found it to be perfectly adequate.

Style


No surprise, the Paniolo scored well here. Simple but classy and elegant, this is an easy flip to dress way up — in reading user reviews online, we found someone even bought them for her wedding. Our testers loved this shoe as well and think that it would be a welcome addition to almost anyone's closet. The only model that scored higher was the Lala.

The Paniolo is a great addition to any closet  easy to pair with both casual and fancy clothes - as well as everything in between.
The Paniolo is a great addition to any closet, easy to pair with both casual and fancy clothes - as well as everything in between.

Best Applications


This lovely flip is best suited for more mellow excursions, from the beach to the bar to a nice dinner. It will certainly fare well camping and jaunting around in the forest as well, as we saw in our time with it. But there's no reason to use such a pricey showpiece for more serious outdoor adventures — there are better models for that, like the Astral Rosa. This is the kind of shoe that you buy so that you can dress up and still be wearing a flip-flop.

Classically beautiful and well-made  the Paniolo has an easy elegance that's a wonderful addition to any wardrobe.
Classically beautiful and well-made, the Paniolo has an easy elegance that's a wonderful addition to any wardrobe.

Value


$85 is a lot for a flip-flop, it's true. But if you're looking for something beautiful that will retain its elegance and integrity over the years, then it might make sense. The full-grain leather and stitching wear gracefully and the footbed molds to your feet over time. The price tag on this isn't so outrageous as to not be reasonable for the right individual.

Conclusion


All in all, we found the Paniolo to be a well-constructed flip-flop that was easy on the eye and comfy on foot. It's pricey but handled water well, felt stable, and is clearly quite durable. This is a special flip-flop that can dress up your summer wardrobe.

The Paniolo kept us looking good everywhere we went.
The Paniolo kept us looking good everywhere we went.

Penney Garrett

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: May 14, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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