Hands-on Gear Review

Reef Leather Uptown Review

This contender is a minimal flip flop that's well made and handles water like a pro, but doesn't offer a lot of support.
Reef Leather Uptown
By: Penney Garrett ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 12, 2017
Price:  $50 List  |  $36.99 at MooseJaw - 26% Off
Pros:  Dries quickly when wet, lightweight, sleek
Cons:  Expensive, very little support
Manufacturer:   Reef
57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Support & Stability - 20% 3
  • Durability - 15% 6
  • Water Resistance - 15% 9
  • Traction - 15% 5
  • Style - 10% 6
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Our Verdict

If your idea of the perfect flip-flop is something light and minimal that dries quickly when wet and isn't overly contoured, then the Reef Leather Uptown is a great shoe to consider. While we find it a bit pricey for what you get, it's a well-made sandal that can handle a lot of use. The simple design is stylistically versatile, pairing easily with everything from a swimsuit and shorts to a casual dress for drinks out on the town. While it's not the appropriate choice for complicated terrain or long hikes, the Leather Uptown is great for the beach, pool, or simple urban adventures.

Very similar in design but slightly more plush and moldable is the Rainbow Single Layer Premier. If you want to go even cushier and spend less dough, the North Face Base Camp Lite, our Best Buy for Sporty Adventures, is a fantastic option for just $35.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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Looking for a sleek pair of flip-flops for the pool or beach that are stylish enough to continue with you for your evening plans? The Reef Leather Uptown is an ideal choice if simplicity and minimalism are your jam. This tiny sandal absorbs water quickly and doesn't have aggressive contouring or complicated straps. While it's probably not the shoe to choose if you'll be hiking to the crag or navigating a lot of unstable terrain, it is a good choice for that classic laid-back summer vibe.

Performance Comparison


The Leather Uptown is great if you're looking for a simple  lightweight  and very minimal sandal.
The Leather Uptown is great if you're looking for a simple, lightweight, and very minimal sandal.

Comfort


The Leather Uptown, with its full grain leather footbed and straps, certainly isn't uncomfortable; but it's also so minimal that wearing it isn't that different from simply being barefoot — hence our middle-of-the-road rating. It provides a thin, slightly contoured buffer between your skin and the earth, and that's it. For women that don't like a lot of contouring or thick straps and prefer more of the barefoot experience, this flip-flop might fit your ideal for comfort. But for those looking for a more cushioned and supportive sandal you'll probably want to look elsewhere, perhaps to the plush footbed of the OluKai Ohana or the brushed leather and extreme support of the Birkenstock Gizeh.

Enjoying some morning coffee with the attractively minimal Leather Uptown.
Enjoying some morning coffee with the attractively minimal Leather Uptown.

Support & Stability


With a flip-flop as minimal as this one we simply couldn't give it a very high rating for this metric. The thin sole and even thinner straps provide little more support than being barefoot. If this is what you like, then it certainly isn't a bad thing — some people don't want aggressive arch supports, contouring, or straps with a lot of material. It depends on what you want your flip-flop to do for you. If you want to feel more of the earth, have something super easy to take on and off, and know that water will be absorbed quickly, the Leather Uptown is a viable option. But if you need your arches supported, your toes more protected, and your foot cradled snugly, we'd recommend something like the our Editors' Choice and most supportive shoe, the Birkenstock Gizeh or the impressive built-in orthotics of the Vionic Tide II. The Astral Rosa, our Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling is another stellar option — it offers a supplemental ankle strap so you can go from flip-flop to full-fledged hiking sandal.

With a thin flexible sole and tiny straps  the Leather Uptown is more of a barefoot experience than any other flip flop in our test group.
With a thin flexible sole and tiny straps, the Leather Uptown is more of a barefoot experience than any other flip flop in our test group.

Durability


Though the Leather Uptown is a bare bones sandal, it's also well made, and we think it will last at least a few years with no problem (depending on your usage of course). In our time traipsing around we saw little-to-no wear other than the leather on the footbed darkening. However, it is a thin and dainty design, so it's simply not a great candidate for prolonged hard use or rough terrain. There are lots of places that the thin leather footbed and straps, exposed rubber midsole, or thin rubber bottom sole could get punctured, torn, or simply worn down with extended use.

If you want to stick with a simple flip-flop design for longer and harder use, look into the Chaco Flip EcoTread, one of our top performers for this category. The Vionic Tide II or the Astral Rosa are also better choices for long-term durability, though both have a thicker and more contoured design, very different from the minimal look and feel of the Leather Uptown.

We put the Leather Uptown through some rigorous testing and it held up just fine  though if you plan to hike in mud or scramble up rocks regularly  there are better models to consider.
We put the Leather Uptown through some rigorous testing and it held up just fine, though if you plan to hike in mud or scramble up rocks regularly, there are better models to consider.

Water Resistance


Reef is known for making sandals meant to be able to hang out with water, and the Leather Uptown upheld the reputation. Despite having a leather footbed and straps, this flip-flop dried incredibly fast, whether faced with a small amount of water or a full dousing. When fully immersed and soaked in a river, the Leather Uptown was completely dry after a mere 20 minutes. The only other sandal in our test group that performed this well was the Rainbow Single Layer Premier, which also dried in 20 minutes flat. The other aspect that we liked about both of these shoes is the fact that they wick water away from the surface efficiently, so even when the footbed is damp, it doesn't feel slimy or insecure. The Astral Rosa, Chaco Flip EcoTread, and Vionic Tide II all have more water resistant footbeds which, though they dry very fast, allow for water to sit pooled on the surface longer.

The Leather Uptown (far left) handled water like a pro  drying quickly whether it was just a little wet or fully soaked through.
The Leather Uptown (far left) handled water like a pro, drying quickly whether it was just a little wet or fully soaked through.

Traction


The Leather Uptown, at least when the rubber soles are only a few months old, provides decent traction on uneven terrain. It's hard to feel super secure though because the thin and minimal sole allows the feet to move and twist around quite a bit — especially when on steep hills. This sandal does have excellent footbed traction, however, as the leather is decently grippy when both wet and dry. Our most impressive contenders for traction were the Merrell Around Town and Astral Rosa. The Vionic Tide II was also very secure and sticky. These are all burlier shoes though, something that comes hand in hand with good traction because it's not just about the bottom of the sole; strap security and footbed traction are the other key elements that help provide excellent traction in a sandal. However, the benefit of the Rosa is that you can remove the ankle strap and have a daintier, less sporty look — this versatility is a feature we really loved.

The thin rubber soles of the Leather Uptown provide decent traction when new  though the overly minimal design allows the foot to move around a lot while walking  something we especially noticed when going up or down hills.
The thin rubber soles of the Leather Uptown provide decent traction when new, though the overly minimal design allows the foot to move around a lot while walking, something we especially noticed when going up or down hills.

Style


When we polled women to get their opinion on which of our tested flip-flops were the most and least stylish, the Leather Uptown ended up right in the middle. It's certainly not as overtly stylish as our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, the OluKai Lala, or the Editors' Choice Birkenstock Gizeh, but it's also not an overly sporty or athletic looking shoe. The sleek design and understated natural sexiness of this dainty leather sandal were very appealing to a lot of women. It's easy to dress up or dress down, making it a great summer accessory able to keep you looking good throughout your entire day.

There's not much to the Leather Uptown  but its understated look was appealing to a lot of women and is easy to dress up or down.
There's not much to the Leather Uptown, but its understated look was appealing to a lot of women and is easy to dress up or down.

Best Applications


The Leather Uptown is best suited for simple low impact summer activities where excess support and traction are not required. It does great with water, so if you're planning a lot of beach or pool trips, this is a great flip-flop to consider. However, if you know that you will also be hiking, or on your feet for long periods of time, you may want to consider a beefier sandal with more strap support and contouring. Be sure to read about some of our award winners like our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, the OluKai Lala, or our Editors' Choice, the Birkenstock Gizeh.

Value


While we enjoyed this flip-flop, we still feel that $50 is a bit steep for such a minimal shoe. This price is undoubtedly because both of the straps and footbed are crafted with full-grain leather. If you don't care about having leather (or prefer to avoid it), Reef makes some other fantastic sandals with synthetic ingredients that are much cheaper. For example, the Downtown Truss has a similar look, is made with vegan leather, and sells for only $30. Also be sure to check out our Best Stylish Buy on a Tight Budget, the sassy $25 Teva Olowahu.

Conclusion


The Leather Uptown is a bare bones sandal with a sleek and understated style that's perfect for relaxing in the sun and surf or completing a sexy urban summer look. It's a great choice if you want minimal contouring and support and prefer more of a barefoot feel to your shoes. It absorbs water efficiently, dries quickly, and the full grain leather footbed and straps feel nice on the skin. While we find it a bit expensive for what you get, especially considering what else is available for the same or less money, on the right person and in the right circumstances, this is an easy shoe to love.

This Reef is an easy companion for low-key summer adventures and hanging out.
This Reef is an easy companion for low-key summer adventures and hanging out.

Penney Garrett

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Most recent review: July 12, 2017
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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