The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Reef Fanning Review

A great, durable flop that will handle any terrain.
Reef Fanning
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $55 List | $46.97 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Super secure, great traction
Cons:  Airheel and bottle opener seem a bit gimmicky
Manufacturer:   Reef
By Chris McNamara and Sam Piper  ⋅  Jul 22, 2017
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#4 of 14
  • Comfort - 30% 8
  • Versatility - 25% 9
  • Durability - 25% 7
  • Style - 10% 8
  • Traction - 10% 9

Our Verdict

Reef has made a name for themselves in the flip flop word, particularly with the Fanning. This model is a well-made flop that is comfortable, durable, and versatile. The footbed is stiff and no-frills; the straps and thong are ergonomic and comfortable and the tread pattern and rubber are super sticky, which provides exceptional traction. The Fanning does a lot of things well and a couple of things really really well. It is also the only sandal with the somewhat gimmicky feature of a bottle opener built into the sole of the flop, which might serve useful for those that will use a bottle opener. If you're dedicated to the Reef name, the Fanning is a great choice as a durable, well-made flip-flop. In fact, it tops its sibling, the Phantom, in many categories. If you're not committed to Reef, consider the Editors' Choice winner, the OluKai Ohana, as it is one of the most comfortable, durable, and versatile flops we tested.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Reef Fanning earned above average scores in many of our testing metrics. Not only is it durable, but its traction score is commendable. The comfort rating detracts a bit, as we found the stiff footbed not terribly ergonomic or cozy, and the high-heel feel was a weird thing for testers to get used to while out on the town.

Performance Comparison

The Fanning seems to be one of those flip flops with a cult following. "The one with the bottle opener on the bottom? Oh yeah, I love those." Aside from its gimmicky drinking tricks, this is a well-made sandal that impressed us. Seemingly designed with water sports in mind, this flop can run the gamut of activities and didn't let us down on any of our days out testing.

The Fanning from the front.
The Fanning from the front.


The Fanning was a hard flop to judge in the comfort category. The thong and straps are super comfortable. They are made of synthetic nubuck with a padded liner; the liner contoured to the foot and held the sandal in place well, even on the roughest terrain. The footbed and shape of the sole, however, left a little to be desired. The footbed itself is stiff and not particularly cozy.

Reef claims that this flop has great arch support but our testers weren't entirely convinced, as they didn't notice any real extra arch support while wearing them on long days. Reef has built in a "360 airbag" in the sole of the heel, while they report adds cushion. Maybe this airbag breaks in the more you wear the sandal, but we didn't notice it over the course of three months. The only change we could observe was that the airbag causes the heel to be much thicker than the front of the sandal, creating a high-heel effect that makes you feel as though you're sloping downward while standing. All that's said and done, after getting used to the heel, this is a highly comfortable sandal that you'll be able to wear all day. If you could do without the added extras of the airbag and bottle opener, and prefer a more traditional flop, we suggest you check out the OluKai Ohana or Chaco Flip EcoTread.

Fanning  as seen from the side. Note the taper from heel to toe  caused by the tall airbag.
Fanning, as seen from the side. Note the taper from heel to toe, caused by the tall airbag.


The Fanning scored well in the versatility category, besting most of its competitors, earning a 9 out of 10 - the highest score for this metric.

Its quick-drying uppers, sticky tread pattern for excellent traction on a variety of terrain, and overall appealing style all contribute to this being a one-flop choice. Whether it's surfing, climbing, or a cruise to the bar, the Fanning is going to deliver performance in an unassuming package. It scored as well as any other flop in this metric, on par with the OluKai Ohana and the Chaco Flip EcoTread.

The Fanning  versatile in many ways  performing on bare rock out at the crag.
The Fanning, versatile in many ways, performing on bare rock out at the crag.


The Fanning ranked high in the durability category as well, taking home a 7 out of 10. Once you put this sandal on, you'll immediately feel the quality build. The sole is so stiff that it's obvious right away how much time it's going to take to break it in. The stitching on the uppers is robust and the seams appear to be high-quality, as they are glued and welded well. The sole is made of real rubber, providing for exceptional traction on rock and durability (that you're not going to find with a foam-soled model). Our only complaint is that the rubber sole is pretty thin, indicating that it might wear down faster than its burly competitors like the Chaco Flip, Teva Pajaro, or OluKai Ohana.


The Fanning isn't going to turn heads for being the freshest flop on the market, but you're also not going to show up at a BBQ wearing some monstrosity of a flop.

It's unassuming and easy on the eyes. It comes in a variety of two-tone colors, most of which are soft earth tones that won't stand out in a crowd. If standing out is what you're into, you can always go with the steel-blue option. And if you feel the Fanning doesn't deliver the classiness you so desire, we encourage you to up the ante and get the fanciest sandal in our review, the OluKai Hiapo, sure to impress even the most upscale observer.

Killer tread pattern on the Fanning. Also  church-key bottle opener.
Killer tread pattern on the Fanning. Also, church-key bottle opener.


We were pleasantly surprised, even blown away by, the traction that the Fanning delivered. This model was designed by a surfer for beach and water specific use; as many of our testers are rock climbers, we couldn't believe how well these sandals performed in the mountains.

The rubber sole, which Reef calls the 'Icon Herringbone', with its shallow but complex tread pattern, stuck well on bare granite slabs while gripping on loose dirt trails. We'd call this the best of both worlds. The thong and straps held our feet in place well on steep hills, and we were happy to find that the bottle opener on the bottom of the sole rarely came in contact with the rocks that we were walking over. In this category, the Fanning outperformed every other sandal, though the OluKai Ohana and Chaco Flip were close behind.

The Fanning has one of the stiffest sole of any piece in our review. It earned high marks in our traction metric.
The Fanning has one of the stiffest sole of any piece in our review. It earned high marks in our traction metric.

Best Application

If you're loyal to Reef, we highly recommend the Fanning. Although this model is a bit more expensive than the Reef Phantom we believe that you're going to get what you pay for, and that the Fanning is a better overall flip flop, scoring well across the board. If you want a bottle opener and can tolerate the odd high-heel configuration, this might just be your dream flop.


Well-built and versatile, the Fanning is a great value at $55. Spending a little more on a flip flop seems like it's going to make a world of difference when talking about durability and longevity, and this model from Reef is no exception.


The Fanning is one of the more versatile flip flops we tested and will likely please anyone looking for flop that can do it all. While we could do without the gimmicks, both the airbag and the bottle opener, we found that their existence didnt detract from the performance of this sandal.

Chris McNamara and Sam Piper