Reef Fanning Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable, good traction, bottle opener on sole
Cons: Heel "airbag" feature seems unnecessary, bottle opener is slippery if you hit it just right
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Our Analysis and Test Results
If you're loyal to Reef, the Fanning is a nicely-priced model to consider. There are certainly cheaper options available, but if you like the idea of a built-in bottle opener and can tolerate the odd high-heel configuration, this might be your dream flop.
To start with the negative attributes of the Fanning first, the arch support and high heel angle aren't our favorite. While doing a close examination, we noticed the heel is almost an inch higher than the rest of the footbed — seemingly to accommodate the special "airbag." This put us on the balls of our feet a little too much, and we found ourselves doing a fair bit of shifting from the extra pressure. The arch support is of a low/medium height and doesn't offer quite the support of some of the other flip flops we tested.
Now for the good. The wide straps and footbed of this flip offer a snug and comfortable fit. The Fanning has visibly wider straps than most other models in our review and, in turn, spreads the pressure out across a large area. Additionally, these straps are made from a synthetic nubuck upper that is comfortable, vegan, and quick-drying. Compared to others, the quick-drying upper helps keep the wet chaffing to a minimum.
Support and Stability
The Fanning landed firmly in the middle of the pack in how much support it provides. Despite the forward slope from heel to toe creating some pressure points underfoot, the heel does create a secure cup and provides a stable platform not prone to rolling. Additionally, the extremely wide and ergonomic strap do an excellent job keeping the foot in place even when moving at a clip. The arch is pretty medium in height and the overall forward slope makes the flip flop feel less stable than it otherwise might without such an angle.
With some seriously chunky treads showing up this year, the Fanning looked like it might not stack up. This was absolutely not the case. The relatively plain-looking tread design on the sole channels water extremely well and provides great grip in the wet. The wide straps are snug enough to keep your feet secure even when walking on steep granite slabs around Yosemite. The raised microgrid on the footbed also channels water and sweat well enough to keep the foot solidly in place when on the move.
The one big negative regarding traction is the hard plastic cup that contains the bottle opener. While it rarely connects with anything, when it does, it kicks off balance and is quite slippery. This isn't a constant issue — mostly just when connecting with larger rocks while on trails — but it is worth keeping in mind if you plan on wearing these flip flops on anything but smoother surfaces.
The Fanning is a middle-of-the-road performer in every metric we tested this year. It offers decent performance over a variety of terrain from rocky trails to the beach volleyball court. The synthetic uppers dry quickly and don't gather an uncomfortable amount of sand between foot and footbed, which is a nice bonus. That said, this flip has a leg up on the competition in the versatility category due to the built-in bottle openers on the bottom of the soles. We especially liked kicking off our flop and popping the top on a kombucha. It may sound ridiculous, but it is strangely satisfying to open a brew with the bottom of your shoe.
After ripping the Fanning out of its box like a kid on Christmas, the first thing we noticed was the durable feel. It's not excessively heavy but does have a nice, confidence-inspiring heft. The entire sole is rubber except for the hard plastic that surrounds the recessed bottle opener. We were initially worried about the bottle opener getting pulverized on rocks and concrete, but it held up quite well over our months of testing — though it did get scratched and worn. The synthetic upper straps, injection-molded footbed, and sole all held together excellently, illustrating quality bonding.
The style of the Fanning lands somewhere on the spectrum between Gisele and Quasimodo, but hey, we all do. It doesn't have the styling of a retro head turner, and it doesn't seem to be trying to make any statements except that you don't want to be caught without a bottle opener. The muted earth tones look good with pretty much any casual clothing or swimwear.
While the Fanning isn't exactly cheap, they do represent a decent value. Offering everything more costly flip flops do at a significant discount, they also dish out a fun bottle opening party trick. At this price point, there are many flip flops that fall apart quickly, offer little or no traction, especially in the wet, and just aren't comfortable. The Fanning exceeded our expectations, and we feel it offers a lot for a little.
If you aren't put off by gimmicky additions like heel airbags and bottle openers, the Fanning is a great flip flop. It offers versatility, traction, a reasonable level of comfort, and isn't too flashy. Our biggest frustration is the raised heel putting a bit too much weight onto the ball of the feet, but that is a relatively small concern compared to the positive vibrations these flops give off.
— Brian Martin