In our last flip flop update, the Reef Phantoms took home the Best Buy award for their low price tag and overall success in our rating metrics. During the review this year, we couldn't help but agree that the Phantom is a comfortable, stylish, all-around flop. This year, however, they did not win the award for Best Bang for the Buck. Despite being light on the foot and performing well across the board, they didn't strike us as the most well-built or long lasting sandal in the review. Although the Phantoms are great sandals, they felt a bit thin in the footbed for our taste, especially when walking on rock trails. If performance in the mountains is something you value, perhaps the Chaco Flip EcoTread or OluKai Ohana are more up your alley; these are two pairs that performed beautifully in every situation we could throw at them, including rocky trails with heavy backpacks.
Reef Phantoms Review
Cons: Questionable durability, limited traction
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Reef Phantom scored above average or at least in the middle of the road in all of our testing metrics, proving it to be a great all-around flip flop. It is light, simple, and comfortable, and is an ideal choice for someone without any specific activities in mind - someone who is just looking for a decent everyday flop.
The Phantoms hit the score board in the middle to upper-middle zone as an exceptional flop that'll serve you well for a year or two, though minimal characteristics stood out. These flops will treat you well as urban cruisers, beach traipsers, or river sandals, and don't seem like they'll fall apart over a short period of time.
The Reef Phantoms were comfortable right out of the box. The injection molded EVA footbed is soft and plush, contouring to the foot without much break-in time at all. The soft foot-bed is comfortable but doesn't feel very substantial and we noticed that we could feel sharp rocks through the flop while hiking on trails in the mountains. The footbed and sole on other contenders we tested seem a little stiffer and thicker, providing better support on rocky trails. If a stiff model is a necessity, we would direct you towards the OluKai Ohana, Teva Pajaro, or the Chaco Flip. The thong and straps are super soft and comfortable, and we never experienced chaffing, even after extended periods of time. The synthetic nubuck straps are comfortable but stayed wet for quite some time when becoming drenched.
This model was one of the most versatile flops we tested, thus earning an 8 out of 10, bested only by the OluKai Ohana, Chaco Flip Ecotread, and Reef Fanning (which all cost significantly more). As we've mentioned above, these sandals do everything well, but aren't exceptional in any particular metric. They're comfortable, stylish, and require no break in period. They perform well in the water, are light weight, and perform well enough in the traction department to warrant adding them to your quiver of flops (or making them your daily driver). All of this, coupled with a low price point, make these an excellent choice for almost any activity. The Sanuk Beer Cozy 2 is a similarly priced sandal, built with many of the same attributes.
The Phantoms held up reasonably well during our testing period and from what we saw, there are no major red flags with the construction of this flop. While Reef flip flops have a good reputation for being well-made, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the same EVA footbed and sole that are so comfortable out of the box will also conform, mold to your foot, and break down quickly. The sole of these sandals are EVA foam, not a rubber compound, and this foam sole showed wear quickly. The main tester has multiple friends that wear this flop; after wearing for over a year, there is not much tread left on the sole, if any, and the footbed has "molded" to their foot so much that they look flat and beat out. If you're loyal to Reef, we found that the Reef Fanning was made out of more durable materials and seemed to hold up better overall.
As with most other measurable aspects of flip flops, the Phantom's style points are satisfactory. This unassuming sandal is neither flashy and fancy, nor dull and dorky. Reef has concocted a subtle style with no frills, bells, or whistles. A variety of colors ranging from cool earth tones to two-toned patterns make for a flop that doesn't scream "pay attention to me!!!" but also aren't eye-catching in a negative way. Buy them in a brighter color for a little pizzazz, or in one of the darker earth tones, and you could wear the out on a date… a casual date. Keep in mind that the only sandal here worthy of a fancy occasion is the Olukai Hiapo.
We mentioned it above in the durability category: the soles of these flops are made of EVA foam and not of any sticky rubber compound. The foam, couple with the fact that the tread depth is pretty shallow, give the Phantoms an average traction score. On dirt trails and bare rock, these things felt pretty slick. The soles did, however, hold well in the water and on wet rock. The Phantom performed towards the middle of the road, much like it did in most other categories. For this reason, we found that this model is a fine choice if you're looking for an everyday sandal - and not trying to get extreme in your flip flops. For a flop that can go on a multitude of adventures, we'd recommend the Teva Pajaro.
The Phantom does most things well, nothing horribly, and they excel at very little. For that reason, they are ideal as an economical flip flop that will treat you well for a year or two. If you're the type of person that wears flips for their intended purpose, like lounging and walking to the bar, these sandals are a great choice - especially for the price. Buy a pair and know that you're going to get what you paid for, as this flip flop is not going to last the better part of a decade - or blow your mind in any way.
This is a well-made flip flop at a budget price. It's going to last much longer than an average no-name flip flop and will provide a higher level of comfort. Compared to some of the nicer flops we tested, however, there are many characteristics (or the lack of) that pale in comparison. The materials, and the lesser amount of material, used is obvious and will show in the wear and tear as time goes on.
This flip flop is good all around. It isn't great, but also nothing egregiously poor either. It met middle of the road scores throughout, while offering a high score in versatility, and we enjoyed wearing it when the casual outing called.
— Sam Piper