We've been testing flip flops for 10 years, with 14 of the very best in this 2021 review. In order to understand the nuances of each pair, we tested them head-to-head, paying close attention to their fit, comfort, style, and overall performance. We wandered around town, camp, and across unstable surfaces to explore the limits of every design. In this review, we compile all the details to give you a thorough, big-picture perspective on which models will be best for you. For such minimal footwear, we believe quality and comfort are paramount to having the best time in your summer kicks.Related: Best Flip Flops for Women of 2021
Best Flip Flops for Men of 2021
|Price||Check Price at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Check Price at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at Backcountry
|$74.95 at Amazon||Check Price at REI|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Pros||Comfortable, durable, good in water||Comfortable, versatile, stylish, great arch support||Stylish, appropriate for fancy occasions, comfortable||Lightweight, great for hiking||Attractive, comfortable, affordable|
|Cons||Heavy, a bit pricey||Heavy, expensive||Expensive, not the best for water||Extra straps can get in the way, pricey||Breaking in takes time, poor traction|
|Bottom Line||These flip flops are made for the ocean but are capable in any environment||These versatile flops are so comfortable they feel as if they were tailor-made for our feet||These are comfortable for all day wear and some of the fanciest models out there||Strap these to your feet and forget about them, these have serious staying power||After break-in, these cult classic flip flops offer excellent comfort and classic styling|
|Rating Categories||Olukai Hokua||Olukai Ohana||Olukai Hiapo||Astral Filipe||Rainbow Premier Lea...|
|Specs||Olukai Hokua||Olukai Ohana||Olukai Hiapo||Astral Filipe||Rainbow Premier Lea...|
|Sole Material||Gum rubber||Gum rubber||Full-grain leather wrapped outsole with non-marking molded rubber traction pods||Rubber||Non-slip rainbow bottom|
|Footbed Material||ICEVA||ICEVA||Leather wrapped, compression-molded EVA||EVA||Nubuck leather|
|Strap Material||Leather||Synthetic||Full-grain leather||Polyester webbing||Nubuck leather|
|Weight (per pair)||19 oz||17 oz||20.5 oz||14 oz||13.1 oz|
|Available Sizes||7 - 15||7 - 18||7 - 15||8-13||Small - XXXL|
Best Overall Men's Flip Flop
The OluKai Hokua flopped its way into our hearts by being one of the most comfortable flips we have ever tested. Not only is it luscious to wear, but it held up well despite our rigorous testing due to being constructed with heavy-duty materials. Rather than breaking down after several months of wear, the Hokua conformed to our foot and kept looking good through it all. With enough grip to keep you solidly on your feet and plenty of style, you can't go wrong.
The Hokua is certainly not inexpensive. It's also not the most expensive, but it might be a stretch for some to imagine forking out the big bucks for casual footwear. Additionally, the use of dense and durable materials make this one of the heaviest flip flops we tested. That said, if you're looking for a stellar combination of comfort, support, and traction without sacrificing style, this shoe is more than worth its price tag.
Read review OluKai Hokua
Best Bang for the Buck
Teva Katavi 2 Thong
Finding a flip with a reasonable level of durability and functionality that doesn't break the bank is difficult. With the Teva Katavi 2, we found this balance — it is an excellent all-around choice at a reasonable price. With the chunkiest sole of any pair we tested, these things gobbled up rocky terrain and ended up being a go-to when milling around rocky crags and belaying during climbing months.
The durable build of the Katavi does come with some serious heft to attain such excellent protection from sharp rocks. But, if you don't mind the extra weight, these are a comfortable treat on your feet. Some of the most notable features of the Katavi are its excellent traction and comfortable yet secure fit without the use of a heel strap.
Read review Teva Katavi 2
Best on a Tight Budget
It's rare to find a bargain basement flip flop that will hold up to any abuse, but the NeedBo NDB is just that. While these certainly don't have the durability of the burlier models in this review, they are pretty comfortable and worlds better than cheapo flips. These will surely hold up for your next vacation, and if you lose them, it's not that big of a deal because they cost about the same as taking your significant other on a date to In-N-Out.
While the NeedBo is surprisingly good, there are some clear downsides to purchasing a bargain-basement flip flop. The lightweight materials are bound to break down quicker than other more durable options such as dense rubber or leather. That being said, you could realistically purchase three pairs of NeedBo's for the cost of most others in this review.
Read review NeedBo NDB
Best for Classy Occasions
Despite considering ourselves rigorous outdoor enthusiasts, we spend at least as much time socializing as we do in the mountains, so it's nice to have a pair of flip flops that have as much class as they do mountain performance. At first, we were sure the OluKai Hiapo were nothing more than an overpriced boutique model when we pulled them out of the box. However, we love being proven wrong, and the Hiapo doesn't disappoint. We wore them on dates, plane travel, to concerts — we even carried them in heavy packs to the crags and took them to the beach.
The Hiapo does have a longer break-in period than simpler, softer models, but once you get through that, they are by far one of the most comfortable sandals we tested. When you look closely, the attention to detail is easy to appreciate; they are wonderfully constructed and perform well in every area except water sports. However, the price tag on these is not for the weak of heart — they will set you back a considerable amount.
Read review OluKai Hiapo
Best for Hiking
Known for their excellent PFDs and other river-oriented products, Astral has created a flop that will never float downstream. The Filipe is a flip flop/sandal hybrid that allows you to stretch the bounds of what your summer shoe can do for you with the help of some extra straps that tightly secure them to your feet. While many options offer excellent traction, they can only get you so far when your feet are wet or sweaty. The Filipe's supplemental strap locks your foot down better than many dedicated sandals we've worn, allowing full confidence when spending the day on your SUP or hiking to the crag. Clip these to your harness, and you've got some of the lightest pair of "approach shoes" out there.
Though the versatility of the Filipe kind of means you get two pairs of shoes in one, keep in mind that these aren't a cheap choice. Some of our testers also found the extra strap to be annoying when not in use, and there's always the risk of losing if you are a bit scattered. That said, having the option to transform from a casual flip flop to a secure river-going option is quite handy, and if you don't want to use the straps (but would prefer not to deal with unthreading and removing them), you can always just push them forward over the top of your foot.
Read review Astral Filipe
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by the expert due Matt Bento and Brian Martin. Matt has been a member of Yosemite Search and Rescue since 2016, but before that, he spent a lot of time on the road, driving all over the US to different climbing destinations. This kind of lifestyle can, and has, equipped Matt to recognize the finer points of flip flop design and performance. He is joined by Brian Martin, who is also a Yosemite Search and Rescue alum. Tough days on the job were inevitably followed by equally intense days of relaxation by the Tuolumne River wearing, you guessed it, flip flops. Besides mountain adventures, Brian spends his time sport climbing and bikepacking anywhere he can in the mountainous west.
Before we wore any of these sandals, the work of this review began with market research. Each season, we look at close to 50 models from various manufacturers before deciding on the strongest and most promising contenders to include in our review. Once we've narrowed it down, we wear each pair through water, scrambling across granite slabs, and through all manner of city streets. These warm-weather kicks got passed around to multiple testers for various opinions over several months, with key performance areas identified and scrutinized in the process. The result is this comprehensive review, which you can now use to get into a pair of comfortable and functional flops for yourself.
Related: How We Tested Flip-Flop Sandals
Analysis and Test Results
Footwear is a critical connection between your body and the earth. The quality and comfort of the flip flop you choose is something that will affect your whole body from the ground up. To help you zero in on the pair that will best suit your body and needs, we have broken our review into multiple sections. Some folks wear flips from their bungalow to the surf break, while others bring them for critical foot respite during long thru-hikes. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, there are things that every pair should do well. Below you will find a breakdown of the metrics by which we judged each model, making it easier for you to find the perfect match.
Related: Buying Advice for Flip-Flop Sandals
Value can be a pretty abstract concept, so we did our best to boil it down to a price to performance ratio. In the case of what we tested this round, the Katavi 2 is a clear choice for high value. It does everything the expensive options do, but without the wallet-emptying price tag. Truth be told, there is a lot of value found in almost every flip we tested. For example, the OluKai Hokua is so comfortable and durable that it isn't unreasonable to expect it to last many seasons, perhaps making its higher price point pay off. If you're looking for another affordable option but are more concerned with style than rugged durability, definitley check out the Rainbow's. There's a reason these well-priced and good-looking flips have a serious cult following — get yourself a pair, break them in, and see what all the hype is truly about.
If you don't need super high-performing option, the NeedBo NDB is a fantastic bargain-basement choice. Having tested them now in two separate flip flop cohorts, we can safely say these are surprisingly good. They break in nicely and offer a lot of comfort for a cheap-as-chips price.
Types of Flip Flops
Throughout this review, we'll use the term flip flop and sandal interchangeably, although it is important to know the difference. Every flip flop is a sandal, but not every sandal is a flip flop; it's a bit of a square/rhombus situation. It's easy to find sandals that look like flip flops at first glance, in that they have a thong between the great and second toe, but they will also have auxiliary straps meant to add stability or style. For this review, we're not interested in those.
Related: Best Sandals for Men
Unfortunately, some flips are like t-shirts and are just a cheap vehicle for a company's logo. We stayed away from those, choosing only manufacturers who build flops as a passion. If you've only experienced the bargain bin version, prepare yourself for a veritable cornucopia: sporty models, casual contenders, stylish pairs, ones that are comfy out of the box, and ones that take a while to break in (but are worth it). They are constructed out of diverse materials, including rubber polymers, foam, nylon, leather, and plastic. Some are lightweight and cheaper, thus being a little less durable. Others are cumbersome and rugged, built to last, and with a price tag to boot. Regardless of where they fall in that range, we chose them because we felt they were sandals that fit our criteria of being diverse and able to accommodate various needs.
Because everyone has different wants, needs, and radically different feet, comfort is a highly subjective category. Regardless of the subjectivity, we felt that this metric was the most critical of all, and it is weighted accordingly. If they don't feel good, you're not going to wear them, and isn't that the whole point?
We made a point to assess comfort straight out of the box, as well as how each felt after a few months of breaking in. The OluKai Hokua, OluKai 'Ohana became more comfortable throughout several months of testing. Stiffer leather models like the OluKai Hiapo and the Rainbow Premier** also mold to your feet over time. This ability to mold to the foot, combined with solid construction and durable materials, means increased comfort and personalization as time goes on. But it doesn't always mean they are comfortable out of the box.
The break-in period reveals important comfort-related data, which is essential to discuss. While the OluKai models with compression-molded EVA midsoles and ICEVA footbeds became perfectly molded to our feet and more comfortable with time, most started to break down as we clocked miles underfoot. For the most part, outliers aside, sandals that are super comfortable out of the box are not usually the ones that last the longest.
Again, comfort is a subjective criterion. Some of the flips we tested were cushy and soft from day one, while others were super stiff and slowly broke down (without ever becoming too plush). Some had good arch support, while others offered a simple, flat shape that took time to break in and mold to the foot. Providing the best of both worlds — out-of-the-box comfort AND longevity — the 'Ohana and Hokua have a soft footbed on top of a more durable supportive midsole.
Other models also scored well in this metric, but for different reasons. The Astral Filipe converts from flip flop to sandal, providing extra comfort in the sense of feeling secure on all types of terrain. The Katavi 2 and the Reef Cushion Phantom both offer excellent out-of-the-box comfort. The Birkenstock Arizona Essentials is an EVA foam version of the classic leather sandal that many know and love. If you don't want to deal with the break-in time of leather (or want to avoid it for other reasons), the Arizona Essentials is a fantastic option at a killer price.
If you've found yourself here looking for a pair of quality flip flops, you're likely in the same boat as our gear testers, who will often forego "appropriate" footwear for the comfort of a nice flip. Because of this, we went out of our way to use and abuse all of the products we tested. We wore them down hiking trails, around slippery lake rocks, and even in some dangerous social situations (where shoes would have been more acceptable). Don't judge us; we did this for you.
The dense and grippy soles of the Hokua seem preternaturally suited for any terrain or situation, while the footbed offers fantastic arch support and a comfortable strap system. Like a fine wine, the Hokua also only improves with age. The same goes for the 'Ohana, another incredibly impressive and comfortable option. The Katavi 2 and Arizona Essentials offer unique support and stability qualities, giving them more of a specialist feel. The Arizona, an EVA foam Birkenstock, is a new addition this year, and while it doesn't have great traction, it retains the super ergonomic and deep footbed we want when wearing Birkenstocks. The EVA foam isn't quite as supportive on the edges, but it is surprisingly well-formed and just firm enough.
Other notable contenders are the beautifully firm Hiapo which becomes more comfortable and supportive as you break it in, and the Astral Filipe, a flip flop/sandal hybrid. While it's kind of cheating in a flip flop lineup, the supplemental heel strap on the Filipe means you can lock in the shoe for better security and support when the terrain gets tricky.
Some flip flops are made for chilling by the beach, stumbling to and from the bar, and back to your Adirondack beach chair, likely not necessitating much traction. For others, occasional scrambling in the Sierras or wearing around the crag in-between climbs demand a higher level of grip. Again, we wore each model in situations where we probably could have lost a toe just to help you, the reader, figure out which pair will have the necessary traction to keep your ankles as safe as possible.
Knowing what environment you will be using your sandals in is key. Will it be smooth wet granite boulders around Lake Tahoe? Or perhaps sandy shores or the deck of a boat? Whatever the environment, it's worth taking the time to match up your flop with your intended use. That being said, models like the Hokua and 'Ohana are fantastic all-arounders that offer excellent grip in any situation.
Several of the flops we tested had tread patterns made out of foam and, needless to say, did not perform that well when the going got tough. Others had monster truck-esque treads well suited for rocky trails but maybe not ideal for the slippery deck of a boat where you need more rubber in contact with the ground. In situations like that, a specialized model like the Hari Mari Dunes II is a smart choice. The tread pattern is not ideal for rocks or mountain trails, but there was no better contender on the wet deck of a boat.
If you're heading out into the river valleys for some boating, you can't go wrong with the Filipe, as it is highly specialized for rivers and hiking. The removable back strap allows you to trudge worry-free, knowing you won't lose them in a strong current. If occasional water, granite slabs, and chilling at camp are on the list, check out the Hokua for their excellent grip and durability, as well as the more-than-fairly priced Katavi 2.
Some might argue that versatility in a flip flop is a bit of a misnomer, but we at GearLab use our flops hard, so knowing how they will perform in different situations is crucial. The ideal flip flop would grip its way up a Tuolumne granite slab, keep us comfortable on a trans-Atlantic flight, and not upset the groom's family at the next backyard wedding, all while keeping our ankles nice and unrolled.
All the flips we tested are excellent for most situations, though some are more specialized in a particular area. If you are the type of person that owns multiple pairs, one for each occasion, this section may be less important. However, for those of us who appreciate a do-it-all product, versatility is a crucial ingredient. In our minds, the perfect flop looks good enough to wear to a wedding, is sticky enough to scramble up a rock face, and tough enough to last for years. This may sound like a stretch for a simple warm-weather shoe, but a few of the models we reviewed come pretty close, most notably the Astral Filipe. This burly flip can be a simple thong or transition to a sandal with a heel strap for more technical outings. It's also comfortable, highly durable, sticky, and decently good-looking.
The attractive Hiapo is so fancy that it seemed (at least at first) to have no place in the mountains. It proved us wrong in the end, though, cruising up moderate hiking trails with ease and showing itself to be an excellent choice for transitioning between outdoor environments and social situations. In regards to versatility, the Hokua also performs great. It's not as stylish as the Hiapo, but it's better suited to wet environments.
The 'Ohana is another solid choice for varied terrain and situations. It's highly comfortable (both when brand new and with miles underfoot), provides excellent traction, and is durable. It's not as stylish as the other two OluKai models in our review, but if you like a sportier look, this is a fantastic choice.
Style, probably even more than comfort, can be a very subjective category and thus a personal choice. However, we can make some basic judgments on the style, or at least what the company was shooting for when they developed it, and those scores are reflected in our assessment.
The flips we tested span the style spectrum from fine-crafted leather peeled from what must have been extremely healthy cows to rugged outdoor-specific models that look closer to hiking boots than casual footwear. A handful of them make for excellent all-around flips — capable in outdoor situations and classy enough for a backyard garden party or even a wedding (or at least the types of weddings we go to). Top in this category is the Hiapo, which can easily be dressed up or down. Our other contenders from both OluKai and Hari Mari are also great to consider, depending on your taste, as is the Astral Filipe.
One of the cult favorites and one of our favorites is the Rainbow Premier. Not only are they excellent, but they have high-quality leather material married to swanky retro sandwiched layers of EVA foam. When we unboxed these, it was like looking at a slightly faded polaroid of our father's flip flops, worn in 1987, Coors Light in hand. When the styling of a flip flop can transport you or draw out some deeply repressed memories, you know it has style.
It is difficult to overstate just how many flip flops there are on the market today. Walk in any big box chain store, and you will see hundreds to choose from. Our best advice is to first ditch the idea of using those horrible-for-your-feet-and-the-environment disposable shoes and find something that really offers support and will last at least a few seasons. This review is chock full of excellent options, with a few that are highly specialized for certain applications. If you've never had a pair of ultra-comfortable flip flops, you are truly missing out on one of life's great pleasures.
— Brian Martin and Matt Bento