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We've been testing flip flops for 11 years, with 14 of the very best in this 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.
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.
We have plenty of sophisticated leather flops in this review and plenty of techy sporty models as well, all of which have a premium price that reflects their craftsmanship. It comes as somewhat of a surprise that the classic and wildly popular Rainbow Premier Leather flip flops snag this award, but after some hair-splitting and some serious time at the beach, we feel they are deserving of our accolades. These flops feature great feeling (and looking) leather footbeds and soft leather straps that only feel better as they break in and mold to your feet. They're plenty versatile and can handle fun days on the water as well as warm summer evenings out on the town.
These don't have the best traction, so they aren't a good option for pushing your limits in flip flops by going on steep hikes or rock hopping adventures. They also aren't the most supportive, as the footbed breaks down and molds to your feet (comfy for some, but not for everyone). If you need more arch support, there are better options for you highlighted in this review. But, if you want a flip flop that looks great, won't fall apart, and won't break the bank, the Rainbow Premier Leather is a solid choice.
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.
Footbed Material: Leather-wrapped EVA | Weight: 16.6 ounces
REASONS TO BUY
Firm leather footbed
Great for formal events in hot weather
REASONS TO AVOID
Don't do well in the water
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.
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.
Chaco is well known for their go-anywhere-do-anything adventure sandals, and many design features carry over into their more casual and front-country-centric Classic Leather Flip. This model features the same supportive footbed as Chaco's sandals but with a softer full-grain leather footbed instead of their familiar, less comfortable grid pattern. The arch is very high, and folks who spend long days walking on hard surfaces know the benefit (a necessity for some) of a super supportive footbed. The Classic flip also looks mega classy and is great for any get-together or summertime social event, while their more technical no-slip tread and supportive PU midsole are low profile and out of sight.
A few testers weren't fans of the aggressive arch support, citing that they felt as if they were standing on a tennis ball, so if you're not familiar with the Chaco fit, we recommend trying some on if you have the opportunity. These flip flops are expensive, though their price reflects their quality in about every way. They're also a little on the heavy side, so there are better and cheaper options out there if you need a camp shoe for your next backpacking excursion. For folks fighting a lifelong battle with plantar fasciitis or who are looking for some supportive sandals for exploring exotic locals, the Classic Leather Flip is a great way to go.
This review is brought to you by the expert duo Matt Bento and Brian Martin. Matt was a member of Yosemite Search and Rescue for several actions packed seasons, and 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.
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.
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 Rainbow Premier Leather is a clear choice for high value. It does most things the expensive options do but without the wallet-emptying price tag. The Birkenstock Arizona Essential is also a high-value option. It's affordable, ergonomically contoured, and the EVA will mold to your feet over time.
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, many seasons, perhaps making its higher price point pay off. The classy Chaco Classic Leather Flip also isn't cheap, but its supportive arch and footbed could save plenty of wear and tear on your body.
If you don't need a super high-performing option, the NeedBo NDB is a fantastic bargain-basement choice. Having tested them now in several 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.
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 and 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. The Chaco Classic Leather Flip may initially feel strange due to its high arch, but give it a little time, and you may come to appreciate the extra support after a long day on your feet.
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 Reef Cushion Phantom offers 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 Chaco Classic Leather Flip offers aggressive, firm arch support that may not be for everyone, but those who require additional insoles in their footwear may find them to be the best option available. The Arizona Essential, an EVA foam Birkenstock, doesn't have great traction, but 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.
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 Chaco Classic Leather Flip.
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 into 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.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.