We've been testing flip flops for 9 years with 13 of the very best in this current 2020 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 variable 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 get it right. For such minimal footwear, we believe quality is paramount to having the best time in your summer kicks.Related: Best Flip Flops for Women of 2020
Best Flip Flops for Men of 2020
Best Overall 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 its construction 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 on the pricey side, but if you want a well-constructed sandal for the long haul, the investment is worth it. It's also heavy, so if you're counting every gram in your bag, it may not be ideal. However, this is what we recommend if you like the idea of buying something that can last many years and look good throughout the entire time.
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 Katavi's durable build 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. Traction and durability are also standout features. Just keep in mind that these aren't fancy or suitable for more dressed up occasions — the ruggedness that's excellent for playing outside makes for an overall less stylish shoe.
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 to boot. 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 Burger.
There are some clear downsides to opting for these extremely affordable flip flops. The overall durability and density of materials used is lacking, and the sole isn't the tackiest rubber on the market. That being said, these are perfectly functional and surprisingly comfortable and would be an excellent complement if you're just looking for a pair of casual flops to supplement your fancy leather pair or want a pair to abuse.
Read review NeedBo NDB
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, that 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 the lightest pair of "approach shoes" out there.
Though its versatility means it's kind of like getting two pairs of shoes in one, keep in mind that the Filipe is not a cheap choice. Some of our testers also found the extra strap to be annoying when not in use. It's completely removable, but threading it in and out of the footbed isn't a particularly fast or easy task.
Read review Astral Filipe
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 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 Wet Environments
Hari Mari Dunes II
The Hari Mari Dunes II are the frogmen of this world. Their specially designed soles and footbeds channel water from underfoot, creating incredible grip when wet. Soft nylon strapping, anti-odor treatment, and a memory foam thong betwixt your toes cover all of the typical wet weather pitfalls. If you spend a lot of time on a boat, these offer fantastic performance and style and will keep you from slipping and looking a fool.
The Dunes are not exceptionally versatile, but they do what they set out to do quite well. They are geared toward watery situations, not rocky mountain trails or steep climbing approaches. They also do not offer much arch support in the interest of keeping a flatter surface that won't pool water.
Read review Hari Mari Dunes II
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by the expert trio Matt Bento, Sam Piper, 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 Sam, who has worked as both a ski patroller and paramedic for Denali Rescue. In addition, Sam holds certifications in Avalanche Level II, swift water rescue, and Wilderness EMT-B. He also enjoys rock climbing, skiing, and travel, and is no stranger to the role of comfortable footwear in a full and active life. The newest member of this footwear jazz trio, Brian Martin, 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 around Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona, and bikepacking anywhere he can in the west.
Before any sandals were worn, 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 in airports. 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 six 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 the clear choice for the highest 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 flop we tested. For example, the 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 don't need super high-performing flip flops, the NeedBo NDB is a fantastic bargain basement option. Our testers unanimously agreed that it is far superior to typical flips purchased last minute from wally world right before a lake trip. For less than twenty bucks, this pair offers pretty significant bang for the buck — we appreciate the relatively comfortable EVA footbed and straps that don't cut into the feet like other bargain options.
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 also have auxiliary straps meant to add stability or style. For this review, we're not interested in those.
Related: Best Sandals for Men of 2020
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, not just to take up space on the junk rack at a Wings. 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.
As we're sure you know, "comfort" can mean many different things for different people and, like many of these criteria, can be pretty subjective. Still, we chose to weight this metric the most heavily because no one wants an uncomfortable sandal.
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. Our top two OluKai models, the Hokua and close runner-up, 'Ohana, became more comfortable throughout several months of testing. Stiffer leather models like the Hiapo and the Rainbow Premier are less cushy when brand new, but 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.
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 miles were clocked 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 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 are soft and compliant for excellent out-of-the-box comfort.
Support and Stability
If you're anything like our gear testers, you will often forego "appropriate" footwear and throw on flip flops for a short cruise to the crag or as permanent footwear around the campsite or lake. Just because you aren't wearing anti-slip restaurant employee approved footwear doesn't mean you want to roll your ankle and snap your wrist on the way down.
We went out of our way to abuse these sandals and push them way outside their comfort zone. Some of the more trying tests included hiking several miles with climbing gear in a backpack while hunting for a new crag. While this isn't something we would suggest, it certainly quickly illuminates which contenders are stable and supportive.
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 only improved with age. The same goes for the 'Ohana, another incredibly impressive and comfortable option. The Katavi and Dunes II offer unique support and stability qualities, giving them more of a specialist feel. The Dunes are almost entirely flat and not incredibly supportive, but they are ultra-stable and grippy for wet environments — so if you spend a lot of time on a boat, these are where it's at. However, if you like the feeling of your foot being cradled from all sides, the Katavi had a deep molded footbed with excellent support.
Unless you're just interested in using your flops to walk down to the local coffee shop or around the house, you're going to want to pay attention to their traction. We put every pair through their paces and took them on adventures where closed-toe shoes were probably a bit more appropriate. Don't worry — we escaped with all of our toes intact and a wealth of knowledge regarding each pair's stickiness.
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 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 is 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're going to perform in different situations is crucial.
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 pair, 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 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 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.
Ever since our coupon cutting days as children, we have had an eye towards durability in whatever products we buy. Bargain bin flips can lure you in with their ten dollar price tag, but the rapid breakdown period makes them a poor investment, not to mention bad for the environment. Many of the models we tested will last for years, giving them a much better durability to cost ratio and environmental footprint.
For some folks, things like fit, comfort, and style might trump how long a shoe lasts, as they're happy to buy a pair every season and never look back. That logic, however, seems flawed. We surveyed others who've had some of these models for years during the few months we spent assessing durability. Between talking with friends that have historically worn several of these models and comparing each pair side-by-side, we've been able to put them through their paces and get a feel for how they hold up. The pairs made with leather and rubber compounds seem to hold up the best, whereas a heavy reliance on synthetics and foam — while often quite comfortable — means a faster break-down time.
The ingredients a flop must possess to be truly durable are many and hard to perfect. Finding the balance and making a pair of flip flops that break in but don't break down is a challenge. OluKai has done a fantastic job with their products on this front. Of the handful of models we tested from this brand, they all held together exceptionally well and became more comfortable as the testing went on. The Hokua especially struck a perfect balance between durability and break-in, but the 'Ohana and the Hiapo are right behind it. Other standout showings in this category come from the water-friendly Filipe and burly Katavi 2.
Others in our review mold to the feet nicely but, in the process, become thinner and less supportive. A sole should have some longevity, and for that purpose, a rubber one is an ideal choice. If you don't want to spend much on a model and do not expect to need it more than a season or so, there are several comfortable flops in our fleet that will serve you well.
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 to rugged outdoor-specific models. 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. 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.
It's hard to convey the sheer number of flip flops on the market in this day and age. If you count bargain bin options, the numbers undoubtedly reach well into the thousands. Do yourself a favor and ditch the disposable versions. Instead, take a long hard look at the durable and stylish models offered by companies that know the value of quality footwear, and do right by your feet.
— Brian Martin, Matt Bento, & Sam Piper