How to Choose the Best Flip-Flops for your Adventures

10 of the best - lined up on Donner Lake.
Article By:
Sam Piper

Last Updated:

With so many choices in flip flops these days it is important to know what it is you value in a sandal before even beginning to make your decision. There are flip flops that are obviously meant mostly for urban cruising, ones that offer support and comfort but not much in the ways of traction. There are others that are clearly designed for use in the mountains and hills, beaches and forests, they have a tight fit and a more aggressive sole pattern. Others feel plush and comfortable right out of the box but might be quicker to wear out. Some people don't mind this, they like their sandals immediately comfortable and don't worry about buying a new pair every year. Other people enjoy putting in the time to break in their sandals, feel the strap loosen and the footbed mold to the intricacies of their feet. These people know that the occasionally uncomfortable break-in period will be worth it in the long run and plan on having a durable sandal that is going to last. Still, other sandals do well on dry, dusty trails but feel slippery and weird when they get wet. Some do it all well. One thing we can say for sure is that no amount of advice or reading can replace trying a flip flop on to make sure it fits.

Shown here are the Phantoms - cruising some uneven ground.
Shown here are the Phantoms - cruising some uneven ground.

Another great piece of advice is to consider what you'll be using your flip flops for before you even start filtering through all the options. Are you going to be using them more in an urban setting? Or will your flip flops be put to the test on trails and mountains? Are you mostly into warier-sports or will you be carrying a heavy pack over rocky terrain? If you're trying to get rad in your flip flops you might have to sacrifice a little bit of fashion for the function of a more rugged flop. If you spend most of your time in town, narrowing in on the more stylish flops probably makes the most sense.

Choosing Your Activity

Most of the sandals we tested in this review share some common themes: they are well built with a comfortable but tight fit and a sole that provides good traction. That being said, our testers all agreed that choosing your flip flop based on your activity is a sure way to end up satisfied. For this reason, we've broken down activities into three categories and highlighted which sandals excelled in which activity and in which metrics. The activity categories we chose to judge these sandals by are: urban use, water activities, and hiking.

Urban Use

The urban category fits people who wear their flip flops every day, regardless of whether it's on pavement or not. These folks might prefer a more stylish flip flop and care less about its stability or traction. Comfort is, of course, something that is of utmost importance regardless of your activity so our city dwellers will want to choose a flip flop that keeps their feet happy after pounding miles of concrete sidewalks.

Several of the flops we tested fit this category well. The Olukai Hiapo was by far the most stylish flop we tested. With a handsome, sewn leather thong and clean lines, this is a sandal fit for casual weddings and fancy dinner dates. With its leather-wrapped sole with only a handful of rubber traction pods, our testers weren't convinced it would perform well on trails, but they were quickly proven wrong. The Croc Crocband, although not the most stylish sandal, excelled in the urban environment as a grocery getter and house flop. If you like wearing standard Crocs for their simplicity, durability, and comfort then you'll love their flip flop for the same reasons. The Oofos flip flop was a winner for the same reasons, comfortable, simple and unassuming, but not super stylish. There were, of course, a couple of sandals that performed in every environment, namely our awards winner the Chaco Ecotread Flip and the OluKai Ohana. Both of these sandals are stylish and comfortable enough to take on any task, urban or off trail alike.

Water Activites

For our flip flops enthusiasts whose priority is water sports, we must think about looking for the flip flop with the best traction and stability when wet. We can all agree that flip flops may not be the best water shoes but it is also well known that flip flop die hards are going to wear them in any situation, whether it makes the most sense or not. So we might as well figure out which flops are the best. Traction when wet, a thong that stays snug and doesn't loosen when wet with a quick drying material make for the best water-sports flops. There were only a couple in our review that met these criteria. The Chaco Ecotread Flip outperformed every other flip flop for its stability and traction even when wet, this combined with its quick-drying strap material make it the flip flop vetted by river guides everywhere. The OluKai Ohana also performed well in the water, with excellent traction but the straps stretched and loosened a bit when wet.


Whether it's carrying a surfboard to the break or a backpack to the crag we'll lump those activities in this hiking category. If you're looking to get off the sidewalk with your flip flops, which most of the reviewers were focused on, then you're going to want to pay special attention to this category. Traction, stability and durability are all super important to those looking to use flip flops for purposes slightly more extreme then recommended. Flip flops that excel in this category should be durable, rugged and packable, whether that be in a backpack or clipped to a harness. Several of the flops we tested did well in this category. The OluKai Ohana has an aggressive tread and maintained great traction on a variety of surfaces. It's thong straps held the sandal in place well but were not the tightest we tested, allowing for a little bit of slip.

The Chaco Flip has been a trusted sandal for rock climbers and river people alike for many years. They're durable and stand up to constant abuse in any environment you can imagine. The tread is aggressive enough and the straps keep the flip flop in place. Lastly, the Teva Pajaro is a hiking machine. It has the most aggressive lug tread of any in our testing group and at first glance looks more like a hiking boot than a flip flop. It's wide straps hold the foot in place well and the thick, cushioned sole protects the foot from sharp rocks. The one down side to the Pajaro is how bulky the sandal is, making it hard to pack to the far out places.

With all this in mind remember that even the most thorough review won't tell you which flip flop best suites your needs. Read our full review and let us help you find your perfect flip flop!


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