Consider what you'll be doing and where you'll be going in your flip-flops. Are you going to be using them more in an urban setting, wandering miles of foreign streets while tasting strange foods and getting lost on purpose? Or will you be taking your flops beyond there recommended applications (as most of us do), using them on rocky trails or granite slabs? If you're into water sports, your flops will need good traction to prevent you from slipping all over the deck or falling on wet rocks. Flip-flops that are good for hiking might not be your cup of tea stylistically as they sometimes have padded straps or thicker tread. 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 flops we tested in this review share some common themes: they are well built with a comfortable 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.
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 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 and 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 Hari Mari Scouts excelled in the urban environment as a grocery getter and house flop while looking incredibly stylish. A nice thing about stylish, around-town flops is that they can be simple without expensive sticky rubber or bulky tread. The Chaco Marshall was a winner for the same reasons — comfortable, simple and unassuming, but a bit more durable for extended hikes. There were, of course, a couple of sandals that performed in every environment, namely the award-winning Chaco Flip EcoTread and OluKai Ohana. Both of these sandals are stylish and comfortable enough to take on any task, urban or off trail alike.
For our flip flops enthusiasts whose priority is water sports, we look 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 diehards 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 Flip EcoTread outperformed most other flip flops 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. The best water flop we tested is the Astral Filipe, armed with sticky rubber and some extra straps to secure them to your feet.
Whether it's carrying a surfboard to the break or a backpack to the crag, you're going to need a flop that offers some arch support and actually stays on your foot. If you're looking to get off the sidewalk with your flip flops, which most of our reviewers are 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 than 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. Its thong straps held the sandal in place well but were not the tightest we tested, allowing for a little bit of slip. Remember, even if your flops have great traction, they're worthless if your foot doesn't stay in place. The Ohanas have pretty grippy footbed, as do the Chaco Marshalls, but the Astral Filipes take the cake, featuring a removable strap that secures your foot snuggly in the flop, even if the footbed gets wet or sweaty.
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. Its wide straps hold the foot in place well, and the thick, cushioned sole protects the foot from sharp rocks. The one downside to the Pajaro is how bulky the sandal is, making it hard to pack to the far-out places. We like light and simple, and the bulky look of the Pajaro was a fashion no-no for most of our testers.
Let's face it, we all want to look good, and while style is a subjective and often controversial topic, we have bravely dived into the style debate, and our testers have some strong opinions. Clean, simple lines, low key colors, and leather are all features we find visually pleasing in a flop. The Chaco Marshall, the Chaco Flip Eco, and the Hari Mari Scouts come in many great colors, letting you dial in that perfect flop, or even buy multiple pairs to go with different clothes (advanced, we know). Fashion faux-pas appear in the form of bulky straps, loud colors, and cheap flops that break. Keep in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and choose whatever flop makes you feel good.
With all this in mind, remember that even the most thorough review won't tell you which flip-flop best suits your needs. Read our full review, then go out and try some on!