The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Flip-Flop Sandals

Tuesday September 29, 2020

To produce the best review of flip flops in the universe, we sifted through the innumerable options on the market until we found a host of highly-rated brands and models. We opted to only test models made with some sense of durability and longevity in mind as we have no interest in disposable bargain bin versions that inevitably head for the garbage within weeks of purchase. After buying each pair from retail shops, we trudged through all kinds of environments and committed to wearing flip flops almost exclusively for months. We tested them in situations where you should probably have closed-toe shoes, all in the name of creating a useful and well-informed review.

Our testers agreed almost unanimously  testing flip flops and getting some air beneath your feet was the best!
Our testers agreed almost unanimously, testing flip flops and getting some air beneath your feet was the best!

Comfort


How do they feel out of the box? Are the straps abrasive or soft? How do they feel after months of wear? These are critical questions that we dove into feet first. Having a giant stack of flip flops to compare gave us a unique look into how each brand designs and executes as well as how they hold up side by side. Even with this hard data available, comfort is subjective, and it's worth knowing if you like high arch support, an extra soft footbed, or something really stiff. We provide the hard data as well as the little details to help you find the best pair for your specific feet.

Olukai flip flops typically offer high arch support and excellent footbeds that slowly conform to your foot over time.
Olukai flip flops typically offer high arch support and excellent footbeds that slowly conform to your foot over time.

Support and Stability


To make a long story short, OSHA wouldn't approve our testing methods for flip flop support and stability. Slippery granite waterslides, cobbled hiking trails, crag approaching, and chopping wood were all on the menu. Just kidding about the wood chopping… except not really, because seriously we did. The point we're trying to make is anyone can buy a three dollar pair of flip flops but you're taking your life in your hands. After our stringent testing, we have found several flip flops that offer off the charts support and stability for all types of situations and environments.

Even though the sole doesn't have huge rubber lugs like other models  the Fanning grips onto even the smoothest granite slabs.
Even though the sole doesn't have huge rubber lugs like other models, the Fanning grips onto even the smoothest granite slabs.

Traction


Steep granite slabs, hardwood floors, poolside tile, and smooth lakeside boulders all have specific traction requirements. All of the flip flops we tested did pretty good in at least some of these situations, but some are more appropriate for sticking close to civilization. Some have subtle grooves made to channel water out from under the sole while keeping lots of rubber in contact with a surface, while others offer big chunky treads for trails around camp. We did in-depth testing of each flip flop in a wide variety of environments so you can match the tread to your needs.

Belaying around a rocky crag  summer approach hikes  or sandy trails were no match for the super grippy lugged soles of the Katavi. For outdoor travel these were excellent.
Belaying around a rocky crag, summer approach hikes, or sandy trails were no match for the super grippy lugged soles of the Katavi. For outdoor travel these were excellent.

Versatility


To get our finger on the versatility pulse of each pair of flip flops, we made sure to test them all exhaustively in all kinds of environments and situations. This meant taking flip flops designed for the beach out on rocky trails and vice versa. Taking each flop out of its comfort zone gave us a solid idea of the versatility rating.

Reef has an insanely large offering when it comes to flip flops  and typically they are pretty excellent. The Cushion Phantom is one of the most comfortable out-of-the-box pairs we tested.
Reef has an insanely large offering when it comes to flip flops, and typically they are pretty excellent. The Cushion Phantom is one of the most comfortable out-of-the-box pairs we tested.

Durability


Likely the least subjective metric we tested was durability. Out of the box, it's easy to separate flip flops made from vulnerable foam materials and those graced with heavy-duty rubber soles and dense footbeds. The old adage, only time will tell, held true for us through our testing period. Several months of rigorous use revealed which models trend toward breaking in with grace and which simply break down.

High-density inserts in the heel  ball of the foot  and toes added durability to the footbed of the Astral Filipe.
High-density inserts in the heel, ball of the foot, and toes added durability to the footbed of the Astral Filipe.

Style


Probably the most subjective metric in this review (but still important! ) is style. It's often an indicator of where a flip flop will feel most at home performance-wise — though not in every situation. Several models in our review are styled in a way that allows for high performance as well as casual get-togethers. The finely crafted leather models can often even feel appropriate for nicer gatherings, depending on your comfort level and religion. We, much to our friend's chagrin, asked nearly everyone we ran into what their thoughts were on the styling of each flip flop. Polling close to 20 people throughout the process we feel that we have our finger on the pulse of the current style.

The fact that the 'Ohana is comfortable  grippy  and looks good makes it very versatile. Comfortable enough for an afternoon of wandering around shops and durable enough to be used as a camp shoe for summer backpacking.
The fact that the 'Ohana is comfortable, grippy, and looks good makes it very versatile. Comfortable enough for an afternoon of wandering around shops and durable enough to be used as a camp shoe for summer backpacking.