The OluKai Ohana once again comes out on top of the flop heap! OluKai knows a thing or two about flip flops, and the Ohanas convinced a whole new batch of testers that Chaco isn't the only flop in town. The OluKai Ohana is both rugged and soft at the same time. Its great tread and supportive footbed make the miles float by, while the comfortable straps look good enough for date night and hold up to serious abuse at the crag, the beach, or the river. The footbed stays grippy even when it gets wet, so the Ohanas are perfect for a day out on the boat.
Read review OluKai Ohana
Top Pick For Hiking
Sticky rubber outsole
Removable heel and arch straps
A few testers felt the extra straps were annoying.
Known for their excellent PFDs and other river-oriented products, Astral has created a flop that will never float downstream, thanks to some extra straps that tightly secure the flops to your feet. Some testers felt the removable heel and arch strap on the Astral Filipe was like cheating and this flop was a sandal in disguise, but we all agreed that these puppies can go where no other flip-flop can. Several flops we reviewed have excellent traction, but traction can only go so far when your feet are wet or sweat and can slide right out of the shoe. The Filipe's straps lock your foot down better than many sandals we've worn, allowing us to take full advantage of the Filipe's sticky rubber outsole when hiking to the crag or off the back side of granite domes in Tuolumne Meadows. Clip these to your harness and you've got the lightest pair of "approach shoes" out there.
Top Pick to Dress Up or Down
Beautiful baseball glove stitching design
Firm leather footbed
Great for formal events in hot weather
Don't do well in the water
Despite considering ourselves rigorous outdoor enthusiasts, let's be honest: 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. For that reason, among others, we chose the OluKai Hiapo for our Top Pick award, specializing in the classy occasion. When we first pulled these flops out of the box, we were sure they were nothing more than an overpriced boutique model. We love being proved wrong, and the Hiapos don't disappoint. Over months of wearing this pair, we learned that they are much more than just a pretty pair of flops. We wore them on dates, plane travel, to concerts, we even carried heavy packs to the crags and took them to the beach. After a break in period, they were by far one of the most comfortable sandals we tested, as well as the best looking. The attention to detail is easy to appreciate when you look closely; they are wonderfully constructed and performed well in every area except water sports.
Read review OluKai Hiapo
Best Long-Term Value
Chaco Flip EcoTread
Great choice for the river
Take a long time to break in
Not the lightest flop out there
The Chaco Flip EcoTread has a cult following, and for good reason. For years, this has been the choice for climbers and boaters alike. People that demand not only performance but expect their flops to hold up for close to a decade. This is by far the most rugged, best-built sandal we tested; hold a pair in your hand, and this becomes evident. They are not the lightest model we tested, but with their weight comes an exceptional level of durability. The footbed can feel stiff at first, so if you're looking for a plush pair straight out of the box, the Chaco might not be for you. However, if you're willing to put in the time to break this contender in, you'll be rewarded with a loyal piece of footwear for years and years. Get rad or go to a wedding; this model will outperform almost all others on the market.
Read review Chaco Flip EcoTread
Top scoring for comfort
Gimmicky bottle opener
Air heel doesn't age well
Like the Ohana, the Fanning has dominated the award podium since we started this review in 2011. Not much has changed in the design, and it doesn't have to. This sandal still delivers great traction, comfort, and fit. It's so ubiquitous online that you can usually find it at a discount, making it an even better deal. We still think a bottle opener on the sole of a sandal is about as smart as having one on a toilet brush. But it doesn't get in the way, and some people must love it. We also don't love the look of the air heel and are not sure it does much. But those little grips aside, this sandal performs near the top and priced well.
Read review Reef Fanning
Whether hanging out in the backyard or going on a long hike, we wore these flip flops everywhere
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by the expert duo Matt Bento and Sam Piper. 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, multiple times. 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 comfortable footwear like flip flops play in frequent and various activity outside.
Before any sandals were worn, the work of this review began with market research. We looked at over 60 potential models of flip flop from various manufacturers, before deciding on the 14 strongest and most promising contenders discussed here. The actual testing was simply a lot of use, for everything. We wore them through water, scrambling across granite slabs, and in airports. They got passed around to multiple testers for various opinions for several months. Key performance areas of a flip flop were identified and scrutinized in the process. The result of all this 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
Your footwear affects your whole body from the ground up, and we believe that you deserve something that matches your needs, your personal preferences, and the shape of your foot. For that reason, we've broken down our review into five criteria that we've used to judge each model. Some folks live on the coast and will spend their time in town or walking to a surf break, while others may be mountain dwellers using their flip flops to hike and climb. Some folks just want a comfortable slipper to wear around the house and the garden, while others will be walking miles of winding streets through foreign cities. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, there is a multitude of things that every contender needs to do well, and plenty of factors you need to take into account. Below you'll find a breakdown of the metrics by which we judge a flip flop, making it easier for you to choose the right pair of kicks for this summer
Related: Buying Advice for Flip-Flop Sandals
Floppin ain't easy, but our testers were more than up to the task, wearing flip flops every chance they got.
Hover over the dots below to see the names of the models tested (award winners are in blue). The Fanning is the clear best value as it scores at the top but has a lower retail price. In addition, it's so popular that you can usually find it on sale for somewhat less. While the Flip EcoTread is the same price as the Editors' Choice, we awarded it a Best Buy since it is so durable. Properly cared for, these will last two to three times longer than most flip flops out there. They are the best long-term value we have seen.
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 (though we have a review if you are strictly looking for sandals). This review will focus strictly on the standard, thong-style model with no extra frills or straps, with the exception of the Astral Filipe, which sneaks under our dogmatic barbed wire and into this review because its extra straps are removable. The market is saturated, and if you can dream it up, chances are it exists. Unfortunately, some flip flops 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 $5 flip flop, prepare yourself for the myriad of luxury flops: Sporty models, casual contenders, stylish pairs, ones that are comfy out of the box, and ones that take a while to break in. 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 a variety of needs.
We assessed each model using the criteria comfort, versatility, durability, style, and traction. Each criterion or scoring metric is listed and further expounded upon below.
Nothing feels quite like a well-loved, worn-in flip-flop.
As we're sure we all can attest to by now, "comfort" can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people and like many of these criteria can be pretty subjective.
Some of the sandals we tested were plush and super comfortable straight out of the box, while others felt stiff, and required a while to break in. The shape of the sandals varies widely, depending on the width, length, shape of the thong and amount of arch support given. The form of the footbed and height of the arch were things that we found changed considerably on some of the sandals we tested, such as the Chaco Flip EcoTread, OluKai Hiapo and the Hari Mari Scouts.
River time with the Ohana.
As we wore each pair for an extended period, the footbed became customized, molding to our foot. This experience could not be said of all the models we tested, as with the Crocs Crocband, which held its shape despite significant use. Others, such as the Oofos, were so soft and squishy that they felt almost too comfortable. They were so plush that the foot to the ground transfer of power and energy felt diminished by all of the soft foam.
The Hiapo does well in everything but water, earning a high overall score.
We found that, for the most part, sandals that are super comfortable out of the box are not usually the ones that last the longest. A stiffer material can (not always) indicate a greater longevity for the product. Comfort is a subjective criterion. Some of the sandals we tested were cushy and soft from day one while others were super stiff and slowly broke down (while never becoming too plush). Some had good arch support, like the Chaco Marshall while others offered a simple, flat shape at first that took time to break in and mold to our feet, like the Hari Mari Scouts.
The Oofos, out for a stroll. This contender earns a high score for comfort and is exceptionally comfortable for those with plantar fasciitis.
The OluKai Ohanas have a soft footbed on top of a more durable supportive midsole, giving us the best of both worlds; out of the box comfort and longevity.
The Ohanas have a very soft footbed, making them extremely comfortable right out of the box.
Some might argue that versatility in a sandal is a bit of a misnomer, but we at OutdoorGearLab use our flops hard, so knowing how they're going to perform in different situations is crucial to us.
Shown here are the Phantoms - cruising some uneven ground.
Although you can get it done in all the sandals we tested, some were designed for one purpose or another and not as all-around. Maybe you're the type of person who owns a quiver and has a pair for each occasion. If that's you, go ahead and feel free to skip this section. However, for those of us who appreciate a do-it-all pair, versatility is a key ingredient. The perfect flip-flop in our minds looks good enough to wear to a wedding, is tough enough to last forever, and can climb at least 5.10. While this mythical flop doesn't really exist, of few of the models we reviewed come pretty close.
The Marshalls combine a comfortable leather footbed with a durable outsole and excellent tread.
We tested models like the OluKai Hiapo that are so fancy that they seemed (at least at first) to have no place in the mountains, but turned out to cruise up moderate hiking trails with ease. Some models like the Reef Draftsmen were only for looking good in the flatlands and fell apart after rigorous hiking.
The Fanning, versatile in many ways, performing on bare rock out at the crag.
The sandals that best walked the line between casual and active were the Chaco Flip EcoTread, OluKai Ohana, and Astral Filipe. These sandals were the ones that best performed in a multitude of activities; from hiking on steep terrain to swimming in the Truckee River, they do well on dry dirt and excel when wet. These pairs possessed the perfect blend of comfort, support, traction, and style to push them to the top of the versatility score.
The Flip Eco was the most durable flip-flop we tested.
You'd think that something like durability would be king when purchasing footwear like flip-flops and for many people, this is probably true. There are others that have expressed their undying loyalty to a certain pair, despite the fact that they don't last that long.
For some folks, things like fit, comfort, and style might trump how long the model lasts, as they might be happy to buy a pair a season and never look back. That logic, however, seems flawed to this tester and thus, durability is taken seriously during the review. We had a few months to asses durability, and during that time we surveyed others who've had some of these models for years. Between comparing each pair side-by-side and talking with friends that have historically worn several of these models, we've been able to put them through the paces and get a feel for how they hold up. The pairs of sandals made with leather and rubber compounds seemed to hold up the best, whereas the more synthetic material and foam that made up a model, the quicker they started to break down.
A 10 year old pair of Chaco Flips; while slightly frayed, they're still holding on strong!
The ingredients a flop must possess to be truly durable are many and hard to perfect. The sandal must break in with heavy use but not break down. Some of these models, like the OluKai Hiapo and Chaco Flip EcoTread, break in and mold to your foot without becoming thin and flimsy.
Chaco flops have a great tread pattern that holds up to serious abuse and do well in every situation you could imagine.
Others, like the Reef Draftsmen and the Sanuk Beer Cozy 2 mold to your foot, but at the same time, become thinner and less supportive in the process. The sole also needs to be able to hold up, and for that purpose, a rubber sole is an ideal choice. If you don't want to spend much on a model and do not expect it to last more than a season or so, there are several comfortable flops in our fleet that would serve you well.
The Pajaro seen moving over rock.
However, they do not rate exceptionally well for durability; these models include the Reef Phantom and the Sanuk Beer Cozy 2. If you sit firmly in the other camp of people that want a durable, long lasting pair, then you just cannot go wrong with the Chaco Flip EcoTread, Astral Filipe, or OluKai Ohana.
Style, much like comfort, can be a very subjective category and thus a personal choice. 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 below.
The competitors we tested span a wide variety of styles from super cushy foam to aggressive hiker to fancy leather footwear. There are a few things that we believe makes for an all-around good looking sandal, such as a simple, sleek design, and beautiful lines. We tested several pairs that accomplished those things such as the OluKai Ohana, the Chaco Flip EcoTread, the Hari Mari Scouts, and the Reef Draftsmen. There were also sandals on either side of the spectrum, with the OluKai Hiapo, consisting mostly of leather and fancy looking materials, while the OOOFO Unisex Original Thong was made from bulky foam, designed for those with plantar fasciitis.
The Hiapo, keeping it classy during a day at the crag.
We found that the most stylish pairs were the ones that were able to combine the classic elements of the flip-flop without drawing attention to themselves, such as the OluKai Ohana, Chaco Flip Ecotread, OluKai Hiapo, and the Chaco Marshall. The outliers had a more difficult time doing this for a number of reasons. Big, bulky models made of foam, like the Oofos Original Thong or the Croc Crocband, draw unwanted attention. Regardless of how they scored in our review, make sure you get the pair that you think look best; if you're a fan and they're comfortable, you'll wear them more, and that's the whole point.
Aggressive Ohana tread pattern.
Unless you're just interested in using your flip-flops to walk down to the local coffee shop or around the house, you're going to want to pay attention to how these sandals scored in our traction category. We ran each pair around the mountains of the Tahoe Basin and the Sierra all spring and summer, putting them through the paces.
Approaching rock climbs, walking off rock climbs, stepping out of the raft into the swift and cold Truckee River, and dancing at concerts were a few of the ways we tested the traction this summer. Many of our sandals scored relatively high in the traction category, but it's important to think about what surfaces you'll be walking on and how the model you're interested in will perform. Mud and loose dirt require a different sole/tread to grip well versus when you're walking on slick rock or glacier-polished granite. A deep tread pattern may grip well on dirt and mud, but the deep lugs allow less rubber to contact the ground when you're walking on a granite slab, thus making them less sticky.
There is a fine line between too much tread and too little and few of the contenders we tested fit in that category. 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.
A traction comparison between the Reef Phantoms and Sanuk, with the Phantoms performing slightly better.
For the river-oriented people out there, we found that the Astral Filipe, the OluKai Ohana and the Reef Fanning all performed well both in the water and on wet surfaces. The Teva Pajaro has the most aggressive lug sole, making it seem more like a hiking shoe than a flip-flop. The Hari Mari Scouts and the Reef Draftsmen have relatively smooth tread patterns, making them not as ideal if you're looking for exceptional traction. Other pairs like the Chaco Flip EcoTread, the Chaco Marshall and the OluKai Ohana faired well with a modestly aggressive tread pattern and rubber sole.
The Filipe's heel and arch straps making river walking easy and ensure you won't lose your flops downstream.
There are so many models on the market these days that it is important to start by asking yourself what you expect out of your flops. The nice thing is that all of the models we tested felt comfortable, letting our feet soak up the vitamin D while we breathed easy, taking in the beauty of our alpine or maritime environs, and lowering those cortisol levels. We're not saying that wearing flip-flops makes us better people or that buying them will make the world a better place (though Hari Mari donates 1% of profits to help kids with cancer, and Chaco is always trying to make their materials more eco friendly), but we do encourage you to snub those $5 throwaway flops this summer and go with something that will last you for multiple seasons of fun.