Olukai Hiapo Review
Cons: Expensive, not the best for water
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hiapo scores well across the board, though it's not ideal for excessive water activities. Still, its excellent comfort and good looks had our testers reaching for it more often than not.
Breaking in this flop takes some work and commitment. If you're the type of person that wants a cushy flip-flop right out of the box, then this might not be the sandal for you. However, if you stick with it, you will be rewarded with a supportive, supple, and long-lasting fit. One of the most pleasant features of the Hiapo is the unbelievably soft inner layer of the thong. While cheaper flip flops will often rub sore spots between toes or on the top of the foot, the Hiapo felt like the soft insides of a well-worn and treated baseball glove. Maybe that's not a good analogy, but suffice it to say, these are soft as heck and feels like they were made custom for our feet.
The footbed is made of stiff, high-quality leather and can be a little rough on the feet at first. However, within the first week of wearing these class act flops, the leather begins to soften, and the footbed molds to the contours of the foot. After a month of use, they feel like an absolute dream and haven't changed much since then. The Hiapo feels exactly like we want flip flops to feel; even the leather feels cool against the feet after a long day's work, which is an absolute treat.
As a general rule, OluKai flip flops are quite stable and supportive. The Hiapo is a very slight exception to this rule as it is much more heavily focussed on being classy than it is designed to be planted on a trail. That being said, for a dress flip flop, the Hiapo is fantastically stable. The smooth leather ultimately broke in and molded to our feet in a way that absolutely gave a boost in the support department. Instead of having a flat, even tread pattern, it has a handful of large lugs that don't feel quite as tacky as the other OluKai flip flops we have tested. We found the large lugs to give the Hiapo soft all-day comfort but also a bit more roll than other models which felt absolutely planted.
If you're looking for the ultimate in support and stability, the other synthetic OluKai flip flops in this review are definitely a notch above. That said, out of the box, the footbed of the Hiapo is compliant and supportive with a high arch that has truly aged to perfection for us.
Many of our testers are climbers or boaters, and we were immediately skeptical of this sandal's traction abilities when we took them out of the box. The sole of the flop is wrapped in leather, and there are only eight rubber "traction pods" to create a walking surface with grip. While these aren't in the same league as the other Olukai flip flops we tested, the grip is surprisingly good.
We scrambled around rock slabs and wore these at the crag base on several occasions while out climbing. The grip offered by the Hiapo is far beyond what we expected from a stylish urban flip flop and worlds above any pure EVA foam soled flip flop. Also, notably, the grip in wet environments is pretty decent, though we would recommend against getting these wet on a regular basis.
The Hiapo ended up being so much more versatile than our initial impressions suggested, but it still isn't a top scorer in this category. The versatility rating speaks to how well this flip flop performed outside of its intended use: to look good and keep your feet happy all day. The real bread and butter of the Hiapo is the attention to fine leather details, beautiful stitching, and surprising capabilities when pushed beyond the garden party.
At first glance, it seems this sandal is for weddings and fancy dinners only, but we quickly found that it does a few other things well too. We wore this flop on smooth granite slabs and found it to be more than adequate. Where the Hiapo falters is in water sports. An all-leather sandal is not meant to get wet every day, especially one that costs as much as this one. That said, OluKai makes sandals with the water in mind, and this one is no exception. It can handle more water than you might initially assume, so don't feel like you need to avoid every puddle as you're flip-floppin' around.
This is one of the most stylish flip flops we tested. They look so good, in fact, that a few of our testers felt this flop was too nice to grace their haggard adventure-prone feet. Even if you're like our testers and have hideous hobbit-type feet, the Hiapo will do wonders. Ok, maybe it won't actually change the appearance of your feet, but they are, without a doubt, the best-looking flip flops we slid on this year.
High-quality leather thongs and straps with prominent, bold exterior baseball-type stitching provide a look that is simultaneously refined but rugged. The EVA footbed is fully wrapped in full-grain leather with a handsome Polynesian graphic laser-etched into the footbed. It's hard to compare the style of the Hiapo with any of the other sandals we tested; it's really in a class all of its own.
These flip-flops are by far the most expensive in our review. However, after wearing them for a while, it becomes clear that you get a lot for the hefty price tag. Full-grain leather and hand-stitching with a compression-molded EVA sole mean this sandal is built to last. While we haven't yet tested a pair of these to failure, they beg the question, "How many pairs of other flip flops would you have to purchase to outlast a pair?" Like any well-built item, the Hiapo only improves with time — if you can afford a pair without breaking the bank, they're worth adding to your wardrobe.
The OluKai Hiapo is an outlier in our testing group. No other sandal we tested comes close to it in regards to craftsmanship or class… or price, for that matter. What we thought at first would be a date-night-only sandal turned out to be an "anything but watersports" kind of flop. Its ability to do most things well, coupled with its incredulous style, easily won it an award. If you're the type of flip flop aficionado that can afford to have a pair for every occasion or just want the finest craftsmanship on your feet, then slip on a pair of these high-class sandals.
— Brian Martin
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