The most honest and in-depth reviews of outdoor sports equipment on the planet.

Best Flip Flops

Fact: flip flops are one of the most underrated pieces of gear in the world.

Everybody has heard how important ski boots are, and how you would be wise to spend roughly three times your mortgage payment on them.

But while I ski a lot, I wear flip flops a lot more—every single day, often all day.

Some might say that ski boots are crazy expensive, while flip flops are cheap—so who cares?

Flip flops are cheap by comparison. But that is exactly why it makes no sense to buy a lousy pair of flip flops. Actually, it makes no sense not to buy a great pair of flip flops.

The problem, however, is that most everybody claims that whatever flip flop they happen to be wearing is the best flip of all time.

So we’ve set out to find the best flip flops in the world, and for the sake of transparency, here are the criteria we’ve used:

• Must be a true flip: single strap across the top of the foot that anchors between the 1st and 2nd toe, no heel strap.

• Needs to be able to handle 2–3-mile walks or hikes, whether on pavement, sand, dirt, sand and rock, a little bit of loose rock, stream crossings, etc. (Think hikes to the crag.)

• Needs to dry quickly and maintain good traction when wet, as well as in the conditions listed above.

• No leather. We want these to be quick drying, and, in our experience, nylon straps and rubber footbeds tend to do this more quickly.

• Flip flops should not look like they were designed by this guy:

Tron Guy, Blister Gear Review

If your flip flops look like something out of a video game or a sci-fi convention, then you need to realize that:

(1) Your significant other could be doing significantly better.

(2) You’re not in 7th grade anymore.

A Few More Notes

We narrowed our choices down to a top 5 that was determined by polling Blister readers, our friends, and by nominating flips we’ve used. But we will update this list if and when any new flip looks like it could challenge for the title of Best Flip in the World. So this will be an ongoing, King-of-the-Mountain-style review, and we’ll see if anything comes along that knocks off our current top selections.

Feel free to make recommendations, just be sure to name specific models from a particular brand.

Also, if you wear flip flops only when standing around at BBQs, then any of these ought to do just fine.

Sizing

If you’re between sizes on flip flops, size down. Flips that are too big cause you to “grip” with your toes to keep the sandal from slipping off. That causes you to flex / tension the arch of your foot and tighten your plantar fascia. This may not be a big deal if you aren’t in your flips a lot and aren’t doing a lot of walking, but if you are, it’s something that could lead to foot and Achilles tendon problems.

“Wait, I read somewhere on the internet that flip flops might not be great for my feet?!?!?”

Our advice: if flip flops hurt your feet…don’t wear them.

But this is also why we don’t recommend spending five bucks for flip flops, or wearing ones that have super narrow straps.

This Reviewer’s Feet

Street shoe size: 10.5. Left foot is 27.0 cm long, right foot is 27.5 cm long. Typical ski boot size: 26 / 305 mm. I have a high arch, high instep (on a scale of 1-10, I’m an 8 or 9). C-width. Narrow heel. Fairly stable, solid platform. A bit of a pronator.

The Current Contenders

Reef Fanning; Reef Playa Negra; OluKai Kia’i; OluKai ‘Ohana; Chaco Flip Ecotread; OluKai Kupuna; OluKai Holona

First Up: REEF FANNING

37 Comments

  1. Alex Kerney October 6, 2012 Reply

    I highly recommend the Teva Halyard if they are still making them. Super grippy, stable and non-marking, I’ve been wearing various pairs for about the last 10 years daily. Lots of coastal Maine scrambling, hiking, running around Boston, whitewater kayaking, on and off boats, hiking up and running down Katahdin. The weird looking ridge around the perimeter seems to be key in keeping from punting rocks and tearing up toes. The ridiculous thing is that they seem to beat both by booties and creeking shoes in grip, including on ice.

  2. Angus October 6, 2012 Reply

    A good flip flop is like a fine wine, it gets better with age. Once the flip flop molds to your foot (which can’t be rushed, it takes years to convince them to take your foots shape…), there is no going back. You don’t choose the flip flop, the flip flop chooses you.

  3. Alex October 6, 2012 Reply

    Are you planning on reviewing any Oakleys?
    I´m so impressed by mine (don´t know the exact model name,sorry). They handled hours of walking (even hiking across some really rocky trails. To be honest, it was nearly rock climbing at times.) so well, i forgot i was wearing flip flops, which lead to some pretty hairy situations, as i felt as if i was wearing my hiking boots (thats because the Oakleys have a very thick sole, which is premolded to the shape of your foot). I was simply not thinking about slipping any rock, that i forgot theres still the possibility to break your ankle…
    Luckily no major injuries happened.
    They don´t flip and flop as much as others flip flops and stay more “on” your foot, which is something i have never experienced before.

  4. Lance October 8, 2012 Reply

    Best Slippers (can’t call em flip-flops) are the locals and surfahs from hawaii less than $5 i’ve climbed all over the place with em, used them as hand planes for bodysurfing and if they break i can fix em with my t shirt. my boss at a marina in oregon used to call them hawaiian work boots. when ever i get home i have to get like 3 pairs to bring back with me cause they dont sell em on the mainland

  5. Andy October 10, 2012 Reply

    I like my Chaco Flips more than I like most of my family.

  6. Mark October 27, 2012 Reply

    I purchased a pair of Reef Playa’s this summer after wearing exclusively Fannings for the last half dozen years or so. I could not be any happier with the Playas after a full season of use. They have held up very well with almost zero sole wear. I gave them a little bath a couple weeks ago after noticing a little funk while sitting cross legged and they are good as new.

    Notes on the Fannings: I popped an air pocket somehow within the first month of owning a pair – pissed. I still have a pair of “shower-shoe” style Fannings for winter use while wearing socks. They have a surprising amount of snow traction due to the bottle opener.

    Love the review. I may have to give some OluKai’s a try when I’m in need of another pair, although I foresee these Reefs lasting a good while.

    • Author

      Thanks for the feedback, Mark. I’m still liking the Playas – and they certainly are still going strong – though the OluKai Kia’i have continued to be my go to pair, mostly because of their more precise fit (for my feet, at least).

      • Craig P December 7, 2015 Reply

        I bought a pair of OluKai’s a year ago based on blister gear reviews. The fit and look are great, but when I hiked with them through a creek in big sur they developed chronic stink rot – they smell so bad, that I cannot wear them in public places. No, not my feet; the sandals. Repeated washings and customer service support has not resolved this. So, if you buy these rather expensive sandals, don’t get them wet, … which I’m reminded defeats the purpose of a beach sandal. Caveat emptor.

  7. mb January 6, 2013 Reply

    no love for rainbows?

    they truly do age like fine wine, and last

  8. Alin April 16, 2013 Reply

    Just bought my first pair of Chaco. I am size 9 for my running shoes (Salomon, North Face) and 9 for my ski boots (Lange), but Chaco size 9 seems like a very tight call for me. Although the size of the sole seems appropriate, when I slip in the heel sits a bit over the edge, and I can’t push the toes far enough in the front. I have tried some OluKai Malolo and it seems like 10 is the appropriate size for me. But I still want to give Chaco one more chance trying a size 10… tough I am just recovering from a skiing accident with nasty consequences for my knee ligaments. So reading this, I guess OluKai would be the way to go. But I am a bit confused regarding the “sizing down” advice.
    Anyway, this is the best review I found online so far, so I hope I will hear back an opinion I can really trust. Thanks!

    • Author

      Hi, Alin – the recommendation to size down was ONLY if you found yourself between sizes, where you could wear a 9 or a 10, for example. In that case, I’d go with the 9 rather than a 10. But if you found the size 10 OluKai to be the better length, then I think you’ll find that a size 10 Chaco is the correct length, too.

      I still love both, by the way, my Chaco Flips and my OluKais. They are quite different, but both are excellent. I’ll be curious to hear which you end up with.

      • Alin April 17, 2013 Reply

        Hi Jonathan, thanks for getting back to me so quick.
        So I went yesterday and tried the OluKai again with this article in mind. 10 indeed fits more comfortable, but it is a bit on the big side. So I see what you are saying about sizing up the flip flops and the problems I could have with size 10 once they break in. So right now I am going to give one more try to my Chacos as I think I should just be more patient about breaking them in. I was always size 9 plain (even 8.5 on my 5-10 climbing shoes), so Chaco size 9 has to be a good size for me.
        BTW: great website, glad that I found it browsing reviews for something as lame as flip flops.

  9. bonschorno June 19, 2013 Reply

    My lady of choice strictly forbid me to wear my “adiletten” (Its how we call the adidas sandals) anywhere in public (except public toilets). So I had to buy some flip flops – which I never liked – for our trips to the beach. As always, if I buy some new beach (or was it skiing?) stuff, I inform myself at blistergearreview.com. After reading this review, I was oscillating between the Chacos and the OluKais…first impression in the shop had my walk away with Hawaiian footwear, just because they fitted out of the box, where I had to use hands to get my feets into the Chacos – for me, that was a no-go for any ultralight-beach-outdoor-shoe. Hope my lady isn’t ashamed of me in public anymore – if she is, then its not now because of my footwear.

    • Author

      Ha. Well, it’s been almost a year – how are you liking your OluKai’s?

      • bonschorno June 18, 2014 Reply

        Hi Jonathan,
        You have no idea ;-)
        …first; I was just reading my entry again and had to read the second part once more, just to understand what I wrote there, so: sorry for the language.
        …then: Two months ago, a buddy asked me, why I was already wearing flip flops. It weren’t even warm enough for shorts. I didn’t answer him back then, but now I can say, the olukais (kia’i) just are the most comfy non-specific-sport shoes, or soles, I own. They made me a foot-nudist, if something like that exists. I use them for chillin’, fishing, walks…even things I shouldn’t do with this kind of footwear like playing football (or soccer, how you call it over there) or climbing small rocks (the grip is fantastic and the sole is stiff enough). Before I buyed this pair a year ago, I never thougt I would join the Flip Flop Fraction. Up to now, they are still in great condition. I suppose they even last longer then my former lady of choice…
        …But: Even those have a limit: They could dry a little faster. Because while wet, they are a little slippy. That’s something to have in mind for me, especially while fishing. The place I’m fishing is in a river delta, so I have to hop between bigger stones to reach the hot spots. If the Olukais are wet, I tend to slide around in the footbed (NOT: slipping out of the shoes, because I bought them – as you suggested – half a size smaller then I initially would have). Maybe this is because of the microfiber (or what the fabric is called) on the footbed that makes the as comy as they are. The fastest way I figured out to get them dry, is, to take them off and put them on a warm stone in the sun for 10-15 minutes. Probably the chacos would beat the olukais in this category…
        …Short: Beside that I can’t tell anything bad. If you learn to watch your toes one can make a lot of cool things with the kia’i’s. They force you not to run, but two walk in style. The sole may is a little stiff for that o.g. floppy sound, but they still can do it. The hotter the ground, the better they flipflop. The only other shoes I like THAT much is the adidas ZX 750 and that is not easy for me to confess…word.

  10. Arleaux June 9, 2014 Reply

    I have been a rainbow fan for years. I only recently lost one of them to one of our hounds. They were 6 years old & perfectly molded ;/
    Oh well, time to purchase a new pair. I have several friends who agree w/ you on the OluKai’s.
    Can you give an update as to how you feel after this much time? How are they holding up as well?

    Thanks!

    • Author

      Hi, Arleaux – I’ve just gone through and updated the whole review, so you can read my comments above. But in short, I am still extremely impressed with both the Chaco Flip (which I’m wearing right now, the same pair I reviewed 20 months ago) and the OluKai Kai’i. The Kai’i has held up remarkably well, far better than I would have guessed.

      In short, the Flip and the Kai’i are still my top 2 choices, and the decision largely comes down to whether you prefer a more firm / solid platform (Flip) or softer platform (Kai’i). I’ve just received a couple new pairs of flips, so it’ll be time to update this review soon. But I’m not sure anything will be knocking off my top 2 picks.

  11. Dan McG June 9, 2015 Reply

    I’m actually back in the market for a new pair of Flip Flops since my Chacos finally bit the dust. The strap came out between the toes while on my last trip to FL. I lived there for 10 years or so and used to buy just cheapy $20 Reefs until I started having back problems. My doc asked how often I wear Flip Flops and the response was something along the lines of, “Well, it’s either that or bare feet.” So he said, “Get yourself a pair of Chacos and don’t look back.” After wearing them for about a month or so my problems seemed to have disappeared. I got them in March or 2012 and wore them just about every day since. I’m thinking of checking out the Kia’i to see how they are. I’m up in Chicago now so they won’t be getting the year round beating that the previous ones did. After LONG walks with the Chacos, the ball of my foot would be a little sensitive the next day.

    • Author

      Hey, Dan – the Chaco Flips and the OluKai Kia’i are still my Go-To’s. And as I noted in the review, now that I’m past my knee issues, I prefer the firmer platform of the Chacos to the OluKais, but could easily imagine that others would prefer the softer / slightly squishier platform of the Kai’i. So most of all, I’m just here to say that these two flips are still the best I’ve used.

      • Dan McG June 12, 2015 Reply

        They must showed up and I tried them on. My feet are 10.75 for both so I ordered size 10. The length is great, but the straps are so loose they just fling of my feet when I walk! They don’t even touch the top of my foot while I’m standing. Very odd. The Chacos in a 10 were so tight I thought it was a wrong size, but they stretched just enough to be perfect and hold my foot thoroughly. Bummer!

      • Dan McG June 12, 2015 Reply

        Can you measure the length of yours? Mine are 11″ long and weigh 218g and 212g although the underside of the strap does say they are size 10.

  12. Simon King January 18, 2016 Reply

    Informative read! My favorites are definitely the Reef Fanning!

  13. Rugged Alex January 19, 2016 Reply

    I am currently searching for my next flip flop and am looking for a certain strength. I guide in my flip flops, which means on any given day I am rafting down a river, scrambling around on wet rocks, or hiking up a mountain in my flip flops. Most flips last me about half a season, then that inevitable strap pulling out of the sole strikes and BAM! your stranded, left to stoically hobble back to the van.

    Is there a flip flop out there that has the three straps connected to each other under your feet to prevent this disaster?

    • Nate February 27, 2016 Reply

      Rainbows are the only brand who I know connect the straps inside the footbed. I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it. It’s the standard failure mode for Chacos for me, and sadly it happens when they still have lots of potential life left. The downside of the Rainbows, obviously, is that they don’t seem to make a model that contains to your and my usage. If you find the answer, please let me know, because I am on the same quest for flip flop durability.

  14. Jonathan June 15, 2016 Reply

    I’ve owned 3 different pairs of Chaco flips and in my opinion the heavy rubber sole when connected to the thong results in an uneven balance making them ‘flop’ and slide around on my feet more than any other flip flop. I returned two different pairs to them and tried the leather model as well which became very slippery once they were broken in. I bought a pair of Clark’s on sale though they also have become loose on my feet after about a year. I’m going to get a pair of the Olukai Kia-ii or Ohana flips and pray the strap won’t stretch out and end up being too lose after a few months.

  15. Josh July 12, 2016 Reply

    I’m a fellow flip flop nut & will even wear heavy wool socks (if need be) to rock flops around a campfire after a long day. I will put in long hikes & even scramble in flops. I’ve tried many including chaco’s. I like chaco’s but my all time favorite bar non is teva katavi. They take a long time to conform to your foot, but when they do good luck going back to any other sandal.

  16. Jeff August 11, 2016 Reply

    Love the review.

    Currently on OluKai’s site, there are two models, which is closer to what you reviewed, the KIA‘I KEI or the KIA’I II?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Author

      Thanks, Jeff. And the answer is definitely the KIA’I II. (Currently wearing the Holona, and liking them more and more – though Holona is definitely in a different category than the KIA’I II.)

  17. David September 10, 2016 Reply

    Jonathan,

    My son is in the Peace Corps in Senegal West Africa. He wears his Chaco eco tread flips every day, all day. He lives in the dry, desert-like eastern side of Sengal. While he (and we, his parents) have been wearing Chacos for years I am concerned that the durability is no longer what it used to be.

    He left for Senegal 9/26/2015. He had a brand new pair of eco tread flips at that time. In early March of 2016 this pair began to develop cracks on the front of the flip and was beginning to tear off. Chaco was great and replaced them with no hassle.

    This week (9/9/2016) the strap pulled out of center of one of the flips. I contacted Chaco and was advised they deemed the issue to be “wear and tear regarding how he wears the style” and did not offer to replace them. He does not rock climb or do anything particularly extreme in them – just walks and rides his bike a lot. The temperature over the summer months tends to be 110 -120 degrees F. But, other than constant wear, I do not see that he is abusing these Chacos.

    So, I guess I am kind of venting here but would also like to know your thoughts about any of the flips you have tested and how they might hold up to the “wear and tear” of the desert.

    • Author

      Hi David – sorry to hear about the issues. As far as durability, I’ve got to say that my Chaco flips would still be the answer to your ‘most durable’ question — with the big caveat that my old flips have held up so well, they now pre-date the newer eco tread flips. So I’m not sure whether your son is experiencing some fluke, or his experience is due to a change in materials or the production process.

      But I can’t say that any of the other flips we’ve reviewed here will obviously hold up better. See Nate’s comment above re: Rainbows — seemingly a good fix for the strap pulling out, but I don’t suspect that any Rainbow models will hold up remarkably well in overall durability (Nate agrees). Long and short: we’ve got an unsolved mystery here…

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