It's a tough job to have to stroll through beautiful places for several months in 11 different pairs of top-of-the-line flip-flops, but someone's gotta do it! Through a spring and early summer in the Rocky Mountains we walked, hiked, and scrambled to the crag, the grocery store, and everywhere in between. We navigated steep and dusty trails, muddy switchbacks, chilly rivers, and urban sidewalks while paying close attention to every aspect and nuance of each shoe.
Feet are a funny thing, and as great as a pair of flip-flops might be for one person, to someone else they may be a disaster. We kept this in mind as we tested each pair on varied terrain and with different sized and shaped feet. Ultimately only you know what will be perfect for your own body, but we think we can at least help guide your decision a bit, especially if you're feeling overwhelmed by all the choices.
Comfort is highly subjective and no one can tell you for certain what you will and won't like. But some things are pretty universal, like the fact that soft, supple materials feel good on our skin and rough, sharp ones don't. We assessed the comfort of all our flip-flops from a number of perspectives; we noted how comfortable each pair was right out of the box, how it felt over time as we broke it in, and how each one felt when wet, sweaty, or dirty. Check out the individual reviews for complete details on how each sandal performed across these scenarios, as well as information about particular features you either require or want to avoid.
Support & Stability
With something like a hiking boot, you expect support and stability to be discussed and tested, but with minimal footwear like a flip-flop it's an aspect that's often overlooked. There are tons of options out there for bottom dollar that offer zero support and also probably won't last you very long. But with a bit more research and a few more bucks, you can get something that will support your feet dramatically more and help you feel stable and secure on all manner of terrain. We tested this and many of the other metrics by taking our flip-flops out into scenarios that, frankly, they had no business being on! We walked submerged in water, used logs as balance beams, scaled rock faces, and hiked on some seriously steep and muddy trails. By pushing the boundaries of what this kind of shoe is normally used for, we were able to gain a deep understanding of the strengths and limitations of each pair.
This was the one metric we couldn't test quite as deeply, having only 3 months with each shoe instead of a couple years. However, we were able to take a close look at the materials and construction of every model and note what, if any, wear and tear we saw beginning to take effect in our time with these sandals. We were also able to assess some things based solely on common sense - like the fact that webbing and rubber will simply last longer than foam and cloth. On top of that, we put each pair through some burly obstacles, not shying away from getting dirty, wet, muddy, and sweaty. All in all, we think we were able to come up with some useful information that will help inform your decision of what to buy.
Our water resistance tests were comprehensive and two-fold. The first round involved getting the footbed of each pair wet and then walking around. We took note of how the wet footbed felt on our skin, and how long it took to feel dry while walking. The idea with this test was to simulate getting stuck in the rain or walking through a puddle.
For our second test, we fully immersed each shoe in a chilly river for 30-45 seconds, making sure they were completely soaked through. We then laid them out in full sun on the river bank on a bluebird 80° day and timed how long it took both the footbed and straps to totally dry. The difference in performance between these two tests was incredible. While every pair was able to handle a small amount of water decently, with a thorough soaking we were able to see which shoes truly resisted water and which ones soaked it in. We had some flip-flops dry in minutes while others took hours or even days to be back to normal.
Traction was also a two-fold assessment for us. We paid attention to how well the outer sole kept us connected to the ground, as well as if our feet stayed secure within the footbed when both wet and dry. It almost doesn't matter how sticky the bottom of a sandal is if the footbed allows you to slide all over the place. Besides the water test described above, we also hiked through muddy puddles, down many steep and dusty trails, and played around on all manner of rocks and logs.
For style we polled close to 20 women, asking them to rate our 11 tested flip-flops in order from most to least stylish. No surprise, opinions varied, but there was an overall trend that was pretty undeniable. We created two different point systems to calculate our poll results and the outcome between the two came out almost identical. On top of that our testers paid attention to the sandals that turned more heads and garnered more compliments from strangers.
While we don't have a dedicated rating metric for fit this is, of course, another thing we paid close attention to, both when assessing comfort and when noting the attractiveness of each pair. For example, some straps don't work with certain people's toes, and some of the narrower models, beautiful as they may be, simply don't look good on a wide foot. These details are all discussed in each individual review.
Be sure to check out our main Best in Class review for an overview of all our award winners and top performers. If you want more technical details regarding features you might want to prioritize, how a flip-flop should fit your foot, or what type of material you might like best, check out the Buying Advice article.