Updated July 2017
What better way to get ready for summer than with a new pair of flip flops? We've got you covered. We tested 11 of the top models and found a new Editors' Choice Award winner, the Birkenstock Gizeh. Other top performers include our Best Buy winner, the Teva Olowahu, the OluKai Lala, our new Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, along with the Merrell Around Town Thong, our Top Pick for Hiking or Scrambling. Which pair will you choose?
Best Overall Women's Flip-Flop
Takes time to break in
Toe post is very stiff
The Birkenstock Gizeh
snapped up our Editors' Choice award after excelling in every rating metric and test we put it up against - even some that surprised us. This supremely well-made sandal became more comfortable the longer we wore it and also offered the most support and stability of all our tested models. While the aesthetic of the Gizeh doesn't do it for some people, most found it to be among the most stylish in our test suite, and repeatedly while hiking around on all manner of terrain we were impressed by the traction. This shoe is an investment, but if you're looking for something that will last many years and can handle all kinds of situations, this is a rock solid choice.
Read review: Birkenstock Gizeh
Best Bang for the Buck
Harder to put on
The Teva Olowahu
is a sassy and stylish shoe at a very sweet price, making it an easy pick for our Best Buy award. The squishy foam footbed molds to your feet over time and the unique strap pattern makes it an ideal candidate for everything from shorts and leggings to a cute dress for a night on the town. It's not the most durable flip-flop we reviewed, and the straps took longer to dry when wet than other tested models, but aesthetically this was a crowd favorite and for only $25, we think the Olowahu is a beyond a steal
Read review: Teva Olowahu
Top Pick for Stylish Adventures
Runs small and narrow
We had a group of women rate all our tested flip-flops from most to least stylish, and the Lala
was far and away the crowd favorite. But this isn't just a pretty sandal to look at, it's also a well-constructed and durable shoe that performed excellently across all our metrics. The Lala felt secure on steep terrain and dried quickly when wet, all while looking gorgeous and feeling luxurious. It definitely runs small and narrow, so it's not for everyone, but for narrow-footed fashionistas that also want to be ready for all the adventures of summer, this is a great shoe to consider.
Read review: OluKai Lala
Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling
Merrell Around Town Thong
Stable on technical terrain
Cork footbed lining peels off
Leather edges sharp when new
If you happen to find yourself scrambling up steep rocks and down dusty rugged trails while in flip flops, the Merrell Around Town
would be a great shoe to have on your feet. With fantastic traction, an adjustable buckle, and an overall burly design, it's easy to feel confident in terrain where a more minimal sandal would be cause for concern. The Merrell strikes a great balance between form and function, looking stylish enough to illicit compliments from passerby and yet rugged enough to not worry about getting dirty and muddy. An excellent choice for the adventurer that never knows where their day will take them!
Read review: Merrell Around Town Thong
Analysis and Test Results
For many of us, it is a joyous time of year when socks go from cozy to stifling and it's time to break out the flip flops. If you're in need of a new pair, you could absolutely go grab something simple and plastic for $5 or $10 that will last a season or two, but we think your feet deserve better! Admittedly, choosing the right sandal is less important than finding the right trail running shoe or the best fitting hiking boot, but opting for something with extra support, traction, and comfort can help keep your feet and joints healthy, especially if you spend a lot of time in open-toed footwear. Read on to learn about the pros, cons, and rating metrics of the 11 pairs of flip-flops we rigorously tested through a spring and summer in the Rocky Mountains - an area known for its variable weather and beautifully rugged landscapes. For more detailed information on how to choose your next pair, be sure to check out our Buying Advice article
From dry and dusty to wet and muddy, we put our flip flops through months of obstacles to help you find your perfect pair.
Ah, feet. Unique, tough, strange, sometimes smelly, and without question worthy of our respect and admiration. The requirements for keeping these workhorses healthy and happy are different for each person, so assessing this metric was a multifaceted and involved process. Comfort is highly subjective and, as such, the scores we awarded in this category reflect a number of factors observed over time. We took note of how comfortable each pair of flips felt straight out of the box, how cozy they became over time with some breaking in, and how the materials felt on foot in a variety of situations and terrain. Our top picks for comfort showcase some very diverse shoes, each with their own appeal depending on your foot shape and what your needs are.
None of the sandals we tested were uncomfortable by any means (we test the cream of the crop here at OutdoorGearLab!), but some were definitely more luxurious than others. Our winner in this category, the OluKai Ohana, provided the "ooooh ahhh" factor more than any other shoe
. With a super soft molded drop-in footbed inspired by the feeling of bare feet in wet sand, the feel of these shoes is pretty unique and delightful. Almost every single tester had a moment when first slipping them on where some sort of pleasurable noise was uttered. The Ohana
was also one of the more comfortable shoes to walk around in when wet.
The Ohana is a seriously comfortable flip flop that every tester enjoyed wearing in a variety of situations.
A close runner up to the Ohana
was our Editors' Choice, the Gizeh
, but for pretty different reasons. The Gizeh
, as with all Birkenstocks
, molds to its owner's feet over time. When the shoe is, new, it can feel quite stiff and unfriendly, but with some patience and perseverance, you will be rewarded. The contoured footbed and upturned sides hug the feet snugly, and the brushed leather on the footbed and the underside of the straps is soft and supple. The hard rubber toe post was the one thing that might turn people off to this shoe, as it can be quite painful at first. But, at least for us, after a few long days of wear, it ceased to be an issue.
The Birkenstock Gizeh is a classy sandal that worked its way into into our hearts as it molded to our feet, becoming more comfortable with every outing.
Not far behind the Gizeh
we had several shoes that offered a really satisfying and comfortable wearing experience. Our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, the Lala
, with its wide supple straps and smooth footbed, was a crowd favorite for those with narrow feet. The Sanuk Yoga Chakra has a footbed made out of real yoga mats
, so every step feels plush and squishy. And the Tide II
has built-in orthotics, giving it the best arch support of all the models we tested. Another favorite was the Rainbow Premier
, a simple design made from soft supple leather that was super comfy right from the get-go.
Some of our more comfortable flips out for a hike! From left to right we have the Lala, Yoga Chakra, and Tide II.
Support & Stability
It's easy to think that support and stability aren't particularly important with a nominal summery shoe, but a well-constructed flip-flop with a better fit means happier feet and less potential for pain and injury over time. Just because sandals are minimal shoes doesn't mean you have to sacrifice proper support. On top of that, many of us spend a good portion of the year in this kind of footwear and, with the nature of warm weather adventures, you never quite know where the day might take you and what you might want to be able to navigate. Better to be ready for anything than cursing your feet with every step!
To properly test this metric we went for some very rigorous hikes that many people would grab a pair of hiking boots or shoes for - not flip flops! We climbed rocks, trudged through mud, and navigated some treacherously steep downhills. We also walked on a lot on hot hard pavement, rode bikes, and even waded around in a river. All in all, we put these shoes through the ringer, learning a ton about their strengths and weaknesses in the process.
Far and away the shoe with the best support was the Gizeh
. Even before it molded to our anatomy we noticed how well it hugged each foot and supported the arch. The upturned sides kept us cradled in place so there was never a worry that we would slip off the edge when on varied terrain or when the shoe was wet. As the Gizeh
got broken in and personalized, these qualities only improved. Whether on a hiking trail or strolling through town, this shoe did not disappoint.
Though the Gizeh looks like a dressy urban shoe, it definitely holds its own out on rough terrain, and impressed us with its comfort, stability, and traction.
The other flip that offered some of the best support and stability was the Vionic Tide II
. This shoe has built-in orthotics and, when fitted correctly, holds the foot snugly and securely (the Tide II
does run big, so if you're in-between sizes be sure to size down, as we did). Even on steep and unpredictable hikes, we felt completely confident in each step. The embedded orthotics do create a very high arch support, something important to keep in mind when considering this sandal as that feature can feel amazing on some feet and quite painful on others.
The Tide II felt secure and supportive no matter where we decided to explore.
Our Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling, the Merrell Around Town
was also, no surprise, an exceedingly stable shoe. With wide adjustable straps and burly traction, we often felt like we had hiking shoes on, not sandals! The footbed is very smooth and isn't quite as contoured as the Gizeh
or Tide II
, but we felt no loss in security and were ready for whatever adventure the day threw at us.
Navigating rough and rugged terrain was no problem in the burly Around Town Thong Buckle.
As mentioned previously, you can certainly get a pair of flip flops for less than buying a couple cocktails, but they likely won't last you very long or make your feet feel particularly good. When you invest a bit more in your purchase the hope is that they will be with you for years to come - depending on how hard you are on them, of course. Some manufacturers even offer resoling, strap replacement, and more, which is a great thing to investigate if you're someone prone to wearing through sandals quickly.
While we only tested these flips over the course of several months, not years, we felt this was an important metric to include and take note of. We can't be entirely certain how continued exposure to the elements and everyday wear and tear will affect these summer accessories, but some things were obvious to us right from the get go. We scored each pair by assessing the materials used in their creation and by noting small bits of damage that occurred in our short, but intense, testing period.
No surprise, the Chaco Flip EcoTread was among the most durable of all the flip flops we tested
. With a strong rubber sole and high-quality webbing straps, this flip can take some serious use before showing hardly any wear. As with all webbing, over time it softens and frays a bit, and rubber soles eventually wear off their tread, but it's clear that the EcoTread
is made for longevity and can handle all manner of environmental elements.
You will have no problem wearing the Flip EcoTread for many years without fear of it falling apart or looking shabby. There's definitely a reason you see Chaco's so often in rugged places like Colorado!
The Tide II
was another high scorer in this category, showing itself to clearly be a shoe that can be worn for many years without hardly a dent. With robust soles and padded webbing straps, the construction of this shoe isn't that different from the Flip EcoTread
, though we found it to be a bit more sturdy. At the end of our rigorous testing period this impressive sandal still didn't look a day past brand new. This is definitely a great flip-flop to invest in for the long haul.
Both the Vionic Tide II and the Chaco Flip EcoTread are great sandals to choose for durability and longevity.
Again the Gizeh
rose to the top of the pack, keeping up the impressive reputation that Birkenstock
has earned over the years. Like them or hate them, you can't help but notice when you pull them from the box how well-made they are. Pegged as a more urban, less sporty shoe, the Gizeh
had no problem keeping up with or surpassing the more "outdoorsy" models like the Flip EcoTread
and the Merrell Around Town
. After trudging through mud and wading in rivers, the Gizeh
barely showed any signs of our adventures. Granted, this attractive leather shoe isn't the one to pick if you plan to spend every day in mud and dirt, but you can feel confident that if your day does lead you into a rainstorm or down a dusty trail that your Gizeh
won't be the thing holding you back.
The one place that Birkenstocks
start to show wear is on the footbed. As the light-colored suede molds to your feet, it darkens in color, leaving a nice footprint of your appendages. Obviously, when the shoes are on foot, you can't see this unique personalization.
Wet or dry, urban or remote, the Gizeh felt trustworthy and superbly well-made.
Our two OluKai
contenders, the Ohana
and our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures, the Lala
are also worth mentioning here. OluKai
has built a reputation for knowing how to make great sandals, and both of these models easily lived up to the hype with bomber construction and high-quality materials.
The Ohana and the Lala getting frisky during some fun outdoor excursions. Both sandals are well constructed and clearly able to take abuse without falling apart or looking ragged.
How a warm weather shoe deals with getting wet is a pretty important aspect to consider when assessing its overall performance because it's bound to come up. From spring puddles to summer rainstorms, sprinklers, and beaches, the sandal you choose should be able to handle moisture without making your feet feel gross or insecure. We put our tested flips through some serious tests for this metric, everything from light waterings while walking to full immersion and saturation in a river. While almost all the shoes handled small amounts of water really well, fully soaking them revealed more variability and divisions in performance than in any other category.
Both the Reef Leather Uptown
and the Rainbow Single Layer Premier soared to the top of this metric
. These minimal flips, despite being made out of leather, are clearly meant to be able to handle watery conditions. After being fully submerged in water, both sandals took a mere 20 minutes in full sun to be completely dry. The footbeds quickly absorb and wick away water, making them effortless to walk in when wet because nothing stays pooled on the surface.
Whether it was a light sprinkling or full immersion, the Rainbow Premier handled water with ease, all the while feeling great on our feet.
The Flip EcoTread
and the Tide II
also easily came out near the top for this metric. Both sport a nonporous footbed that dries exceedingly quickly, especially if there's some air flow. Laying out in full sun after walking in a river, the footbed on these flips took a mere 3-4 minutes to fully dry. If you continue to walk while a lot of water is present, both sandals briefly feel a bit slippy and make some farting noises, but this doesn't last long. The straps on both pairs took considerably longer to dry, just over 30 minutes, but neither felt unpleasant on the skin to wear while damp.
To assess how well our tested flips were able to handle some serious water, every pair got a chilly river bath on a hot day. Here we see some of the contenders with the Chaco Flip EcoTread - an easy top performer for this metric - on the far right.
Being that OluKai
is a Hawaiian-based company, it was no surprise that both the Lala
and the Ohana
also handled water quite well. Though what did
surprise us was that the fancy Lala
actually outperformed its more rugged counterpart by a fair margin, a big reason we awarded it our Top Pick for Stylish Adventures. The footbed on the Lala
wicks water away from the surface incredibly fast, and while the wide leather straps stay damp for longer, they feel cool, soft, and pleasant on the skin. The Ohana
took longer all around to dry, but the main thing we noticed with both of these sandals was that the materials, even when very wet, felt comfortable and pleasing to wear.
Some of our top performers in the water resistance test, from L to R: the Reef Leather Uptown, Olukai's Lala and Ohana, the Rainbow Premier, and the Vionic Tide II.
Often people fail to think about traction when purchasing footwear they don't equate with hiking, running, or climbing. But if you're anything like us here at OutdoorGearLab, you'll end up using your flip-flops for crag approaches, impromptu hikes, and various random scrambles. If that sounds like your lifestyle as well, then it's to your benefit to have a shoe that won't have you slip-sliding all over the place and fearing for your ankles. All our tested sandals did decently, having only a few months of wear on brand new rubber, but a handful clearly rose to the top and impressed us with their extra stickiness.
There's a second piece to this though: it's easy to think about traction as only a bottom-of-the-sole thing, which, to be sure, is how most people think about it. But in actuality, a leading cause of slipping and sliding, particularly while wearing something like flip-flops, is due to lack of footbed
traction. This was definitely something we took note of during muddy hikes and river walks, as well as when we were just walking around town looking for a bite to eat.
The Merrell Around Town
was our Top Pick for Hiking and Scrambling mainly because it provided the best and most secure traction. Combine that with supportive adjustable straps and we had a winning recipe for navigating uncertain terrain. No matter where we took this shoe, it felt sticky and robust; the single exception was a particular hike that involved lots of watery mud puddles. This obstacle rendered all of our flips more than a bit unstable, which also caused other hikers in high-top boots to look at us as though we'd lost a few marbles. Consistently the Around Town
made us feel as secure as though we were in a much more substantial shoe. Suffice it to say, outside of a few swing season edge cases, we would be quite happy to have these flips on our feet for most all easy-to-moderate hikes.
Even on steep, dusty, and insecure terrain, the Around Town Thong Buckle felt super solid, making it easy to hike with confidence.
Finishing just below the Merrell Around Town
was the Tide II
. Viewed as more of a traditional flip-flop design, the straps don't cover as much surface area on each foot as the Merrell
, but with its snug fit and impressive traction we felt confident on all kinds of loose gravel and uncertain terrain.
It's important to note that this is contingent on having the proper size, as the Tide II
does seem to run quite large. We ordered all our flip-flops in the same size, but the Vionic
was so much bigger than all the others it looked like a random men's shoe had been thrown into the mix. We ended up returning it for one size smaller which provided a far superior fit. If you have a half size foot (as our main tester did) and want to enjoy all the benefits this flip has to offer, we recommend sizing down.
The Tide II is an impressive flip flop with built in orthotics and excellent traction that allowed us to happily navigate some very insecure terrain.
Once again our trusty Gizeh
finished toward the top of the pack. The brushed leather footbed provides fantastic internal traction, and the raised footbed edge, which is especially high at the front to protect the toes, helps cup the foot for added security. This shoe had the best footbed traction which is why it received the highest scores for our support and stability metric. The bottom sole is not as sticky as the Merrell Around Town
or the Tide II
, but it still easily imparts a feeling of security and confidence in all kinds of environments.
Once again the Gizeh, a sandal we had initially pegged as just a pretty urban shoe, impressed us in the great outdoors with its traction, both on the sole and in the footbed.
The flip-flops in this review represent a wide array of styles, from rugged and athletic to delicate and feminine. We polled a sizable group of women in order to generate our style scores as objectively as possible. The data we gathered revealed a broad spectrum of opinions, but not surprisingly the more athletic flips ended up lower on most everyone's list. Be sure to check out the individual reviews for more detailed pictures and descriptions of each pair.
Our individual reviews also break down the fit of each piece. This type of footwear typically only comes in whole sizes, and since our main tester was a half size, we have some helpful information about whether to size up or down. Fit is an extremely personal and critical aspect of finding the perfect shoe, and you don't want straps in weird places or toes falling off edges. We assessed length, width, strap volume, and toe box features so that you can make an informed decision based on the shape of your unique feet.
The runaway winner out of our 11 contenders for this category was the OluKai Lala
. The Lala
isn't just a pretty thing to look at though, it impressed us across all our rating metrics, which is why we awarded it a Top Pick for Stylish Adventures. With wide attractive straps, a unique hand-wrapped toe-post, and an overall sleek design, it's no wonder people loved this shoe. Throw in the fact that it also had decent traction, handled water well, and was quite comfortable, and you have a winning combination. The Lala
does run quite narrow and small though, so definitely plan to size up if you're a half size, and possibly even if you're not. If you have wide feet, this may not be the best choice for you, so consider trying it on in person before purchasing.
The Lala was a clear crowd favorite - it's a beautiful shoe that looks great with everything from jeans to evening wear.
Right behind the Lala
in our style poll was the Olowahu
, our Best Buy award winner. With cute interlaced straps and a cushy foam footbed, this was an easy sandal for people to love. Whether you're sporting shorts, jeans, or a cute dress for the evening, this shoe can easily be dressed up or down. And when you consider that the Oluwahu
retails for a mere $25, owning it is practically a no-brainer. Fit-wise we found that on some shapes of feet the pinkie toe had a tendency of popping out the side, so be aware that these straps, cute as they are, won't work for everybody.
Whether it was dressed up, dressed down, or somewhere in the middle, everyone loved the look of the Teva Olowahu.
It's probably no surprise at this point that the Gizeh
also finished very high in the style department. While the look of Birkenstocks
, and especially the Gizeh
, doesn't appeal to everyone, most people find it to be a classy shoe that looks beautiful with a lot of different kinds of outfits.
A birds eye view of all our tested flip-flops! From L to R: Birkenstock Gizeh, Chaco Flip EcoTread, Merrell Around Town Thong Buckle, Olukai Lala, Olukai Ohana, Rainbow Single Layer Premier, Reef Leather Uptown, Sanuk Yoga Chakra, Teva Azure 2-Strap, Teva Olowahu, Vionic Tide II
Be aware that a quality leather shoe like this one will take some breaking in - don't get frustrated if they hurt in the beginning, the longer you wear them, the more dreamy they will become.
And from the side, L to R: Birkenstock Gizeh, Chaco Flip EcoTread, Merrell Around Town Thong Buckle, Olukai Lala, Olukai Ohana, Rainbow Single Layer Premier, Reef Leather Uptown, Sanuk Yoga Chakra, Teva Azure 2-Strap, Teva Olowahu, Vionic Tide II
Next time you lower down from a tough climb or finish a brutal workout, be sure you have a trusty and comfortable pair of flip flops waiting to embrace your tired feet. Or 11 pairs!
Finding just any pair of flip-flops for warm weather is by no means difficult, but finding a pair with appropriate support, traction, and comfort for your lifestyle is a different story. Our expert team of testers put these 11 contenders through many thousands of steps on all kinds of terrain in order to gain a deep and comprehensive understanding of each pair. And we did it all to ensure that you can make the best choice possible for your feet, your environment, and your personal style. Maximize your spring and summer experience with some open-toed shoes that can handle every facet of a well-lived life!