Best Flip Flops


Reef Fanning, Blister Gear Review
Reef Fanning

Blister’s Measured Weight per Flip: 237 grams & 232 grams

• Water friendly synthetic nubuck upper
• Contoured compression molded EVA footbed with anatomical arch support
• Full 360° heel airbag enclosed in soft polyurethane
• bottle opener
• Reef icon herringbone rubber outsole

MSRP: $55

Days Worn: ~20+

Initially, I was going to rule out the Fanning from this review because of the air sole in the footbed. While nothing in the rules disqualified this, it seemed a bit too techy and somehow something that you shouldn’t find on a flip flop.

But several friends have sworn by this flip and insisted that it be in the running.

Furthermore, I was dealing with a tweaked meniscus—first in my right knee, then in my left—for about a year and a half (edit: this was back around 2013), and I was very curious whether this padded-out flip flip would make a notable difference in terms of comfort.

So back in 2013, if I wore my firm Chaco Flips for long, I would get knee soreness. Perhaps my poor menisci needed that air bubble, and I’m sure there are a ton of Blister readers with thrashed knees who are walking around in flip flops. So it seemed worth investigating.


These are great looking flips, with a relatively wide synthetic nubuck strap that fit my foot perfectly and didn’t slip at all.. The fit and finish of these is excellent, too, and the subtly textured checkered-pattern of the footbed is very comfortable.

I never thought that I would be talking about the ramp angle of a flip flop, but the Fanning definitely has the highest ramp angle of the entire group. (“Ramp angle” is the difference between how high your heel sits off the ground versus your forefoot, when you’re standing in the shoe.) I suppose this makes sense; Reef added that air pocket and jacked up the heel height.

photo of the Reef Fanning air bag, Blister Gear Review

But I felt like I was wearing high heels in these things; they were pushing me up onto the balls of my feet, forcing me out of a neutral, natural gait. I thought that this might diminish as I broke them in, but so far, not at all.

And that air pocket is remarkably firm. We’ll see if it softens up over time, but I don’t expect it to: it’s gas trapped in plastic. (Update, 6.13.13: Nope, these haven’t softened up at all.)

So for me, at least, it is odd that there is an air cushion that raises the height of the heel, but that is so firm that it forces me onto the balls of my feet in a way that increases stress on the knee (and in my case, was further aggravating my unhappy anterior, medial menisci).

Thankfully, my knees are now pain-free, so while the Fannings don’t hurt as they had, that ramp angle still feels very unnatural.

But that air pocket isn’t even the most remarkable thing about the Fanning—that would be the built-in bottle opener on the bottom of the sandal.

Reef Fanning Bottle Opener, Blister Gear Review

If you have a decent sense of humor and don’t hate fun, this will immediately strike you as hilarious and awesome. But think about this for about fifteen seconds … and this will probably strike you as a pretty questionable thing to slap on to the bottom of your footwear.

There are a lot of ways to pop the top off a bottle, and almost every one of those ways is less gross than doing so with the sole of your sandal—you know, your point-of-contact with sticky movie theater floors, dirty bathroom floors, house party vomit, and everything else that happens to be lying on the ground.

But if you absolutely, positively need to crack your beer open with your footwear, then this is definitely the flip for you.

Or, if you’re going on a casual date (no close-toed shoes required) with a girl who’s taller than you and you’re trying to gain a few inches, then these platform-shoe flip flops ought to do the trick. But everybody else might want to take a look at a different flip in Reef’s lineup, the Playa Negra.


REEF PLAYA NEGRA, size 10 (Discontinued)

Reef Playa Negra, Blister Gear Review
Reef Playa Negra

Blister’s Measured Weight per Flip: 209 grams & 209 grams

• Water friendly synthetic leather upper
• Eco-friendly, water based adhesives
• Heavy textured thermo-sliced footbed
• Deep contoured 51% recycled EVA midsole
• Reef supreme design outsole made of 25% recycled rubber

MSRP: $50

Days Worn: ~40

The Playa Negra has been discontinued, which is too bad since it was an excellent, good looking, do-everything flip. They aren’t quite as cushy as the OluKai Kia’i or ‘Ohana, and they aren’t as firm as either the Reef Fanning or the Chaco Flip. They find a nice middle ground.

Furthermore, the textured footbed (click on the image to zoom) might have been my favorite out of a very good group. Very comfortable.

The arch support is subtle—which I like—and is very comparable to the rest of the group (except for the OluKai ‘Ohana, see below).

On my feet, the Playa Negra doesn’t seem to fit quite as precisely as the other flips in the group—the length seems to run a little bit longer through the toe box—but it’s nothing I notice when wearing them. And if you have long but skinny feet, these might fit you better than the rest of the bunch.

It’s a very good, straightforward option that I could happily grab every day, and, again, that textured footbed is sweet.

For longer hikes and serious scrambling, these are on par with the OluKai ‘Ohana; just a bit behind the OluKai Kia’i; and definitely behind the Chaco Flip.


38 comments on “Best Flip Flops”

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

      • 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.

  6. 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!

    • 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.

      • 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.

  7. 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 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.

      • 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.

  8. 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?


    • 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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!

      • 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.

  10. 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?

    • 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

    • 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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