REEF FANNING, size 10
Blister’s Measured Weight per Flip: 237 grams & 232 grams
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.
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.
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)
Blister’s Measured Weight per Flip: 209 grams & 209 grams
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.
NEXT: OLUKAI KIA’I and ‘OHANA