OLUKAI KIA’I, size 10
Blister’s Measured Weight per Flip: 230 grams & 229 grams
Days Worn: ~300
Walking around in OluKais is like being hugged by a rainbow. Or like duct taping little bunnies to the bottom of your feet.
(That second analogy works better the less you actually think about it, so let’s quickly move on….)
The footbed of the OluKai Kia’i (and the ‘Ohana) feels like a foam mattress that takes on the shape of your body as you lie there for a while. Throughout a break-in period, the footbeds become a bit more firm and conform to your foot.
These are incredibly comfortable. The Chaco Flip has been the only flip flops I’ve worn over the past four or five years, and stepping into the Kai’i for the first time was weird, because they are so different, so much cushier. My immediate impression was that the Kia’i made the Chacos feel like they didn’t have any cushioning at all. It was kind of shocking, actually.
Most impressive to me, however, is that the Kia’i strikes a great balance between cushion and support. If you’re going to be on your feet for long periods of time, these are my first choice. The Chaco Flips feel too firm, the other flips in the group feel a little too soft and unsupportive.
On our review trip to Argentina, I did about a 10-mile walk through Mendoza in these, including a fairly steep scramble up a very loose and rocky DH mountain bike course that overlooked General San Martín Park (the view was gorgeous) and a pretty sketchy scramble back down, in the dark. (I definitely wished that I was in a good trail shoe or hiking boot at that point.)
The traction of the Kia’i is impressive, far better than I imagined, and on par with the excellent traction of the Chaco Flip.
Getting back to that cushioning, out of the box, my feeling about the Kia’i was that there is no possible way that these squishy footbeds could be very durable. But so far so good, and long term durability really is my only question mark about these things.
Update #1 — 6.13.13: It’s been 20 months since I posted this review, and I’ve put at least another 200 days in these flips (that’s a conservative guess). And on the durability front, my initial questions / concerns have proved to be unwarranted. These have held up remarkably well. Showing no signs of wear beyond what I initially reported. I honestly didn’t expect that I’d get the mileage out of these that I have, and these won’t need to be replaced anytime soon. Impressive.)
Update #2 — 7.1.16: Yep, I still have the same pair of these, and I still wear them. That means that this particular pair is going on five years old. The tread is now showing a bit of wear, and the straps have stretched out a bit. But all-in-all, I’d say that it is fair to call these flips quite durable.
OLUKAI ‘OHANA, size 10
Blister’s Measured Weight per Flip: 226 grams & 220 grams
Days Worn: ~75
The ‘Ohana is a slightly more relaxed flip than the Kia’i. They feel a tiny bit wider, and a tiny bit more cushy than the Kia’i—probably the most cushy of any of the five flips in the test.
They do, however, have a slightly higher arch than the Kia’i, and though I have a high arch, I personally preferred the lower arch of the Kia’i, though both are still incredibly comfortable. (The arch of the ‘Ohana feels higher on the inside of the arch, whereas all the other flips in the test feel like the arch is more centered and not as prominent on the inside of the footbed. This is something that seems to be diminishing / flattening out a bit as I continue to wear them, and in any case, it’s subtle as is.)
If you don’t wear flips that much, or don’t put your flips through as much rough terrain as I do, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t love these. And if you’ve met any OluKai fanatics that describe the comfort of their flips in ways that make it sound like these flip flops lead to mystical experiences of the divine, there’s a good chance that they were talking about the ‘Ohana.
But given my criteria, the Kia’i is the better choice: it is still incredibly comfortable, just not quite as plush as the ‘Ohana, but a little more performance-oriented. But again, all of these differences between the two are really quite subtle.
NEXT: CHACO FLIP