It’s summer’s most casual shoe, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for the drug-store variety. These flip-flops range from the $24 sunbathers’ special to the $110 Birkenstock for hiking up a volcano, then heading to the bar afterward. Keep your feet happy with our 11 favorites for whatever adventure you decide to go on.
- Cushe Manuka Wrap ($70)
- Columbia Women’s Suntech Vent Flip PFG ($35)
- OluKai Holomua ($90)
- Sanuk Tiki Block ($24)
- Ecco Colin Thong ($90)
- Teva Original Flip ($30)
- Chaco Reversiflip ($60)
- Birkenstock Habana Oiled Leather Como ($110)
- Propet Harrison ($70)
- Combat Flips Tuck Tuck ($70)
- Freewaters Scamp ($40)
- Get Rid of Your Rubber Flip-flops — These Are the Comfy Walking Sandals You Need Instead
Cushe Manuka Wrap ($70)
Best for: Minimalists
This soft, full-grain leather flip-flop comes with a cupped suede footbed that breaks in well with wear to conform to your foot. The molded-rubber sole has a Manuka honeycomb design with canvas pressed into it for added durability and support. The sectioned sole isn’t restrictive, and makes walking in these as close to barefoot as you can get with shoes on.
Columbia Women’s Suntech Vent Flip PFG ($35)
Best for: River Rats
These flip-flops are made for river trips, with drainage ports that effectively shed water and also help cool your feet. The cushioned sole was supportive, but not overbuilt, and the colorful straps added a fun pop to most outfits. Bonus: even after being submersed in water, they didn’t get soggy, and they had surprisingly good traction on wet rocks.
OluKai Holomua ($90)
Best for: Hikers
Developed in partnership with the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, the adjustable-strap Holomua is technical footwear made for working professionals. Made for hiking through sharp volcanic rocks, its patent-pending, injected-plastic midsole plate is lightweight but protective. Micro hook-and-loop closure and an aluminum buckle let you dial in fit so you don’t lose them in a swell.
Sanuk Tiki Block ($24)
Best for: Loungers
Sanuks’s Tiki Block is light on technical features, but heavy on comfort and smiley faces (hundreds of which are embossed into the EVA sole). The rubber strap is comfortable, and the sole will last longer than the drug-store version of a simlar shoe.
Ecco Colin Thong ($90)
Best for: Party Animals
The closest thing to a dress flip-flop we’ve seen, the Colin has a distressed leather strap and lining. It’s perforated for breathability, with a microfiber footbed that won’t trap sweat. The direct-injected polyurethane sole won’t compress as quick as an EVA midsole, and of all the flip-flops we tested, this one offered the most support.
Teva Original Flip ($30)
Best for: Raft Guides
Teva was the first to make technical flip-flops, and its Original is still a great buy. The nylon-webbing strap serves as a spot of color above the textured EVA topsole that molds to your feet as you walk. I found these shoes had the grippiest outsole of any other flip-flop I tested, not surprising considering these were originally designed for raft guides.
Chaco Reversiflip ($60)
Best for: Travelers
The Reversiflips have everything you love about your Chaco sandals—good arch support and durability—but you can swap out the straps (which takes about a minute) whenever you want. The shoes come with black straps; colored straps are sold separately ($20). Choose from green/purple, blue/orange, and pink/yellow solid and print packages. They’re the only pair of shoes you’ll need on your next vacation—pack the right straps, and they’ll match any outfit.
$60 for the shoes; $20 for the straps.
Birkenstock Habana Oiled Leather Como ($110)
Best for: Hippies
Birkenstock slip-ons have been a hippie staple since the 1960s. But it’s not just because they were the first sandals with structure. Birkenstock’s cork and natural-latex footbed is contoured to improve your posture and take stress of your back and knees. A toe bar gives your digits something to hold onto—grip and flex your toes to improve circulation and your balance, according to Birkenstock.
Propet Harrison ($70)
Best for: Recovering Athletes
Walking involves half of your body’s muscles and bones, along with numerous joints and ligaments. And if you’re suffering from any injuries, you could be putting additional stresses on certain parts of your body doing even this simple activity. Enter Rejuve’s sandals, whose topsole is designed to improve your posture, stabilize your gait, and supposedly reduce joint pain. This Nubuck leather thong has sweat-wicking neoprene lining in the upper and a cushy EVA midsole over a high-traction outsole.
Combat Flips Tuck Tuck ($70)
(Photo: Combat Flip Flops)
Best for: Do-Gooders
Combat flip-flops aren’t designed for covert beach ops. The company was founded by a veteran who wanted to create job opportunities for entrepreneurs in areas affected by conflict. Afghanistan’s loud, flashy taxis inspired the bright-colored Tuck Tuck, which was made in Bogota, Columbia. Red, green, and blue with yellow stitching, it’ll get some attention. The Tuck Tuck has a cowhide leather deck and thong, a medium-density EVA midsole, and sturdy rubber tread.
Freewaters Scamp ($40)
Best for: Sore Soles
The best thing about the Scamp is the squishy, springy, shock-absorbing Therm-a-Rest footbed. Bedroom slipper comfortable, the ribs massage your feet as you walk. The Scamp footbed absorbs some water when submersed, but take a few steps and it squeezes out. I found the soft webbing straps never chafed the top of my foot.
Filed To: Water ActivitiesWomen’sSandals Lead Photo: Andrew Maguire
Get Rid of Your Rubber Flip-flops — These Are the Comfy Walking Sandals You Need Instead
Dr. Jacqueline Sutera is on a crusade against cheap flip-flops. The New York City–based podiatrist and board-certified foot surgeon could not warn me enough of the perils of walking for an extended period of time atop flimsy rubber slabs.
When we spoke on the phone about how to choose a comfortable sandal for travel, Dr. Sutera was quick to point out what to avoid: stay away from sandals that are super thin and flat.
“We all know that they’re really bad for your feet, especially for women,” she said. “Little girls can kind of get away with for a while. It doesn’t start to catch up with you until later on in life, but I have 20- and 30-year-olds walking around in them all summer and they wonder why their feet hurt in August. It’s not good.”
So what does make for a good walking sandal? Dr. Sutera mentioned three main characteristics: a supportive sole, thick straps, and some sort of back.
Related: 19 Comfy, Travel-Friendly Shoes Made For Walkin’
Starting with the sole, arch support — that little bump in the center of the insole — will help you maintain better alignment. It’s all about keeping your foot as neutral as possible, Dr. Sutera explained, not pronated (rolling inward), not supinated (rolling outward), but right in the middle. “It’s normal to pronate throughout the gait cycle, but it’s overpronation that causes a lot of problems when you have a flat foot, like heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and even stress fractures can happen. An arch support keeps you from overpronating,” she said. A thicker overall sole is best, too. And one that thickens beneath the heel is preferable to one that’s totally flat.
If you’re more comfortable with a heel, a little height is totally OK to add into your packing line-up. In fact, it’s healthier to switch up your shoe height and style from day to day — you’re welcome, over-packers. Even Dr. Sutera dubbed herself a “wedge girl.” “In the summer, that is my go-to,” she said. “Wedges are great because there’s a little heel height so they’re kind of dressy and the surface area that your body weight gets distributed across is a lot greater than a typical high-heel sandal. It has that chunky heel, so it’s also a little bit steadier.”
It’s also smart to look for thicker straps — the more straps the better, because they’ll hold you in — and a shoe that has a back or an ankle strap is ideal. In a slide, thong, or any other open silhouette, your toes are constantly gripping in order to keep the shoe from sliding off your foot. According to Dr. Sutera, that causes strain on the baby muscles in your feet and can also make common issues like bunions, hammer toes, and pinched nerves even worse.
Related: 18 Comfortable Dresses That Are Made to Travel In
Materials matter for comfort, too. Leather lasts really long, but it might not always be so forgiving unless there’s some kind of cushion on the inside. Once it’s broken in, however, it can be really nice to wear. Foam is generally the most comfortable, but it doesn’t last as long. Even if a foam shoe still looks good, long-term wear can diminish its supportive qualities. And rubber — when it’s well-designed — is kind of an in-between, but it might not be as easy to dress up.
If you’ve come all this way and still can’t bear the thought of summer without flip-flops, Dr. Sutera and I can forgive you, while also pleading that you upgrade to a better version. They’re OK to wear to the pool or to protect from hot sand as you scout out a spot for your towel, although she recommends investing in a better-made pair, just in case you happen to wander from the resort and find yourself still standing in them six hours later. Dr. Sutera, who is a member of Vionic’s Innovation Lab, likes the brand’s “Beach Noosa” sandal, which has that thin profile you so crave but is more scientific about support.
But if you’re looking for the real MVPs, we took Dr. Sutera’s tips into the wilds of the internet to find 14 pairs of sandals — from slingbacks to supportive slides to strappy wedges — that are designed to stay comfy for hours of walking.