What Are the Best Performance Flip-Flops?

Yes, you read that right. We tracked down the best do-anything, go-anywhere sandals, good for so much more than just lounging on the beach.

Aug 28, 2015
Outside Magazine
flip flops

We tested flip flops on a kayaking trip in British Columbia, two road trips in California, and a surf trip in Mexico.    Photo: Courtesy of Chaco


These days, flip-flops are built to be more than just beach shoes. Some are burly enough to hike in, and they’re ideal for the growing number of water sports. Over the past few months, we tested a slew of these crossover sandals on various adventures, including a surf trip in Mexico, a kayaking trip in British Columbia, and two road trips along the California coast. Here are the five that came out on top. 

1. Chaco Z/Volv Flip ($65) 

  Photo: Chaco

The Chaco Z/Volv was our clear favorite of this bunch. They have a minimal build, but we still found them plenty supportive thanks to the firm PU midsole. The soles were grippy and trustworthy—both in and out of the water—and they stayed on when wet thanks to well-designed grooves that funneled water out from underneath our feet. The toe strap is minimal, but it still proved sturdy enough for short hikes, and was comfy even after several miles of walking. Note: If you like soft footbeds, go with the O’Neill or Quicksilver flip-flops instead.

Best For: Getting after it in the water or on land.

2. Olukai Holomua Sandals ($90)

  Photo: Olukai

The Holomua sandal is approved by the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association for all their activities, and we can see why. They had a reassuring grip on sketchy, wet climbs, and we never worried they would come off in rough surf. The sandals stay put thanks to two pieces of adjustable, Velcro webbing that sit on top of the normal toe strap and allow users to dial in the fit. This technology was useful while carrying boats over rocks, but be warned: we had to fiddle with the straps every time we took them off or put them on. If you want a true slip-on, look elsewhere. 

Best For: Demanding users who want technical performance in the water. 

3. Teva Katavi Thong ($55)

  Photo: Teva

This is the best looking sandal on our list thanks to its nice wide foot strap covered in beautiful suede. But don’t let the looks deceive you. The Katavi Thong also performs in treacherous conditions. The wide strap was surprisingly comfy while walking around on variable terrain, and the deep footbed has a stiff, yet springy, feel underfoot. Aggressive tread helped testers stay put on wet rocks, and swaths of mesh meant the sandals dried lightning fast. 

Best For: Looking good at the beach. 

4. Quiksilver AG47 47 Flux Sandal ($55) 

  Photo: Quiksilver

These sandals don’t have the performance chops of a flip-flop like the Chaco Z/Vovl, but they dried quickly thanks to the mesh panels in the toe strap. This made them shine on portions of our kayak trip when we were in and out of our boats and walking through water. They have a deep, supportive foot cup, but the footbeds need some improvement; they feel “almost slimy when wet,” one tester noted, making them slippery while walking.

Best For: Water-to-land transitions. 

5. O’Neill Hyperfreak Sandal ($40) 

  Photo: O'Neill

The Hyperfreaks are feathery light, but also super plush underfoot. These luxury flip-flops broke in to our feet immediately—the fastest on this list—and the PU nubuck strap had the softest next-to-skin feel. They were fine for cruising around the beach or town, but don’t have much traction when you take them off trail, and they take a long time to dry. 

Best For: Staying close to the bar.

Filed To: Sandals, Gear Guy

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