Price Tag Cage Match: Flip-Flops, Interactive Edition

By Amalah

A request from the comments:
I want a cage match for flip-flops — super cheap ones from Old Navy vs. more expensive fabric-ish ones from other stores like J. Crew or American Eagle.
After Miranda suggested a Flip-Flop Cage Match, a whole slew of you seconded and thirded (thirded? really? that looks way wrong) the idea. So here it is! Sort of, because I didn’t rush out and buy a dozen different brands of flip-flops specifically for this column.
I freaking LIVE in flip-flops in the summer, and yet I rarely spend much money on them. Mostly because my dog eats them.
See? My favorite pair from last year:
I bought these at a Polo outlet for about $15. And they were great. Thick yet flexible soles, a design that didn’t rub off on my feet and straps that were awfully comfortable, considering they were just plastic. Pretty much everything I look for in a flip-flop.
I looked high and low for an identical pair, but Polo no longer seems to make this color. (I found them in red and orange, but eh.) So this year, I bought these instead:
Again, they were about $15 at DSW (Discount Shoe Warehouse — kind of a big clearinghouse for last season’s shoes). SO comfortable. The straps are fabric-lined and stretchy and the soles are cushy and thick without being platform-like.
But then I decided I needed a brown pair, so I bought a cute animal print pair at Old Navy for less than five bucks.
Yeah. That’s five bucks I should have saved for a Frappaccino. These shoes SUCK.
The straps don’t fit my feet, the soles are stringy and flimsy…and the design rubbed off the very first day I wore them. Biiig thumbs down to Old Navy flip-flops.
So those are the only specific flip-flops I can tell you about, other than just some general things I avoid at any price: Super-thin straps are more likely to cut your feet, while super-thin soles put more stress on your legs. And any type of knot or buckle or shifty fabric on the strap will probably give you blisters. I also cannot wear those around-the-big-toe kind. They frighten me.
A couple people left testimonials re: their favorite flip-flops in the comments, and since there were SO MANY COMMENTS, I’m gonna copy them here for anybody who missed them:
Meghan says:

I wear my Chaco flip flops every single day, all year round. I peel off my socks and shoes and wear the chacos all evening around the house.
The price tag ($50) seems steep, but they have the same vibram sole as their more substansial sandals, and if you’re an outdoor/camping nut like I am, you’ll know that Vibram soles are what you will find in the $300 hiking boots that people who hike Everest wear. Vibram=good stuff.
They are light, and have fantastic arch support (the only sandals that don’t leave my fallen arches aching after a day’s worth of wear,) and will last you forever. In fact, they will replace the webbing on all of their sandals (not for free, but for cheep) so consider it an investment!
Much love for the chacos. Try them. I’m a huge REI whore (I worked there while in med school, hence my addiction to Keen shoes and Chaco sandals) but I would recommend buying them from zappos, because then if you hate them, you can send them back and it won’t cost you anything.

Heels says:

In my experience, Reef flip-flops = wear-all-day comfort without the price tag of Chaco (which are awesome, but are more “sport” sandal than fashion flip-flop). I know people who run/hike in Reefs. Plus, they come in lots of colors/styles. I have two pair (I NEED MORE!!!) and I’m not even a big flip-flop wearer!

So now it’s your turn — tell us about your favorite flip-flops. Or your least favorite. Because I…uh…need at least another couple pairs to see me through summer, so please give me some super-cute ideas.

Published May 14, 2007. Last updated May 14, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Stephanie

    May 14, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    As for cheap flip flops…Payless Shoes or Wal-Mart. I have gigantic feet, so it’s hard for me to find flip flops, so these are my two choices. I usually wear them to bum around or when I just want something cute for my outfit…not for walking! If I am going to be out and about…my favorite summer sandal is the Merrell Belluna. It’s neoprene and stretchy, so it accomodates my feet (even when they swell). It has the base like an athletic shoe, but not as bulky as the Keen or Teva variety. Awesome shoe in my book. I would recommend other Merrell sandals as well, but they don’t come in my size. 🙁

  • mdvelazquez

    May 14, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    I always stick to to flip flops that have cloth straps and thongs. The rubber ones never quite feel comfortable to me. I also avoid thin straps because of the cutting and because they don’t slip on and off as easily since the straps tend to twist.
    I love my Reefs and $30-35 might be steep, but you will have them for years. I alos lucked out last year and found Polo cloth flip flops for under $7 at at $10 store and I bought 3 in different colors. I also found nice cloth flip flops at Payless and Century21 Department store.

  • Easterlily

    May 14, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Never commented before but i saw the Polo flip flops and I got excited. I was at the Polo outlet in Potomac Mills 2 weeks ago, and they had those exact pair in pink! I bought a dress in that shade of pink and the sales person was trying to get me to buy the shoes to match, but i said no, thats too much pink.
    I am also into week 3 of breaking in my Rainbow flip flops. Bought them at Nordstrom for $40something. People tell me that if you wear them enough they become very comfortable but so far my feet hate me.

  • mtngray

    May 14, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    I love Merrells because they’re cute, comfy, and can be found in my size (a five…little feet). I recently found a pair of their flip flops at Nordstrom Rack on sale for around $20. They’re so comfy. I wear them all the time. I’m wearing them now!

  • Mel R

    May 14, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    My new favorites:
    Men’s sizes only and color is blah, but I think I can live with both of those seeing how the flip flops have tiny flasks built into them. Yea, I think I’ll live.

  • Maggie

    May 14, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Yeah, I don’t know how to make the link fancy, but these are the most comfortable flip flops I have ever owned. I buy them every year:

  • Secha

    May 14, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I bought a pair of flip flops when I was in hawaii one year… the brand was “Locals” and they were about 2$. I was 12 when I bought them, and I wore the crap out of them up until last memorial day weekend (I was just about to turn 20) when they got a HUGE thorn in the bottom, that I could not get out for the life of me.
    I still have them, and try to wear them from time to time, but the thorn kills me. >.>
    So… I bought myself a pair of OP flip flops from Kohl’s, for about 10$, and love them. They have a half way decent arch support, and they are so comfortable. They are the best things ever. They’ve molded to my feet, and just fit so comfortably. But they aren’t as good as my locals. =( But I’m going to find another color this summer of the OPs to switch it up a bit. =)

  • ikate

    May 14, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    About 4 years ago I got a pair of Keds flip-flops at Kohl’s on sale for $19. I loved them and went back twice over the summer and got 2 more pairs in other colors (black, pink & green). They rock and all are still with me, but are showing some serious wear. I admit I had to use crazy glue on two of the pairs last summer. They are super comfortable, even when walking a lot. For 3 summers they are all I wore (last summer, while prego they were all that fit!). I can’t find them anywhere on-line but they are very similar to these:

  • April

    May 14, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    I am in crazy-love with this pair of polka-dot flip flops from Paiva:
    They are super wide and the strap is cloth/ribbony so it totally doesn’t chafe at all. Love them.

  • Broad

    May 14, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    I know everyone thinks Crocs are of the devil, but the Crocs Athens are excellent: Lookit. I’ve been wearing them constantly for two summers now, and they show very little wear. Also, really easy to clean off — hose or even dishwasher, if you can stomach it (which I can’t, but I’ve heard …)

  • Jennifer Thomason

    May 14, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    I do love J.Crew flip-flops, but I only buy the classic wedge: and the classic grosgrain (or wedge grosgrain): I have a handful of both. I don’t like the leather-soled capri flip-flops, that are both pricey and uncomfortable: or the tatami flip-flops:
    The great thing about J.Crew is they do offer fabulous Internet sales. If you sign-up to receive e-mails, at least once a month they’ll alert you to sales that offer an extra 20-40% off. I’ve bought a few pairs of flip-flops that way. And they do usually go on sale at some point in store.
    I do love Reefs, as well. They have a similar price tag ($20-40), but are also incredibly comfortable and they come in a wide variety of styles and colors. A few of my favorites: (the wedge in this same style is a bit hard on my shins, but this height is perfect), (not as cute and/or girly, but oh-my-goodness comfortable!).
    All other flip-flops I’ve bought, including Old Navy, Gap, Target, etc., aren’t nearly as comfortable as they are cute. So I stick to these two brands and usually am pretty happy.

  • jen

    May 14, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    I must second (third? fourth?) the Reefs comments… I got hooked in Reefs back in college and have never looked back. they mold to your feet, they’re insanely comfortable, relatively inexpensive and will last forever (mine have trekked all over the world with me).
    I’ve also found some cute and comfy flip-flops at the J. Crew outlet, and agree that the fabric thong-part is the way to go.

  • Chataine

    May 14, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    I have to give a different perspective on the Old Navy flip-flops. At least, on the rattan-footbed ones. I’ve bought four or five pairs of those over the years – the ones with ribbon straps or beaded straps or whatnot, with a rattan footbed and a rubber sole, and for ‘dressy’ flip-flops they’re really comfortable. I’ve got a pair of turquoise beaded ones that I got for about $12 six years ago and I still wear them ALL the time. I’ve never tried ON rubber flip-flops, though, ’cause the between-the-toes part is too fat for my feet (spreads my toes apart uncomfortably). But ON ‘fashion’ flip-flops wear pretty well and are comfortable.
    As for just straight comfy ones, Reefs rule the school. They really do mold to your foot, and the ones with wider fabric straps give you enough support that you can go for a pretty brisk walk in them without feeling like you’re about to twist your ankle OR making your feet tired. I absolutely LOVE my Reefs.

  • Melissa

    May 14, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Havaianas. They come in a wide variety of styles from plain (about $12-15) to metallic (about $15-20) to beaded (up to $50). They’re made of rubber instead of plastic and have never given me blisters.

  • shellbelle78

    May 14, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    I love my teva flip flops with the wrap-aroundish toe with the “mush” sole. I wore them almost exclusively for two summers (one summer of being 7-9 months pregnant) and while I can still wear them, I want a new pair to break in.
    I’m thinking about these:
    Olowahu in Tyena Lime or Black on Black

  • Cassie

    May 14, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    Ok, I’ve been lurking here for what seems like forever, and I finally had to register to leave this comment.
    Everyone needs to go out and get themselves a pair of Teva flip flops. I love them SO much. And they’re not nearly as granola-esque as their velcro sandals. I mean, just LOOK!
    Ok, now I’ll get off my soapbox. But, once I found Teva flip flops, I knew I’d never buy a pair again. They tend to retail around $20 – $25, and they’re SO comfy.

  • Cassie

    May 14, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    And by “I knew I’d never buy a pair again” was meant to say “I’d never buy a pair of any other flip flops again”. I get a new pair of Teva’s every summer, and now have quite a cute collection.

  • andrea0418

    May 14, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    My favorite two brands for flip flops:
    Rainbow brand. Yes, they run up towards $50. But they come in Pink and Green and Leather and, and, and…
    Also? Simple brand. Again, about $60 or so, but sooooo cute:

  • dawn

    May 14, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Seconding the Crocs Athens flips flops. Love! I have the pink and green ones.

  • Alison

    May 14, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    Reefs! They last forever, and they’re so comfortable. They were the only footware I brought for a two-week trip to Asia that involved tons of walking, and my feet didn’t ache at all.
    Also, avoid flips flops (and all footware) from J. Crew. Majorly uncomfortable.

  • sandra

    May 14, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    OK, I finally went through all of the TypePad registration acrobatics so I could leave a comment on the flip flops. Alas, it’s only to second? third? the Teva mush sandal recommendation. They are AWESOME. Super comfortable and durable. And cute too!

  • katishere

    May 14, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    my favorite are reefs. i have high arches and wearing flat shoes can hurt my feet so i love that reefs come with an arch in them. plus they are so comfy. i just bought another pair of black skinny straps and the gal at the store said they are the most popular selling flip flop EVER. i just love that they come in a variety of colors and styles.
    i like the look of rainbow but the women’s version is too narrow (especially in the heel!) for my wide foot.

  • Heather Barmore

    May 14, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    The end.

  • Amanda

    May 15, 2007 at 12:41 am

    I’m a HUGE fan of the Havaianas brand, particularly the slims. The soles are surprising mushy to be so thin. And the straps are thin yet rubbery. They stretch and move with your steps so not to rub blisters. AND, they don’t stretch out! I’m not a big sandal wearer and I’m weak when it comes to foot blisters and rubs from shoes and will swear them off forever before breaking them in if they do me wrong the first time but I never had a problem with these.

  • April

    May 15, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Rainbows are amazing, definately worth the $50.I also love my Havaianas, I got mine at Macy’s for about $15 I think and I adore them.
    Payless has some great choices as well that are all around $10-$15. And if I’m buying a cheap pair $2 pair they are always from Target. Old Navy’s have changed this season…they are a little more “plastic” it seems and not at all comfortable.

  • mizmcshane

    May 15, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Oh dear people. Me and my flojos (fiesta style) are going to the grave together. Cushiony, soft material, never any blisters. Love.

  • TheHolls

    May 15, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Oh, the tragedy of it all. You catch me in the midst of my very own Great Footwear Crisis of 2007. The hubs and I are going on vacay to Paris at the beginning of June, and I have been road-testing ridiculously expensive sandals and flip-flops for MONTHS now, in hopes of finding and breaking in the one magical pair that is both stylish, versatile enough to be worn with different types of ensembs, and comfy enough to not leave me all hobbled like Barbaro. Because my feet, they are blister magnets.
    So far I have purchased the following:
    These are super cutel, and they DO have a nice cushiony base, and they do fit the all-important flip-flop criteria, but there’s an eensy weensy part of my baby toe that is rubbed the wrong way by one of the straps. And I fear that means straight to Barbaro-style pain. But they’re coming with me anyway.
    I also bought these… …which are not exactly flip-flops (Ok, not flip-flops AT ALL) but yet sport an ultra-cushy sole. Except, the buckled strap hurts my piggies like the devil. Am hoping this is just a factor of them needing to be broken in more??
    I also bought a new pair of Birks like this (have not owned Birks in like a decade!), but in one of the coolio prints:
    Those are non-blister inducing, but also, they are not flip-flops, and the sole is less than cushy.
    In sumnation, despite nearly $400 spent on supposedly magical sandals, I am STILL going to be hobbled like Barbaro.
    Anyone got any suggestions on sandals that have stood the test of a super-walky vacation?? (and sorry for this longy-longerson comment!)

  • Amy

    May 15, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    I noticed you said you love Chacos, yet you have flat feet. Maybe you can help me out?
    I’ve lived in cheap rubber flip-flops for the last seven summers and generally wear cheap shoes year-round. I have pretty flat feet and am relatively sure I over-pronate. But I haven’t had foot pain, so I generally never thought about the importance of “good shoes.”
    I bought a pair of Chacos after hearing them so highly recommended as healthy for your feet, but when I tried them on, I found them pretty uncomfortable. The arches were so high that my feet were hurting after standing and walking in the Chacos for just half an hour. I was relieved to put the flip-flops back on!
    What I’m wondering is, will my feet just get used to it and stop hurting in the Chacos if I keep wearing them? Or will they always hurt, and I just need a different kind of shoe for my flat feet? I don’t want to keep and wear such an expensive shoe if it’s just going to be painful all the time, but I’m willing to pay the money and undergo temporary pain if this is really so much better for my feet (and back, shoulders, etc) long term.

  • Peggasus

    May 15, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    I have Speedos from Kohl’s that I really like. They have an ergonomic and comfortable footpad, and a sturdy (but cute!), tread-like sole. I liked them so much I went back and bought 2 more pair while I could. The thong part is a foamy, faux fabric-suede piece in two colors (mine are beige and blue, but they come in other colors). Adidas makes similar styles, and they were about $15. I wore them all over Colorado, even on a rafting trip.

  • jodifur

    May 15, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Oh, I so love the flip flops. I have flip flops in every color. I have a pink pair of juicy coture ones that I got at the juicy store in Vegas. So cute, and so comfortable.
    But Ann Taylor loft has my favorite flip flops.
    I just saw a what not to wear where they assaulted the flip flop! I was devastated! They said they don’t like them for 11 year old girls and certainly don’t like them for women.

  • Meghan

    May 15, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    For my flat-footed sister Amy:
    My first pair of Chacos hurt like hell. Basically my foot was so used to having no support that it kind of liked being that way, even though it threw my knees and back way out of whack. When I was in 8-9th grade I had custom orthodics made and they also hurt, for the same reason. After a few weeks I was used to them, and then when wearing shoes or sandals without the orthodics, I felt pain when my arch started to fall back down.
    The reason I prefer Chaco to Reefs (we sold both, and working in footwear at REI we were encouraged to actually wear every type of shoe for at least two hours so we could give an honest opinion of the shoes to our customers)is exactly the reason that everyone above loves the Reefs. They are super comfy because they (eventually) become custom molded to your foot. And they’re sporty and cute, and what’s not to love? Except they don’t actually give you any support, the foam compresses when you walk and over time it fits the shape of your foot.
    The Chaco footbed will not change shape in any way, instead it will change your foot, providing the support you need. For people with relatively normal arches, Reefs are awesome. But for me, someone who had all but given up on being able to wear sandals in the summer, Chacos has been a godsend.
    I had always worn their typical ‘Z’ strapped sandals, but I found a pair of the flip flops on clearance and snatched them up. I’ve since bought a pair that wasn’t on clearance (ie, a color I actually picked because I like it, not because I could afford it) and I’ve given Chacos to both of my sisters and my mother for various occasions.
    While I’m loyal to their original flip, they have a full selection of flip-flops to choose from, as well as leather non-flip sandals to check out.
    Try your local outdoor store, they should be very knowledgable about the shoes they have, and will be able to help you the best. And again, Zappos will pay for shipping both ways if you hate them, so there’s little to lose if you go that route. (If you buy at REI online and have them ship to the store, shipping’s free, and you can return them immediately if they’re not what you were expecting.) I would hope that most places would be like this, but I can only vouch for the excellent return service at REI, Zappos, and Uncle Dan’s (here in Chicago).

  • katishere

    May 15, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    chacos are pretty heavy imo. but kind of like birks, my feet got used to them.
    i still like my reefs though for bumming around and to wear day to day. chacos i like using for camping or a true outdoor activity.

  • Audrey

    May 15, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    I very much covet Reef flip flops. My all-time favorite pair, though, is a pair I got in Spain. They were a hugely popular brand over there at the time (2004) and for good reason — they’re so comfortable! Unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember the brand name, but they have a brazil flag on them, if anyone knows what I’m talking about. I still have those flip flops and LOVE them.
    I am also a fan of the Old Navy flip flop, mainly because you can’t beat $3 for a pair of not-great-but-not-bad-either shoes. My main complaint? They have zero traction. I can’t tell you how many times I almost fell on my ass in college when I was trying to hurry across campus on a rainy day. Styrofoam soles + wet cement = fall on ass. The nicest thing about Old Navy flip flops? You can trek all over europe for an entire summer with them and not feel bad about ditching a pair that’s so worn out your feet are all but touching the pavement in the hotel trash can in Rome. The $3 price tag completely eliminates any possibility of guilt for throwing them away.

  • Kelly

    May 16, 2007 at 12:06 am

    I adore Old Navy flip flops. The key is to get the plain ones, the kind WITHOUT the pretty pictures (that get covered when you wear them anyway) which have softer rubber between the toes. And for, what is it, 3 for $5 at the Leesburg Outlet, you can get EVERY color they make guilt free.
    The kind you cage matched definitely suck, I agree.

  • heels

    May 16, 2007 at 11:47 am

    For Amy in the comments, re: Chacos- It could be that you just aren’t used to the shape of the insole. It could just take a bit of time and then actually be very good for you. However, I have seen people do a lot of damage to their feet by pushing it in shoes that don’t really work for them. Don’t hurt yourself. You can bruise the *#@% out of your feet and make yourself miserable. Try them again, but take it slowly.
    And everybody else- reefs are at Zappos in 2-packs right now. I like the ginger style a lot, but some prefer the sandy. Both are pretty comfy.

  • Katharine Ings

    May 17, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    It’s J Crew wedge flip flops all the way for me. I like the rubber ones with thin straps for summer yardwork (and tanning feet) and the embroidered or grosgrain ones for proper shorts and skirts.
    I also have a pair of Vineyard Vines flip flops that look fine by the ocean but rather goofy any where else (thick straps, colorful sharks, highly visible label). But they do at least have a wedge sole, which grounds the flip flop and makes it look/seem as if one is not walking on paper.

  • Sara

    May 20, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    A few years ago, I bought some ribbon style flip flops from J Crew and spent the whole summer with blue feet. Duh.
    Last year, I bought the most amazing leather flip flops from DSW. They are made by Clarks and have a small arch, great rubber soles and comfy padded straps. I highly recommend them. I bought black and brown, but they do have brighter colors. (They have them at Zappos — labeled as “tahiti.” The ones I have don’t have the design on the footbed.)

  • jamimess

    June 21, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    I live in CA, love flip-flops, wanted something a little dressier than Old Navy flip-flops, and hated that my feet got so dried out from flip-flops last year. Also, my feet grew when I was pregnant, and I’m now closer to an 11 than a 10, which makes shoe shopping in stores a pain. In my neverending quest for comfy shoes, I bought these Privos last week:
    So far, so good! Really comfortable, a little more stylish than $2 flip-flops… Just trying to decide if they are comfy enough for a walking vacation.