What’s the Difference Between Sandals vs Flip Flops?

Sandals vs flip flops may sound like a pointless question, but the two types of shoes are actually slightly different.

Flip flops could be considered a type of sandal, but the two shoes have noticeable differences. The one that’s best for you depends on your preferences.

In this article, we’ll have a look at each type of footwear, the pros and cons, and when you should wear them, so you can choose the right footwear.

Flip Flops

Flip flops are flat-soled shoes that have a Y-shaped toe post, which fits between your big toe and second toe. This strap, which is also known as a thong, extends on either side of the foot towards the arch of your foot.

This gently holds your forefoot in place when you wear them. Flip flops don’t have any ankle support and the sound that the shoe makes when you walk in them is how they got their name.

Flip flops have been a summer staple since 1960 and have grown in popularity all over the world. At one time, flip flops were considered to be beachwear, but over the years flip flops have become a versatile type of shoe with numerous embellishments.

But there has been very little variation in the shape of flip flops since its beginning, and it still has a very flat, straight sole.

Flip flops are easy to slip on your feet into. They are convenient, affordable, and comfortable.


Sandals consist of a sole and straps—the upper—which pass over the instep and are secured and can be adjusted at the ankles.

Some sandals have more than one strap, while others have a single strap that stretches across or around the foot. Unlike flip flops, sandals can be flat or they can have a heel. Similar to flip flops, part of the foot is exposed in a sandal.

Sandals are the oldest known form of footwear. In the beginning, they were made using willow leaves, twigs, the bark of the sagebrush tree, and stringy fibers to keep them together.

One of the benefits of sandals over flip flops is that there’s light ankle support in a sandal. Some sandals also have a heel strap, which helps to keep the foot in place.

In many cases, the footbed of a sandal is more contoured and ergonomically designed than a flip flop.

Types of Sandals

Sandals come in a large variety of types. Flip flops are actually one of those types!

Others include wedges, which have a high heel; gladiator sandals, which have straps that wrap around the lower leg in an old-school gladiator-style; dress sandals, which are smart sandals that can be worn in professional settings; high-heeled sandals, everyday sandals, and regular flats.

Flip Flop Materials

Flip flops are lightweight and often made from moldable, flexible materials.

Common flip flop materials include EVA foam and rubber, which are shock-absorbing and highly durable; polyester, fabric, neoprene, and leather or suede for more smart flip flops.

In many cases, the toe post is made of nylon as it’s soft and quick-drying.

Sandal Material

The sole of a sandal may be made from EVA, rubber, leather, cork, or other materials.

The upper can also consist of different materials, like mesh, leather, neoprene, and a variety of other materials.

Pros/Cons of Flip Flops


Flip flops are lightweight, water-friendly, easy to carry around with you, and budget-friendly.

They’re generally a casual-style type of footwear and are so light that you can hardly feel them on your foot. They provide a thin but effective layer of protection under the foot against dirt, stones, and thorns.

Flip flops are also quick and easy to get on and off, as well as being easy to clean if they do get wet.


Flip flops are generally not very supportive, so they may contribute to foot problems such as plantar fasciitis. You can buy flip flops with arch support, but these are not your standard flip you see around.

Many don’t offer a lot of cushioning, so they may lead to foot fatigue after wearing them for a few hours. Often, they are cited as terrible shoes to wear.

They also don’t provide much protection for the foot from external hazards. You’ll need to be careful not to bump your toes or drop something on your foot.

As they’re casual shoes, they may also not be professional enough to wear in certain settings.

Pros/Cons of Sandals


Sandals can keep your feet cool in warmer weather while still looking smart and professional.

As sandals tend to have more contoured footbeds, they support the feet a little better than flip flops. Fewer foot problems are reported in those wearing sandals compared to those who wear flip flops.

They also have a bit of ankle support, thanks to the strap system, which usually comes over the instep and provides some stability.

They come in many different styles, which means there’s a sandal for every occasion. You can wear them in casual settings as well as professional environments, making them a more versatile option than flip flops.


Although sandals do provide more support, they still may not offer enough, especially for those who overpronate. You can always add a supportive insert for your sandals.

Sandals may run a little warmer than flip flops, as there’s a more substantial upper than flip flops have.

As they’re more versatile, they often cost a little more than flip flops.

When Should You Wear Flip Flops?

Flips flops are an excellent choice for wearing in hot weather. They’re great for walking on the beach, around public pools, or showering in a gym or public shower.

They provide enough protection underfoot to stay clean and avoid contact with the ground or potentially dirty places. As they’re very easy to clean, they’re also perfect for places that could be dirty.

You shouldn’t wear flip flops in formal settings, as they’re a casual shoe.

When Should You Wear Sandals?

The right occasion to wear sandals depends on the sandals you have. They are excellent for wearing in warm weather when you still need to look smart.

If you want to do outdoor activities that will require walking over rough terrain, walking for long distances, or being on your feet for long periods of time, sandals are better than flip flops.

They’re also an excellent choice for less outdoorsy activities, like shopping, going for a meal, or spending time with friends in the city.

You can wear sandals on the beach, but you should choose more casual sandals for this kind of activity.

Interesting Facts About Flip Flops

Flip flops—named in America after the sound they make—are known by many other names across the world.

Australians call them thongs or pluggers, New Zealanders call them jandals, and South Africans call them plakkies or slops. In the Philippines, they’re known as tsinelas, in Cambodia they’re called tongs, and in post-Soviet countries they’re called vietnamki.

They also have different names even in different states. For example, Texas knows them as clam diggers, Hawaii calls them slippers, and those from the East Coast call them zories—a reference to the original Japanese zōri that the Americans brought back from war.

It’s thought that flip flops were first used by the Ancient Egyptians in about 4,000 BC. Historians have discovered this by studying Ancient Egyptian murals. Today, the flip flop industry is estimated to be worth about $20 billion.

Also, National Flip Flop Day takes place on the third Friday in June every year.