'Performance' Flip-Flops

The proverbial flip-flop sandal just barely passes for a shoe. It offers little support and no toe protection. It’s made to be worn casually, for comfort, convenience and little else.

But a new breed of flip-flop sandals designed by companies like Keen, Chaco, Teva and Mion have upped the ante. Indeed, these sandals, which include toe guards, Vibram rubber soles and adjustable webbing straps, provide admirable performance without losing on comfort.

Of the four flip-flop models I put to the test last month, the Keen Antigua Slides were my top pick. They are tight on the foot, yet comfortable, with stationary webbing straps and an oversized rubber toe guard. It’s a simple, effective design.

The Antigua Slides (www.keenfootwear.com) have compression-molded foam midsoles for comfort and support. Rubber outsoles provide good traction on wet and dry surfaces. At $40, the Antigua Slides are also the bargain of this batch.

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Second in line in my test was the $80 Slack Tide Thong from Mion. Though the sandal’s space-age look was not my favorite, its overall comfort and performance was on par with the Keen Antigua Slides.

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Like Keen, Mion includes a generous toe guard to protect your piggies from errant rocks and roots. It has an outsole that grips well when wet. The company’s unique “Ergomorphic” footbed molds to the shape of your foot after a few hours of use.

Chaco’s $75 Zong flip-flops have adjustable webbing straps, a toe loop and a buckle to cinch the sandal tight. The Zong is essentially a full-blooded Chaco sandal, with a rugged Vibram outsole and a solid, supportive footbed, just without the heel strap.

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The Zong is the most heavy-duty sandal in this review. It is built to last for years, and like other Chaco sandals the Zong can be re-soled if the traction wears down. Fans of Chaco sandals (www.chacousa.com) will immediately love this model.

Finally, the $60 Guide Thong from Teva is a basic flip-flop design equipped with an over-the-foot strap that is tightened with a spring-loaded metal buckle. This sandal, unfortunately, did not fit my foot very well. The top strap did little for my particular foot shape, and the sandal slipped off too easily as I trotted along.

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Regardless, the Guide Thong is worth considering. Just be sure to try it on at a store to see if it fits. Teva (www.teva.com) includes a tacky rubber footbed and a high-friction outsole for increased traction on sand, mud, pavement and turf.

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