Sandals vs. Flip Flops: What's the Difference?

Sandals vs. Flip Flops: What's the Difference?
For many of us, we want to allow our feet to breathe as we tour the town, meet with friends, or simply go about our daily routine. It may be time to swap out your sneakers for some sandals or flip flops. But for which ones? Wait, what's even the difference between the two? Aren't they the same thing? In this article, we'll discuss the details of these two types of footwear and show you the differences between sandals vs flip flops.

What Are Sandals?

Sandals are a type of footwear that leaves the front of your feet exposed. The sole is usually thin and adheres to your foot through the use of one or several straps. The main strap typically goes over your foot's instep. If there's more than one strap, the others can go over the instep too, plus your ankles. Because sandals keep the majority of your feet exposed, most people prefer to wear them in hotter weather. Doing so provides two benefits: it circulates cool air around your feet, plus moisture is allowed to dissipate. When you have good air circulation for your feet, you regulate your body temperature and also lowers your likelihood of getting athlete's foot.

What Are Flip Flops?

By definition, flip flops are a type of sandal; they're also known as "thong slippers." Flip flips leave your feet exposed and have a thin sole, just like sandals do. Since it sounds like flip flops are sandals (and they technically are), aren’t they one and the same? There is actually enough to distinguish the two to know the difference. Don’t use “sandals” and “flip flops” interchangeably to avoid confusion. Knowing distinct differences allows you to shop for the right sandals vs flip flops just for you.

Sandals vs Flip Flops

Now that you know some basics of what sandals and flip flops are, let's take a closer look at what some of the key differences are.


Flip flops are lightweight and easy to carry around because they are typically made with less material. Rubber, plastic, help, and foam are more commonly used to fabricate flip flops than are sandals. Sometimes they have fabric as part of the design. For a budget-conscious shopper looking for something without fuss, flip flops are a perfect choice. In contrast, sandals are made sturdier. Sandal soles typically consist of thick materials such as leather, cork, rope, or rubber. With added durability, sandals can be reliably worn nearly everywhere closed-toed shoes can be worn, but like a shoe, they take up more space than flip flops when thrown into a travel bag.


As we've stated above, both sandals and flip flops have thin soles with straps attached to them. But their looks can be quite different. If the footwear you're looking at has a thong strap that goes between your big toe and your second toe, then that's a flip flop, 100%. The same goes for if you have a large, supportive strap worn across your instep. It doesn't matter what materials your shoes are made out of; you're wearing flip flops. Ankle support is the key distinguishing feature that a sandal has which a flip flop does not. While a sandal may have a single large strap across your instep akin to a flip flop, if it has ankle support, it’s a sandal and not a flip flop. The distinguishable ankle strap look means sandals offer better foot support than flip flops do. Since flip flops have no ankle support, they flip and flop around!


Beyond aesthetics, flip flops and sandals differ in how they shape around your feet. The simple design a flip flop offers are similar to a sandal — they both typically feature thin soles, though sometimes platforms are available to each. Flatter, lighter-weight flip flops may be the more comfortable option for short-term use, but if you plan on a whole day without changing what you wear on your feet, sandals are superior. Sandals often offer a curved sole shaped with ergonomics in mind for medium-term and long-term comfort are better for long periods of wear time, whereas flip flops are better for short-term use.


Actionably, the biggest difference between sandals and flip flops is the occasion you'd wear them for. As flip flops are simple, they're better for casual wear. You can have the fanciest flip flops, encrusted with diamonds and other jewels, but at their core, they're still in the category of "casual," not "formal." So they're appropriate for trips to the park, shopping mall, and swimming pool. However, if you have a dressy event coming up, we advise you against wearing flip flops to it. You probably shouldn't wear them to work either, unless you have a designated casual day (or your workplace is pretty laidback). When you need to attend a company dinner or someone's wedding and shoes won’t do the trick, you'll want to go with sandals instead. These are a lot classier and professional looking. Plus, your feet won't be in agony all day since they're in more fitted footwear.

Your Personal Preference Is What Really Matters

When it comes to sandals vs flip flops, sure, there are some differences. But what matters is your personal preference. If you like what each has to offer, have a pair of each! Now that you know they’re not interchangeable, you can enjoy the comforts, styles, and versatility each has to offer. Don't feel like you have to pick a side in this matter. Wear all the sandals and flip flops you like! If you're ready to pick out some new sandals and flip flops, then take a look at our extensive selection now.

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