What’s the Difference Between Sandals and Flip Flops?

Footwear was initially designed to better protect the feet against the harsh outdoor environments where it was difficult to walk. Nowadays, the concept remains the same; however, styles have also become important as we have moved through the centuries, and boy have we seen many.

There are shoes to suit every temperature and every climate which makes it so much easier to choose the appropriate pair. Shoes for warmer temperatures are usually sandals and flip flops. These are the best suited as they’re lightweight, soft on the foot and for the most part, comfortable.

The classic question when it comes to these types of shoe, however, is often understanding what the difference between sandals and flip flops is, and if you are not a shoe connoisseur, then perhaps this may be more difficult to understand. With so many different types and styles available out there, we want to make it clear, so you’ll know exactly what’s what the next time you are hunting for a pair of shoes.

In this article, we look at the two different types and discuss their appropriateness in certain places. Sometimes this is also important to know so that you are not left feeling awkward.

Flip Flops

Flip flops are the classic lightweight beach shoe, which has been designed for walking on the beach, around the poolside and in and out of the shower. It is an easy-to-wear shoe which is usually made out of rubber or hemp and features a Y-shape strap which bridges between the big and second toes. These shoes don’t secure the ankle as much and are simple slip-on shoes which aren’t very strong.

Being a shoe which leaves the foot exposed and open, they are mostly worn in countries with warmer and drier climates, and primarily throughout developing countries like India, the Philippines, Pakistan, and other Southeast Asian countries. This is also because flip flops cost near to nothing to make, making them super affordable for families with fewer means as well as those shopping on budgets.

The flip flop is the first shoe you will think of when you think of going on vacation, as they are super comfortable shoes for walking on the beach. They prevent your feet from burning on hot sand, and this is why most people like to purchase them before they go away.


Sandals are generally sturdier than a flip flop and consist of a sole which features durable straps that pass over the foot and secure with a buckle or Velcro at the ankle. The soles are usually made of leather, rubber, wood, and rope, however, can also include a variety of different materials. There are many different types and styles of sandal available, whether it features a flat sole or even a heel. These shoes are worn by people in all countries, by both men women and children alike as they are so multifunctional.

Similar to the flip flop, sandals can be worn during warm weather and are especially popular during the summer time and when going on vacation. People enjoy wearing sandals as they allow the foot to breathe better as opposed to being trapped inside a covered shoe, which in warm weather can sometimes be uncomfortable.

It’s important to consider where each of these shoe types ‘is appropriate to wear, as some places may not accept them as being dress code compliant.

Where You Wear Them Counts

There are shoes to suit specific occasions, whether it be a wedding or a job interview, it’s essential to know the correct footwear to wear. For most people, this is pretty well known, but for some, it may not be as clear what the best option is. This can be due to cultural differences, or just not knowing the right fashion at the time.

Flip flops, as can be imagined, are probably only sensible to wear in the summertime, whether on the beach, at the pool while on vacation and in and out the shower. They are not the best to wear when walking around a big city, such as Rome for example which is famous for its ‘black-footed tourists’ which relates to the flip-flop-wearing tourists, who trek around the ancient streets only to end up with ‘piedi neri,’ as the Italians call it.

Flip flops are certainly not appropriate for going to the bank, the bar, or even the shops as if you accidentally walk into something sharp or someone drops something which can land on your feet, then you are in trouble. Not only will it be dangerous, but it also looks too relaxed for anything remotely serious.

Similarly, sandals should also be worn in appropriate climates and occasions. No one wants to head out with their feet exposed only to be drenched in heavy rain, ending up with a cold. Therefore, it’s important to know where and when they’re appropriate. Like flip flops, sandals are perfect for summer and on vacation where they look nice. A reliable pair of good-quality sandals could be worn around cities, as long as they don’t allow the foot to be too exposed to the dirt.

The same can be said for both sandals and flip flops, in that they shouldn’t be worn in places of worship, such as church as this won’t appear to be respectful.

Final Verdict

There’s a clear difference between the two types of shoe. Flip flops are loose fitting shoes which slip on easily and can be worn around the beach, the pool or in and out of the shower or locker room, whereas sandals are more acceptable in urban areas; they are much sturdier than flip flops. Both are created with different materials and are most commonly worn in the warmer weather and dry climates.

We hope that this brief article has made the differentiation clear so that you’ll always know which shoe type is which.


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