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Are Flip Flops Business Casual?

Depending whatever the materials used or the fancy name, flip flops are never considered business casual. Sandals follow the same guidelines. To comply with Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations, business casual shoes for both men and women must have a close-toed design.

Close-up photo of a flip-flops with a beautiful sun set background.

Flip flops never qualify as business casual, regardless of the materials from which they’re made or the designer brand. The same rules apply to sandals. For all genders, business casual shoes must use a close-toed design to meet Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) rules.

Women may choose flats, boots, or heels, while men may wear dress shoes, casual oxfords, or boots.

What are flip flops?

The term flip flops refers to thong-like sandals with no back strap. A single strap attaches at the front of the footwear on either side and once to the shoe’s near center. The big toe and index toe slip snuggly on either side of the center attachment, holding the foot in the shoe.

Typically, you wear this slip-on casual footwear at the beach, lake, or swimming pool. You can easily slide them off and they’re frequently made of plastic, so you can wear them into the water without damaging them.

Sandals use a similar design but include a strap at the ankle that helps hold the shoe to your foot. It keeps the sandals from banging against your foot.

Related: Flip Flops vs Slides

What about this OSHA rule?

A man holding a notebook with OSHA written on it.

Not only do they not appear appropriate in an office environment, but you could easily hurt yourself wearing flip flops or sandals to the office or other workplace. While you might think of OSHA in terms of construction sites and athletic training facilities, it applies to every workplace. Your employer must remain in compliance, just like a construction site or a plumber or electrician.

OSHA passes general rules that apply to all workplaces. It then researches and writes rules for specific industries. If you worked on a construction site, you’d typically have to wear shoes with steel toes in them.

The rule stems from injury prevention. If you’ve ever dropped anything on your foot while barefoot or wearing flip-flops, you know what I mean. In an office environment, individuals typically lift computers, printers, boxes of paper, toner cartridges, tablets, etc.

All of these items can hurt your foot if you drop them on one, but you’re more likely to end up hurting yourself if you have no shoes on to protect your feet. Wearing flip-flops and sandals may as well qualify as barefoot because they only protect the bottom of your foot.

Here’s another scenario that illustrates why OSHA wants people to wear closed-toe shoes at work. You’re in the break room and you have just made a fresh pot of hot, steaming coffee. As you pour it, it sloshes and lands all over your feet.

In flip flops, you’re burned seriously, but wearing dress shoes or Oxford shoes or heels or dress flats, you grab a paper towel and clean off your shoes unharmed. Sure, you might need to take the shoes to the dry cleaners if they’re suede, but barefoot or in flip flops, you’re in the hospital with serious burns to both feet.

If you’ve ever bartended or waited tables, the restaurants require you to wear shoes with specific tread on the bottom, that are no-slip bottomed and closed-toed. This, too, comes from OSHA requirements and it’s because, in an eatery, hot food and liquids splash and burn people. The spills on the floor also create slip-and-fall hazards.

Related: Flip Flops vs Thongs – Is there a difference?

The Perfect Shoes for Business Casual

Never fear, because you can still create fun spring and summer fashion looks for the office using closed-toe shoes. Let’s consider what meets the criteria for business casual for both traditional genders.

Business Casual Shoes for Men

Brown casual leather shoes with men's acccesories and stuff.

Get colorful with Oxfords, dress shoes, or slip-on shoes. Any of the shoes pictured below meet the criteria for suitability in the office.

Dressed-up Docksiders qualify as business casual, too.

Suede loafers, here in a penny loafer style, offer a colorful fashion option for men.

Try these brown buckle closure shoes for a stylish change from typical dress shoes.

Check with your office manager before wearing tennis shoe styles, but if they’re allowed, try these snazzy brown leather tennis shoes for casual Friday wear.

Business Casual Shoes for Women

Woman wearing orang casual shoes with a matching orang bag.

Boots of many styles qualify as business casual and can work well on rainy or chilly days.

Skip the stockings with which the stylist paired these boots, but do consider stylish boots like these, as well.

Go for flats in fun colors with a matching purse or briefcase. You can liven up your office in flats or kitten heels in bright solid colors.

Flats in neutral tones can take on a casual feel with decorative accents such as these with bows.

Take inspiration from this picture, which includes a bevy of ideas – black patent slip-on, ballerina flats, flats with a decorated upper, neutral flats embellished with chain, loafers, and more.

Heels can work in any office, whether your workplace requires standard office wear or allows business casual.

Penny loafers offer a comfortable year-round shoe that you can wear as business casual.

Have Fun But Follow the Workplace Rules

While summer does mean fun, as The Beach Boys sang, you should leave your flip flops and sandals for weekend wear. They won’t meet OSHA standards and you’ll probably end up hurting yourself somehow with your feet unprotected.

The term business casual does provide ample options though. You can choose from many styles of shoes, some of which work after five or weekend wear, too.