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Flip Flops vs Slides

Here's a closer look at flip flops and slides where you'll learn about their history, materials, design features, and durability so you would know which one is the best choice for footwear.

Blue and green flip flops on the sand.

In the world of flip flops and slides, which shoes are best suited for when and where? That is the question I am going to answer here today in Flip Flops vs Slides. For starters, I have both in my closet and use these types of sandals quite often, even in the winter months.

Slides and flip flops are affordable and easy to wear, and are unisex, which adds to their flexibility for an individual’s wardrobe. See more about what a flip flop is, which comes from the Japanese originally, and what a slide is, including a look at the ADIDAS and the Birkenstock versions. Then I will tell you which of these types of shoes, the slide or the flip flop, is my favorite to wear.

What is a Flip Flop

Women's Slim Organic Flip Flop Sandal, Steel Grey, Size 5/6

A flip flop is a type of shoe that is open toed and open back yet still considered a sandal. The flip flop has a single strap that cuts into a V shape over the toe box. The signature feature of the flip flop is the thong, which is one piece that extends between the first and second toes on each foot. The thong is the way the shoe is held securely on the person’s foot.

The sole of a flip flop shoe is thin and made of rubber yet not typically good for slippery surfaces. However, the style and minimal coverage makes the flip flop the preferred shoe for wearing to the beach. The way a flip flop looks is ideally suited for swimming pools and beachside tanning sessions, as well as manicures. Some truck drivers are also fans of wearing flip flops, but typically truckers over 50 are anti-flip flops as a rule. Safety first!

What is a Slide

adidas Men's Adilette Shower Slides Black/White/White 13

A slide is a type of sandal that does not have a back and only one large strap that covers the toe box. Unlike a flip flop, there is no piece of material that goes between the toes for holding onto the shoe. The wider toe strap, which generally has a Velcro material, is made to fit more securely onto the foot. This is the way the slide stays in place rather than using a thong as you do when wearing a flip flop. Therefore, this is the primary difference between these two types of shoes.

The primary reason why I have a pair of slides is for wearing to the gym sauna and locker room showers. Here is where slides are the best choice for footwear. I can slide a pair of slides on and they have a more supportive sole compared to a flip flop. Some styles, namely ADIDAS slides, have a nubby surface that is almost like getting a massage when I wear them. These thicker soles are better suited for after a workout and when taking a shower. 

You have more support and cushioning with a slide sandal when compared to a thin soled flip flop. The bottoms of slides tend to have a slip resistant surface that is perfect for a shower or sauna floor. However, I wouldn’t recommend wearing these to the beach. They are too thick and heavy both on the top and the bottom, and tend to get stuck in the sand and surf. Also, the nubby surface inside a slide is hard to clean free of sand.


Yellow flip flops against a blue wood plank background.

The primary feature of flip flops is the wedge or thong piece that goes between two toes. The bottom of a flip flop is a thin piece of rubber that is not very substantial. The slide differs primarily in one way–with the use of a strap that is attached using Velcro or made with a single length affixed to the sole of the shoe. The bottom of a slide is thicker than that of a flip flop and made to be slip proof in most cases.


Closeup of black Adidas slides.

Rubber is the primary material used for both flip flops and slides. But you can also find upscale styles that are made using leather or pleather. It is recommended to use a material with give and flexibility when buying slides and flip flops.

Design Features

Woman with red polish wearing flip flops.

The design features of flip flops are the use of a V style strap and only one piece connected and between the toes to hold the shoe to the foot. The design features of slides are the use of a single fat strap that is secured using Velcro in a tight fashion over the toe box.


Beige rubber slides against a brick wall.

Flip flops can be less durable than slides due to the lack of material and the design of how they are held on the foot. A slide tends to be more forgiven thanks to the Velcro snap strap over the toe box, which can easily come apart if the back of the shoe is stepped on. This is known as a blow-out for a flip flop wearer, and will also be the death of a flip flop if made of cheap material.

Cost Differences

OLD NAVY Flip Flop Sandals for Woman, Great for Beach or Casual Wear SZ 6

Flip flops are the cheapest shoes on the planet. I have spent $1 on a pair of Old Navy flip flops many times–and they break after a summer of wear. However, I have spent $28 on a pair of Havaianas flip flops and they lasted an entire pregnancy and are still my go-to black and white summer flip flops. Slides are more expensive than flip flops in general, and will cost starting at $20 to $30 and go up to $100 if made of leather and by a branded company.

Benefits of Each Type of Shoe

Joomra Womens Shower Slippers Slides Cloud Cushioned for Lady Quick Drying Massage Foam Female Pillow House Pool Beach Spa House Garden Sandals for Ladies Sandles Blue 40-41

Slides are best suited for wet surfaces like pools and bathrooms in public areas. These shoes are easy to slip on and require minimal care when getting them dirty. Flip flops are better for the beach and swimming pool pavement, or on sandy places. The minimal style allows for more tanning when outside, which is why these are best suited for these locations.

Brief History of Flip Flops 

Orange flip flops on the sand.

Flip flops originated in Japan in the Zori style of footwear, which is one of many types of thong sandals native to that island. In World War II, US soldiers stationed in Japan discovered their shared passion for the thong style sandal and started using rubber to make the Americanized version of a Zori sandal. 

Brief History of Slides

Birkenstock Womens Yao Nubuck Sandals, Mocha, Size 36 EU (5-5.5 M US Women)

Slides as footwear became popular in the 1960s and 1970s around the type of cross culture footwear. The Birkenstock slide with the classic two buckles and double straps were a modernized version of the slide that remains popular today. Birkenstock slides tend to be for the hippie or eco friendly crowd and are less popular for men than they are for women. Although the ADIDAS slide that was made in 1972 by Germany for soccer players is the most common shoe, we consider it a slide in the US.


Picking a pair of slides is perfect for when I am going to a sauna or campground with a shower. However, if I am going to the beach or swimming pool, I want to wear flip flops that are more attractive and show more skin–just like a string bikini.