The Differences Between a Flip-Flop & a Sandal

People wear flip flops and sandals during the warmer months.
People wear flip flops and sandals during the warmer months. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

A fine line marks the difference between a flip flop and sandal, claim Kristin Morales and Ashley Bates of the Gainesville Times. The flip flop is a more casual, less glamorous shoe that people wear to the beach, while the sandal can be found gracing the feet of men and women everywhere from the office to taking the kids to school.


The material marks one of the main differences between a flip flop and a sandal. The flip flop typically has a rubber-base, but it has evolved to include other materials, such as plastic, leather and wood. These materials can dress-up a flip flop. Sandals usually don't include rubber.

Heel Height

Flip flops generally don't have heels, while sandals come in a variety of heights. For example, a gladiator sandal -- which features long straps that wind up the leg -- may have no heel, while a wedge sandal will rise up to three or more inches. Heels add glamor to the sandal, and sandals often can be worn to work. Flip flops have tried to compete with sandals in the heel department by adding on height to the sole of the shoe, but the added height makes the entire shoe a little higher than normal, rather than only the heel.


Flip flops have made a 360-degree turn from the standard rubber shoe. Flip flops now contain embellishments along the "y" thong, including flower accents, beading and gems, to up the "wow" factor. Even brides have started to embellish flip flops to wear at their reception after they ditch the heels. Sandals have remained a style staple with women wearing the newest espadrilles or leather kitten heels detailed with rhinestones, lacing and and metallic shades.

Where to Wear

Flip flops were created for the beach -- sand and surf -- to avoid ruining a pair of nice shoes. As manufacturers have glammed them up, they've become more acceptable on casual days. However, they should probably still be avoided in more formal situations, such as the office. Sandals, on the other hand, can be worn to the office, on vacation and running errands around town without a fashion faux pas.

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