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Since 4,000 B.C., flip-flops have been the choice footwear of many cultures. They've been beloved by everyone from the ancient Egyptians to the Romans, Japanese and Brazilians — who gave us Havaianas. Some flip-flop fans even find a brand so comfortable they buy five pairs at once.
I don't have that luxury. As a travel writer who once visited 25 countries on five continents in a matter of months, I'm usually living out of my luggage. So, I only have room for one pair — and they have to be versatile enough to be worn in water, to weddings and everywhere in between. Fortunately, about five years ago I found the 'Ohana flip-flop.
'Ohana means family, and something for everyone
If you've seen Disney's "Lilo & Stitch" you know 'ohana means family in Hawaiian. 'Ohana is also the name of the bestselling flip-flop from OluKai. However, "flip-flop" doesn't do this shoe justice since it doesn't really flip or flop. I'd call it a comfortable sandal.
Since it debuted 13 years ago, the 'Ohana has come out in more than 50 colors, and I opted for a lovely shade of brown called Dark Wood. OluKai has made enough pairs to cover the length of the island of Oahu nearly six times, according to the brand. And 'Ohana really does mean family: They come in women's, men's and children's styles.
A higher price, in this case, means higher quality
After years of wearing flip-flops that cost less than a cup of coffee, it pained me to pay $90 for my first pair of 'Ohanas. However, they were only so expensive because I bought them in a luxury resort gift shop. I was staying at Disney's Aulani resort and needed a new pair of flip-flops after my cheap ones broke. I tried the 'Ohanas on, and within seconds, bought them. The good news is they're not normally that expensive — they retail for $69.95.
That may still seem expensive, but you get what you pay for. As one Amazon reviewer writes, "Sometimes I even wear these inside just because it's better on my feet/knees than cooking in the kitchen barefoot."
They last a long time
Despite being schlepped around the world and worn in about 40 countries, my 5-year-old 'Ohanas are still nice enough to wear to a casual beach wedding. I wore them at high tide in Australia in December and was surprised to find that they even hold up well in salt water. When I visited Israel's Dead Sea this winter and was warned the salty bottom would hurt my bare feet, I just packed these sandals. I wasn't going to go out and pay $15 for a pair of dorky water shoes I'd only wear one time.
Perhaps the number one reason I've had them so long is that they're too comfortable to retire. Unlike basic flip flops, which harden and crack, these have a forgiving EVA midsole and footbed. In other words, there's a squishy rubber-like layer that feels soft, yet supportive.
So, I made my boyfriend buy a pair too
He should thank me. Last August, I helped my boyfriend shop for new sandals for our upcoming vacation to Miami and Cuba. He's 6'4", and wears a large shoe size ... which can be hard to shop for. When I showed him the 'Ohanas on display, he balked at the price tag. Somehow he was happy to pay $60 for a round of cocktails but didn't want to spend that much on shoes he'd be living in for two weeks.
Still, after trying them on and comparing them to the cheaper flip-flops in the store, he came around. In fact, he's done a complete 180. While at an all-inclusive resort last month, he tried wearing them to dinner. When he was told the dress code didn't allow flip-flops, he said he'd rather go back to the room and order room service than change into his dress shoes.
I'm hoping a couple that 'Ohanas together stays together. After all, 'ohana does mean family.
This article was originally published on April 11, 2019.
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