Are you looking to buy new walking sandals but feeling a bit confused about sizing? You’re not alone. There are many different factors to consider when buying new footwear: function, style, material—the list goes on. But the biggest decision to make right from the get-go is the size.
Wearing the proper shoe size can be the difference between a day of discomfort and feeling like you’re walking on a cloud—and that’s especially true for finding your perfect fit in a flip flop.
Is there even a difference in sandal size vs shoe size? What’s the best approach to finding the right flip flop for you? We have the answers to all these questions and more.
What are Flip Flops?
To ensure that we’re all on the same page before we set off, let’s quickly talk about flip flops and what they are.
- What is a flip flop? A flip flop is a sandal characterized by a single Y-shaped strap. Imagine an upside-down Y; the base of the Y fits between the big toe and the second toe while the upper part straddles the top of the foot, connecting to each side of the sole next to the arch of the foot. Unlike other sandals, flip flops don’t have any straps at the back, and there are typically no buckles or snaps to adjust fit. This is one of the main differences between slides vs flip flops.
- Why is it called a flip flop? The name flip flop supposedly comes from the sound the sandal makes as it hits your feet while you walk.1 The term flip flop isn’t universal, though; you might hear beachgoers identify them as thongs, jandals, plakkies, and more.
Flip Flop Size vs Shoe Size
Good news: when you contrast flip flop sizing with shoe sizing, the results should be comparable. In theory, you should be able to wear the same size in both flip flops and shoes. However, there are still a handful of things to keep in mind when comparing the two.
One factor that can affect your sandal size is the lack of socks. Depending on the thickness of the material, socks can add a few fractions of an inch to your shoe size. While this may not seem like a significant difference, the difference between half sizes can be just ⅛ of an inch. So one sock can make all the difference between a Cinderella fit and a tight squeeze.
As you look at flip flop sizes, remember that your shoe size may be artificially inflated by your sock, if only a little. For example, if you wear a size 9.5 with moderately thick socks, your bare foot may fit best into a size 9 flip flop.
No Half Sizes
Believe it or not, flip flops are almost always offered exclusively in whole sizes. This convention can trip up a lot of consumers (pun intended) when they’re looking for the right fit, especially for those of us that wear a half size in regular shoes.
But that doesn’t spell the end for your future in flip flop fashion—when it comes to sizing flip flops, going up or down from a half size to a whole size is a relatively small change. Because we don’t tend to be as active in flip flops as we are in sneakers, a sandal that is slightly too big or small won’t be much of an issue.
Of course, finding the best fit is a must. But a flip flop will be more forgiving than a shoe if the size isn’t perfectly accurate.
No Constricting Material
In normal closed-toed shoes, you have leather, suede, or some other material enclosing your foot. Not so with sandals! Since flip flops are fully open, there’s nothing to rub against the back or sides of your feet. Having no material around the foot means more wiggle room in sizing, as a flip flop that’s slightly too small won’t give you blisters the same way a smaller shoe would.
How to Find Your Flip Flop Size
Since most of us don’t have our own sliding metal foot measuring device at home, finding the perfect sandal size may seem like a difficult task. Luckily, there’s an easy way to measure your feet at home and ensure you buy the right size.2
6 Steps for Measuring Your Feet
Before you get started, make sure you have a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and a ruler or tape measure.
- Gather your measuring supplies and find a flat surface in your home, such as hardwood or laminate flooring.
- Sit on a chair and place the piece of paper under your foot. You may want to secure the paper to the ground with tape to keep it from sliding around. Since we’re measuring for sandals, you’ll most likely want to do this barefoot.
- Using your writing implement of choice, trace around your foot.
- Now you can measure the length and width of your foot using a ruler or tape measure. Measure the length from the longest toe to the heel, and the width at the broadest section of the foot.
- Repeat for the other foot. (This step is optional, as the difference between both feet is usually negligible).
- Consult a size chart and convert from inches or centimeters to the corresponding size.
The measuring process should only take you a few minutes and will help you determine the right size flip flop for your foot.
More Tips for Buying the Right Size
On top of measuring your foot before purchasing new flip flops, there are a few other ways to ensure the right fit. Here are some recommendations:
Take Your Measurements in the Afternoon
As you walk around during the day, your feet can swell a little. Sizing can also fluctuate with the temperature. The change is usually minimal, but you may notice your feet are up to half a size bigger later in the day.3
That’s why it’s imperative to measure your feet and try on your flip flops in the late afternoon. By purchasing sandals that accommodate your feet at their largest, you’re ensuring maximum comfort throughout the day. Since you’re probably buying new sandals to walk around in, it makes sense to buy a pair that fits your feet before, during, and after your walk.
Try the Sandals On
As e-tailers and online shopping become more and more popular, trying a pair of flip flops on isn’t always an option. However, if you do have the chance to take your sandals for a test drive before buying, you should always make the most of it especially if you require extra arch support, suffer from plantar fasciitis, have a wide foot, have a narrow foot, etc. Take a quick walk around, slip the flip flops on and off a few times, and see how they feel on your feet.
If you are buying online, keep an eye out for sellers that offer free returns. That way, you can always order a few different sizes to experiment with and return the ones that don’t work out.
When you can’t try a flip flop on right away, you can at least rely on other people’s advice when it comes to sizing. However, it can help to remember that online reviews are someone else’s subjective opinion, and you may have a totally different experience when you try the sandals for yourself. No two feet are alike, nor are two sets of personal preferences. With that in mind, reviews are still an excellent resource when comparing your options.
Choose Vionic for a Perfect Size
So what is the difference between flip flop size and shoe size, and what should you do about it? As you search around online, you’ll often find people saying to size up when purchasing flip flops. But should you buy flip flops a size bigger than your shoe size for a relaxed fit? Or should you stick with your usual size?
The short answer is: it depends. There shouldn’t be much of a difference between shoe and sandal size, but many brands will have their own sizing conventions, so it can be hard to know exactly what will fit correctly. Your best bet is to follow any guidelines that a brand might have and make an educated decision from there. When in doubt, you’re better off going up the size, as having your feet hang off of a small footbed is worse than having a little extra space.
With that said, for any Vionic sandals only available in whole sizes, our recommendation is to size down to the nearest whole size if you typically wear a half size. For example, if you usually wear a size 8.5, order your sandal in a size 8. We also offer free returns and exchanges to facilitate your search for the perfect pair, so you can worry less about shipping costs and more about what to wear with your new flip flops.
See you at the beach!
- “Who Made That Flip Flop?”. The New York Times Magazine. www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/magazine/who-made-that-flip-flop.html
- Meghan Blalock. “Why You’re Probably Wearing the Wrong Shoe Size”. Who What Wear. Dec 17, 2017, www.whowhatwear.com/how-to-find-shoe-size/slide2
- “Shoes Getting Tight? Why Your Feet Change Size Over Time”. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/shoes-getting-tight-feet-change-size-time/