The Ugly Shoe Intervention: Flippity-Flop

I hate flip flops.  Smacking.  Slapping.  Clopping like the hoofbeats of an apocalypse-heralding horseman.  I hate them.  

I detest when I see a woman in a $400 suit and flip flops.  I cringe when I see a Staffer meeting with constituents during session (or recess) while wearing flip flops.  And I want to throw things–heavy, sharp things–when I go to a formal or cocktail event and see women wearing flip flops with their satin party dresses.

Certainly, there are a handful of places where flip flops are allowed: at the beach, pool side, at a resort, in your garden and in the privacy of your own home.  Because flip flops are not shoes, they are foot covers for places where shoes are not required.  Unfortunately, they have moved far beyond their assigned realm.

Even if you own them, even if you wear them with everything (shudder), there is not a person out there who can argue that affixing a piece of shaped plastic to the bottom of your foot is fashionable, sanitary, or good for your musculoskeletal structure.

To keep flip flops on, you have to grip the front of the sandal with your toes.  As a result, as Dr. John Whyte explains, you shorten your stride and force your ankles, knees, hips and back to pick up the slack. This can lead to injury, wear and tear on the joints and stress on the tendons.

Flip flops can also make you flat footed (not sexy).  Add that to the fact that they provide no meaningful traction, support, or protection for the feet and you are just asking for a busted toe, an infection, or a sprained ankle.

Oh, and for the environmentally and socially conscious folks out there, your beloved, flapping footwear is made with polyurethene, in foreign countries (usually) using discount labor.  Something to think about.

Now, I know that there are some among you who will be royally ticked about this post.  There are certainly places in this country where flip flops are considered a wardrobe basic.  But the angriest commenters (if history is any indicator) will be those of you who use flip flops as commuter footwear during the summer months.  Don’t worry, I brought alternatives. 

For the past two summers, my walk to work shoes were a pair of simple, gold Steve Madden flats.  They were perfection.  I wore them every day for two seasons and they just wore out.  Unfortunately, he’s not making them in that shade any longer, so I must find new shoes for this season.  (I knew I should have purchased a stockpile, a strategic ballet flat reserve, if you will.)

Last week, I bought this D’Orsay, pewter Huarache from Seychelles ($90).  It’s going to take me awhile to break them in, but so far, I can walk 2.5 miles in them comfortably.  But in case they don’t work out as an every day shoe, I have some other options in mind.

Geox makes a great walking shoe.  They have a rubber sole (my favorite), a padded footbed and small perforations to they’re breathable.   These mocha and black cap-toe flats are lovely ($135), as are these light snakeskin flats ($105).

Finally, these gold Michael Kors flats are the closest thing I’ve found to my beloved Steve Madden’s.  They’re a bit pricey at $165, but if you wear them every day for an entire season, I think they’re worth it.  If you like a gold flat but need something less expensive, these gold, ankle strap basket weave flats from LuLu’s are $39.  You can also buy these Kenneth Cole Reaction flats for $70, and Steve Madden has the same pair I used to buy but in gold glitter for $60.

There are plenty of chic commuter shoes available if you’re willing to look for them.  You do not need to settle for a pair of disgusting, offensive, noisy flip flops that cost 45 cents to make.

If nothing else, I encourage you to, at the very least, stop wearing these shoes to work.  Even if you’re just walking in the door wearing them and changing immediately upon arrival, these shoes are not appropriate for a working professional.  There is no valid argument to the contrary, unless you work at a company that makes flip flops and in that case, I have a serious bone to pick with you.  I don’t care if you’re wearing a Vivienne Westwood business suit, all anyone will see is a woman in a suit and flip flops. 

Next week, we’re going to talk about summer sandals that don’t flip or flop. Because, yes, Virginia, they do exist.  See you then.

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  1. Ann S says:

    Preach it sister! I have some lovely pewter Geox flats that I wear and always feel very work (or anywhere else) appropriate. Cannot say the same about flip flops. Yes, the Geox pair are as flat as flip flops, but infinitely more “groomed” looking.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. Ann S says:

    Preach it sister! I have some lovely pewter Geox flats that I wear and always feel very work (or anywhere else) appropriate. Cannot say the same about flip flops. Yes, the Geox pair are as flat as flip flops, but infinitely more “groomed” looking.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. LS says:

    Belle, the Seychelles pair is lovely, but the soles look so thin. They're comfortable enough for you to walk to long periods without an insert?

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  4. J says:

    What about Rainbows are nicer leather flip flops? Are these ever acceptable?

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  5. Jay says:

    Hey Belle, I'm returning to professional work (hopefully State?) after time in grad school. When I take stock of my professional wardrobe, though, my suit separates look a little… worse for the wear. While I don't expect my cheap Filene's Basement black-pants-by-the-dozen to wear like iron, I do wish my jackets would last as long as possible. (I liked to wear non-matching suits on the Hill.) Do you have any good tips for keeping suits fresh in an environment wear you wear them every day? How often do you dry clean, and when? How to keep tweeds non-scruffy, silks silky, etc? Any tips to hare with the class? I assume nobody wants to spend their hard-earned cash on dry cleaning more than they have to, and even that can be damaging.

    Also – I have been thinking about the differences my Hill wardrobe would need to transition to State, for example, or the Pentagon. What about doing a post or two about that? Just an idea.

    Love your blog, read every post! Keep your chin up with this budget stuff. Remember at least some people know how hard you must be working, and appreciate it!



    April 7, 2011/Reply
  6. prosecutordc says:

    What about “boat shoes” as a commuter shoe? More of a sole. Like Sperrys. Or I like cole haan's nike air collection for commuter shoes….and you're about at that price range anyway.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  7. Taylor says:

    Last summer, i bought a pair of Toms for commuting shoes. They are incredibly comfortable and lightweight and come in lots of bright colors. I know they're not super attractive to everyone, but they're not awful. Also, for each pair sold, the company donates a pair to a child who doesn't have any shoes.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  8. Jay says:

    oh my goodness. Too embarrassing – I promise I have been doing academic research for way too many hours today. I meant WHERE you wear them…

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  9. BlueFish says:

    I'm also thinking back to last year's post about flip flops and a woman who was in med school doing her residency or rotation describing a horrible infection between the toes of a flip flopped patient. I believe the doc said her family was Chinese and they only wear flip flops at home – the same goes for the Caribbean for when you're bumming around at home or the beach (no one really wears them to “go out” and they're called “slippers” as in “house slippers”). I've found when I have worn them out my feet are absolutely filthy at the end of the day and I have to scrub them thoroughly as soon as I get in.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  10. P says:

    belle, i love you, but most of those flats that you posted are just as flat at flip flops! i can buy a $20 pair of black reefs every season, stick them in the oven for 5 minutes to warm them and then mold them to my feet, and they give me a simple, unobtrusive commuting shoe with support for the whole season!

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  11. cca says:

    I so agree about the flip flop at work. I also cant stand to see a flip flop worn down on one side

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  12. Belle says:

    P- Yes, but they're still not good for your feet cause your gripping with your toes! If you want more cushion, like ProsecutorDC said, Cole Haan Nike Air or buy a Dr. Scholls for Her insert. I use them almost every day, and no one can tell that I'm gellin'.

    LS-I don't have such a problem with thin shoes, but if you do, try an insert like mentioned above.

    J-Rainbows are evil. Ask Belle's best friend Bob. He slipped in his rainbows and did beaucoup damage to his ankle and knee. No traction, no support = death. As for leather, at least you can clean them, but you're still gripping with your toes. Not good. When I wear sandals, I buy a pair that come up really high on the instep like Jack Rogers, but those are really hard soled, so not for everyone.

    Prosecutor-If you want to wear a boat shoe, I won't hold it against you. I don't like them, but esp. in the mid-Atlantic, they're not faux pas and are WAY better than flip-flappers. (not a typo)

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  13. Serena says:

    I agree that suits and flip flops do not mix (um, ridiculous!), but I also agree with other people about the sole being extremely flat and thin in many of the flats you suggested! If you're going to argue that flip flops shouldn't be used as commuter shoes due to their lack of support, please suggest some shoes that actually do provide support.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  14. lulu says:


    can't wait for the summer sandals post…

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  15. L says:

    Oh, Belle. Sometimes I think we might be long lost twins. I loathe flip flops for many different reasons. In addition to the ones you listed (I'm looking at you, shin splints), I find that people who wear flip flops at inappropriate times often do not have visually appealing feet.

    @J – Rainbows aren't appropriate for any work environment I can think of unless you're a lifeguard or work in the pool snack shop (and I'm pretty sure that my 18-year-old brother doesn't read this blog). Save the Rainbows (and the Havianas, Reefs, and even your Jack Rogers) for the weekend.

    @prosecutordc- While I rank boat shoes above (most) flip flops, I still don't think they belong in the work place. Something like Nine West's Delos Loafer and Etienne Aigner's Maxine have a more professional look at similar price points. If you're craving the neutral-ish color of most boat shoes, Anne Klein's Greater, Anita's Beatriz, or Tahari's Boston might work. Though I think better options exist in the shoe universe, these might satisfy your boat shoe craving.

    In addition to Belle's suggestions, I also like the Naturalizer Maude, Mitzy, Mystic (which I just purchased in the beige-like “Mocha Taupe”), and Open Toe Potion. Though they're all fairly plain, they each have some visual detail. All of the ones I mentioned are available on Endless and Zappos and are listed around $70.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  16. C says:

    Belle – I'm with you on the cheap looking flip flops, but what about something a little more professional looking like this?
    I bought these in Tobacco last year and they were my staples last summer commuting around the city. I personally don't like the look of wearing flats with skirts/dresses.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  17. J says:

    L– I agree that rainbows are not acceptable for work. What I meant to ask was whether people thought they were in the same category as plastic flip flops. I just love them with casual wear on the weekends but Ben's horror story does make me reconsider. I just hate when my cute leather flip flops are put in the same category as the plastic flip flops I wear in the shower at the gym.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  18. M says:

    LL Bean and Landsend both have nice flats with substantial padding, and non-slip soles in the $50-$70 range that make good commuter shoes. I agree that flip flops and suits do not mix! Sadly, I have already seen a couple people (who looked too old to be interns) committing this sin in the HOB halls this week.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  19. Belle says:

    To the people commenting about the shoes I provided not having support, there is a difference between support and padding.

    Flip flops provide 0 support, but because you're basically walking around on a dry dish sponge, they have padding.

    Flats provide support, but some flats don't provide much padding. So you add an insert for padding or you buy a pair of Geox (mentioned in the post), Cole Haan Airs, or like cushy flat.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  20. Belle says:

    C-Those are not appropriate to wear at work all day, but you could wear them to walk to work. They have better support because they come all the way up on the instep, but I'd give the beds a once over with an alcohol wipe once in awhile to kill bacteria.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  21. Jules says:

    I agree that you shouldn't wear flip flops to work, but I love to wear flip flops with skirts and dresses in the summer. They aren't plastic old navy style though, they are fancier and i have pairs in silver and gold similar to this I think they look really cute. Isn't something like that acceptable with a sundress after work and on the weekend?

    I also adore my havianas but i only wear them to the beach of course

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  22. Belle says:

    I mean, they're better than Havianas, and fine for non-work, but the physical and bacterial issues still apply.

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  23. b says:


    There seems to be a lot of confusion as to your definition of 'flip flop'. Do you differentiate between 'flip flops' and thong sandals? For instance I view haviana's, reefs, $4 old navy sandals, etc as 'flip flops'. I consider my Jack Rogers Navajo's a thong style sandal and appropriate to wear with a summer dress or weekend outing shoes. I wouldn't wear them to work on a casual Friday nor would I have worn them during Recess during my Hill days. Thanks Belle- I never realized how awful they were until your post last year about flip-flops and I've been a convert ever since. Your crusade is working!

    April 7, 2011/Reply
  24. Ann S says:

    Preach it sister! I have some lovely pewter Geox flats that I wear and always feel very work (or anywhere else) appropriate. Cannot say the same about flip flops. Yes, the Geox pair are as flat as flip flops, but infinitely more “groomed” looking.

    April 8, 2011/Reply
  25. Adrienne says:

    I confess a deep and abiding love for Yellowbox flip flops. I hated this type of shoe until I found that line. I have flat feet, and my Yellowbox fiip flops provide much more arch support than most of my flats. Plus, I adore polka dots. I've worn out at least 3 pairs. However, I do agree that flip flops are not great commuter shoes and are inappropriate for work.

    April 8, 2011/Reply
  26. Belle says:

    b-If the sandal has only a v-shaped band of material holding it onto your foot, it's a flip flop. plastic FFs are worse than leather, but that's not saying much. If it comes up onto the instep, it's a sandal. Flip flip, v-shape: Sandal, more coverage.

    April 8, 2011/Reply
  27. Claire says:

    I really love the J.crew & Tory Burch jelly flats. They make them in colors that don't immediately scream jelly, like a pearlized gold color (while I have to admit I love the bright pink & orange as well) so while they aren't appropriate for the whole work day, they are great for walking to and from the metro. Very very comfy. And a bonus- they work for rain or shine and they are virtually indestructible.

    April 8, 2011/Reply
  28. VA says:

    Eh, I like the look of leather flip-flops (I have J.Crew's version in several colors) with summer skirts, shorts, and dresses. Agreed that they are rarely appropriate for a conservative professional setting (my office happens to be business casual, emphasis on the casual) or pounding the pavement, but for me, they're perfect for Jazz in the Sculpture Garden, casual al fresco dinners, trips to the mall, etc. To each her own sandal ­čÖé

    April 8, 2011/Reply
  29. Belle says:

    Like I said, I don't like leather flip flops, but if you're going to flop to work, their better than plastic. I can't wear them though because after an hour, my legs are killing me.

    April 8, 2011/Reply
  30. Montana says:

    Anything that flips-flaps-flops shouldn't be worn in the office environment, same with commuting. I broke my foot and ankle four years ago wearing flip-flops taking out the trash. NEVER AGAIN!

    April 8, 2011/Reply
  31. N says:

    Is it unacceptable to wear flats with your suit/skirt? I'm extremely tall, so I have not invested in buying heels.

    April 9, 2011/Reply