Astral Filipe Flip Flop
($69.95; Astral Designs.com)
I've always been a huge fan of flip flops, especially on river trips. They're easy to slip on and off, I can do a fair amount of hiking in them, and they're convenient to wear around camp, on a raft, or at the beach. But there's always been a problem: traction. Most flops are designed for beach-side relaxation and are not always suitable for slick surfaces, side-canyon hiking, or stream crossings.
This year Astral released the Filipe, a high-performance flip flop. "High-performance" might seem like a silly way to describe a flip flop, but it's all relative, folks. Astral's G15 rubber—the same rubber outsole they use for their popular Brewer and Rassler paddling shoes–provides substantially better traction than other flops I've tried. When I'm scrambling around on slippery rocks on side hikes in the Grand Canyon, I like to have that extra confidence of a high-traction outsole, so this is a major plus for me.
The question, then, was how my foot would feel on the top of the flop when they got wet. I can happily report that they felt great. The thong strap comes pretty far back on my foot, which keeps me feeling relatively securely attached to the shoe. The top surface of the shoe also remains relatively grippy when wet. The Filipe is cushy which means that it "breaks in" and molds to my foot faster than, say, another of my favorite flip flops, the Chaco Z/Volve.
Astral also added a versatile heel strap that can be worn, stowed, or removed. At first I thought this would be a useless gimmick but I've found that in steep/exposed terrain or on particularly slippery surfaces that I like to slip on the heel strap for a few minutes to give myself a little bit of extra performance from the flip flop. It's also convenient during stream crossings—I've lost one too many flip flops to a swift-flowing mountain stream. The heel strap isn't comfortable for me to wear all day but it does come in handy in certain situations.
The Filipe seems more durable than the average Reef or OluKai flip flop but is certainly less durable than the Chaco Z/Volve. After about 100 days of use this summer—on the river and in regular life—I can see signs of wear in the toes.
Overall the Filipe is a great step forward for flip flops and the combination of features with a sticky rubber outsole makes me more confident scrambling around slippery rocks next to the river. It's a great choice if you love to wear flip flops day-to-day but want to be ready for anything that adventure throws your way.