Flip-flops have become super popular and versatile footwear, from summer wear around the house to beach essentials. Flip-flops are so lightweight and comfortable that many of us would wear them everywhere if we could. Originally developed from traditional Japanese footwear "zori," Today we have eco-friendly and not-so-eco-friendly flip-flops in loads of attractive colors and designs.
Flip-flops are cheap, easy to maintain, and long-lasting. However, manufacturers make a lot of them with plastic or synthetic rubber. As such, they don't biodegrade or, at best, biodegrade slowly. The result is discarded plastic flip-flops and sandals washed ashore on beaches or floating in the ocean. This causes water pollution and endangers marine life.
We have put together a selection of sustainable footwear brands that produce eco-friendly, sustainable flip-flops and sandals. In some cases, recycled flip-flops use materials to prevent new oil-based ones from getting made in the first place. Have a browse around for the right fit for you, and rest easier knowing little, if any, polluting plastic or oil products were used to sole your feet.
And when heading for the beach, all kitted out with your new pair of sustainable flip-flops, grab some zero-waste sunscreen to protect your skin. Meanwhile, have a browse of our eco-friendly summer tips while packing a sustainable living book for that all-important summer read.
Indosole gives a new purpose to old tires with the outsole made using recycled tires. The upcycled ENVRO rubber straps and recycled tire outsole make Indosole flip-flops very durable. The footwear is adaptable to all kinds of terrains.
They make the midsole with natural rubber and use negligible amounts of water and dye. The natural rubber soles feature a custom-molded layer with a textured sheet designed to adapt to the shape of your feet and provide firmness. Both the male and female lines of flip-flops have arch support for extra comfort.
Indosole is a certified B Corporation; its cruelty-free products produce zero waste.
Rainbow sandals make sturdy, long-lasting flip-flops thanks to their use of hemp's extra-strong fiber. Hemp is a natural fiber that has a minimal impact on the environment.
However, the brand uses nylon thread to stitch its flip-flop; therefore, these rainbow sandals are not entirely plastic-free. Rainbow flip-flops also do very well in long-term storage and do not deteriorate as quickly as cork or leather flip-flops.
The flip-flops are stiff but have embedded arch support, so they don't hurt your feet. So, if you are looking for a summer shoe that you can keep using year after year, consider Rainbow's environmentally friendly-flip-flops. They come in brown, black, and neutral colors.
Inspired by beach surfing, Gumbies makes flip-flops for men and women from recycled materials. They make their recycled rubber soles from recycled tires woven with jute and straps from recycled cotton.
Gumbies also have a recycled cotton insole to keep you feeling cool. Gumbies make about 80 pairs of flip-flops from one recycled tire. They also have some eco-friendly cork flip-flops on their website if you prefer cork to rubber.
Made from the regenerative outer bark of oak trees, these high-quality, sustainable sandals are readily biodegradable and sustainable. One great thing about cork flip-flops is that it is hypoallergenic, so you will have no problem wearing them even if you have sensitive skin.
Original cork's flip flops are handmade with patented designs featured in popular magazines like Vogue UK. There's a lot to like when buying your new flip-flops made from sustainable materials like cork.
It is important to note that cork material is not durable around salt, so keeping your trendy cork flip-flop off the beach is best.
Eco-friendly flip-flops to massage your feet? That is what Bumpers offers. They claim the bumpy surface design follows the concepts of acupressure and reflexology. The footbed structure allows the free flow of air that keeps your feet dry, while the outer sole has a unique anti-slip structure. Further, wearing a bumpers flip-flop can improve circulation to your feet and reduce pain in your feet, ankles, and legs.
Bumpers make flip-flops using natural and recycled rubber. The company collects all the waste generated during production and recycles it into more shoes. Bumpers rubber flip-flops are designed for men, women, and children.
The rubber used to make Huggoes comes from plantations in Thailand. They design ultra-soft natural rubber flip-flops for women. The flip-flops are lightweight and dry out quickly, so your feet aren't still feeling wet hours after your dip in the pool.
Huggoes flip-flops have a polygon surface texture to hold your feet, stretchable rubber straps, and an anti-slip base. They are great to wear at the beach and in other places with lots of water. The colorful, eco-friendly flip-flops give you the feeling of class and elegance while being comfortable.
SOLE focuses on reducing its environmental impact as much as possible; therefore, it runs a carbon-negative business. They use all-natural materials like cork, hemp, and bloom algae foam. We love a company purchasing carbon offsets, planting cork trees for its own use, and ensuring a sustainable harvest.
SOLE also incorporates recycled wine corks and recycled polyester into its production. As a result, when you choose a high-quality shoe from the sole, you'll also be lowering your carbon footprint.
Additionally, the flip-flops have a wear-moldable orthopedic-shaped footbed. The insole can help to equalize pressure distribution, reduce plantar fascia strain, and improve posture.
Olli flip-flops are made using 100% natural rubber sourced from Sri Lanka. They are soft, comfortable, and durable. The flip-flops are so lightweight you will forget you have shoes on your feet. Also, they tag their flip-flops as "undressed," the company uses this term to assure consumers that their products contain no chemicals.
Olli makes simple and essential designs for men and women if you are looking for a no-fuss flip-flop that's also good for the environment.
The brand is socially conscious and has a fair trade certificate to attest to its ethical production practices.
Get support for your feet all day with the anatomic contouring that reef flip-flops provide. They make the footbed with soft EVA to give you a cushiony feel and the outsole from non-marking rubber.
Reef flip-flops contain eco-one, an organic additive that enhances biodegradation. The flip-flops are machine-washable and PVC-free. People with wide feet should be careful in selecting a reef flip-flop because it tends to be too narrow. However, the dual density makes it highly durable.
A few footwear brands take the zero-waste concept as seriously as Brazillian brand Rider does. They reuse or recycle 99% of the waste generated in their production process, and almost nothing goes to waste. They make their flip-flops with 15%-30% recycled materials.
Furthermore, consumers can return their worn-out flip-flops to Rider for recycling, extending their life cycle. Further, every month, the company recycles about 960 tons of materials. Rider flip-flops come in brightly colored stylish designs for men, women, and kids.
The Sanuk brand is a subsidiary of the Deckers company. The Sanuk brand focuses on producing vegan shoes and sandals.
They make their flip-flops from repurposed yoga mats. The anatomical footbed is thick and cushiony, providing support and comfort while making its straps from vegan leather material.
Planet flops is based in Brazil. They source their natural rubber and manufacture their flip-flops locally. This employs local artisans and also helps boost the local economy. Planet flops' production system is socially and environmentally sustainable.
The flip-flops come in various brightly colored designs for men, women, and children. Additionally, Planet flops plants a new tree in the Brazilian rainforest for every pair sold.
This is one of the best eco-friendly flip-flops if you like hemp products. Made by hand from hemp plants grown in Nepal, Hemp Zone vegan flip-flops feel more comfortable as they wear out. The flip-flops are lightweight and have a sturdy rubber outer sole in plain-colored and tie-dyed designs.
Chaco soles provide support and an anti-slip guard. The flip-flops have a biocentric footbed and have a seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medicine Association. They are long-lasting and can be easily repaired. Chaco policies place people, the planet, and profit as a priority. They donate 3% of their post-tax profit to organizations championing environmental and social causes.
Chaco also has a nice collection of eco-friendly sandals and flip-flops for kids.
Musewear makes these unisex eco-friendly flip-flops using natural rubber from Brazil. This brand prints zodiac signs, whimsical sayings, and inspirational quotes from famous people on their flip-flops. The natural rubber flip flop is 100% recyclable, and the company has a recycling program to aid their eco-cred further. They encourage consumers to return worn-out flip-flops directly to the company for recycling.
The company donates 15% of the profit to non-profit organizations concerned with preserving nature and wildlife for every pair sold. Organizations they sponsor include Nature Conservancy and Best Friends Animal Society.
Waves are a footwear company that sources high-quality natural rubber from Sri Lanka. This company's flip-flops are made using 100% natural rubber. The product will have a unique odor when newly purchased due to its natural rubber material. You have to leave the scent in a cool, airy space for a while to get rid of it. Waves flip-flops are recyclable.
Inspired by the ocean, Some designs are made exclusively for women and some for men. The colorful designs vary from graphic to engraved to patterned or simply plain. Waves flip flops are made by hand from eco materials and crafted for outdoor use.
With comfy and straightforward designs, Feelgoodz designs sandals and flip-flops primarily for women. Their flip-flops are entirely vegan, made with natural rubber, vegan natural leather, and recycled outsoles. They double-pad the pillow-soft flip-flops to give you comfort.
Feelgoodz uses all-natural dyes and toxin-free ink to produce its colorful, eco-friendly shoes. They have a fair trade certification for their partnership with communities in Vietnam and Thailand. This partnership ensures that the workers in their source countries are paid well and enjoy benefits.
This Georgia-based flip-flop brand operates a recycling program where customers can mail back worn-out old flip-flops. Okabashi uses the returned flip-flops to make more products. They use bio-based, eco-friendly materials and about 25% recycled material in all their products. Their flip-flops are 100% vegan, recyclable, and contain no BPA, latex, or phthalate.
You can safely wash your Okabashi flip-flops in the washing machine. The flip-flops come in a variety of designs for men and women.
The Atinga brand designs custom flip-flops from reclaimed tires and other locally sourced materials from Tanzania. The Atinga Timbi has a visible tire outsoles design and straps made from the "Urutambi" fabric. Atinga's versatile shoes are all handmade. They value the rare fabric for its superb tensile strength.
In 2012, people found about 4,700 pairs of flip-flops on a beach in Queensland, Australia. They found around 977,000 shoes on the Australian Cocos (keeling) islands1, mostly flip-flops. In Kenya, tons of plastic waste litter the shores of Watamu, floating from all across Africa and sometimes even China and Indonesia.
For some people, flip-flops are affordable go-to's for everyday wear, especially in warmer countries. As a result, worldwide, we consume vast amounts every year. In 2019, experts valued the global flip-flop market at 18.59 billion US dollars.
Industry experts predict that the worldwide market value will rise with a CAGR of 4.2% and be worth 23.8 billion US dollars by 20252. Although the flip-flop industry is growing, investors and environment-conscious consumers have expressed concerns. We worry about pollution and ethical disposal.
We don't want flip-flops to disappear from the footwear market, nor do we want to live in a world where they suffocate. Hence, we should challenge the sustainability of traditional flip-flops, and with so many more sustainable choices available, the switch is easy.
Eco-friendly flip-flops are those that meet environmental standards of safety and sustainability. Producers make regular sandals or flip-flops from materials that are toxic to the environment.
However, some footwear brands use sustainable materials to produce footwear that is suitable for your feet, is safe for the environment, and reduces waste. One way to identify the best eco-friendly sandals or flip-flops is to look for those made from biodegradable 100% natural material or recycled plastic.
We also must consider the strap, often nylon or plastic, in traditional sandals. When choosing eco-friendly flip-flops, look for alternatives that will biodegrade, such as organic cotton. Some manufacturers might also feature recycled nylon or repurposed synthetics, an improvement over virgin materials. If the brand you are considering uses synthetic leather, make sure it's plant-based instead of plastic.
The result is biodegradable flip-flops that won't end up washing around our shorelines for an eternity.
Producers make environmentally friendly flip-flops from recycled materials, virgin sustainable materials, and natural fibers. Some of these materials are listed below:
Further, you'll find a distinction between simply eco-friendly shoes and "vegan" shoes in your search for the perfect planet-friendly flip-flop. Shoes made with fur, leather, and wool fit qualify as eco-friendly bill since they decompose in a landfill (providing the raw materials are ethically sourced).
On the other hand, producers make vegan flip-flops with materials like hemp, cork, sugarcane, natural rubber, and all kinds of recycled rubber, especially recycled car tires. Some innovators are even turning recycled plastic bottles into flip-flops and recycling PET plastic from our shores to help keep them clean. No animal product goes into making vegan shoes.
Furthermore, as flip-flops tend to be at the more affordable end of the market, check for brands making fair trade flip-flops. Our best sustainable flip-flop choices come from ethical brands that ensure they look after the people making your shoes alongside the environment.
There are many options for eco-friendly flip-flops available to you. You can be as specific as you want with your choice. Depending on your personal sustainability choices, you may want a natural rubber flip-flop or one made from recycled rubber or other sustainable materials. With proper care, your pair should last for more than one summer.
Lavers, J.L., Dicks, L., Dicks, M.R. et al. Significant plastic accumulation on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Australia. Sci Rep 9, 7102 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-43375-4
Grand View Research. (2019) Flip Flops Market Size Worth $23.8 billion by 2025. Report
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.