There are about as many different styles of outdoor sandals as there are species of plants. The original plastic thong has spawned a broad and diverse progeny. Forty years ago, had you told someone that people would be paying $100 for a high-tech descendant of the sandals favored by Vietcong soldiers, they would’ve dismissed you as some crazy combination of Abbie Hoffman, Jane Fonda, and Klaus “Doc Martens” Maertens.
Even among footwear that can still be considered flip-flops, which I would define as having a three-point strap and a thong that rests inside the big toe, there is a broad spectrum of offerings. At one end are the dime-store plastic sandals that are usually good for a week on the beach or two miles of travel, whichever comes first. At the other are flip-flops like Sperry Top-Sider’s Figawi2 Ultra Thong.
The Ultra Thong is the Cadillac of flip-flops, a sandal that will keep your foot fairly well connected to a wet, angled deck yet still provide that satisfying rhythmic slap as you walk down the dock after sailing.
Looking at the Ultra Thong there are two obvious developments that separate it from the basic flop.
First, the traditional strap layout is supplemented with an adjustable strap that passes high over the instep. Cinch this down for a snug fit, and extra layer of security when the footing is questionable, or loosen it up for strolling down the street.
Second, the sole construction is many steps removed from the one-piece rubber platform you’d pick up at the local drug store.
The outer sole is non-marking and features Sperry’s patented water-siping technology-the narrow, wave-shaped slits. The cushy footbed also features a slightly raised rim on the toe and heel portions, which will provide a little extra protection should you accidentally run your foot into a block or hatch cover. Though one caveat here, don’t buy these small. The raised rim in the back could do a number on your heel.
The final test, and perhaps the most important, is the smell test. No matter how comfortable or stylish a sandal is, if it stinks, my wife will throw it out. The Ultra Thong passed its first test-four days in Florida a few weeks back-though the ultimate verdict will probably have to wait until the weather warms up and I can wear them more regularly.
The Ultra Thong retails for just under $60. www.sperrytopsider.com