Even in the heat of summer, you can't wear flip-flops all the time. They may be your go-to footwear during warmer months, but donning a pair while mowing the lawn or riding your bicycle could lead to a trip to the emergency room with a nasty stress fracture, a broken bone or even (in the case of the lawn mower) a few missing digits. Plus, they're not exactly formal friendly. There's a right time and place for these ultra-casual shoes, but what do you wear on your feet when they're in need of a little more class or support?
No matter what kind of shoe best suits your lifestyle, you have plenty of options besides flip-flops. To help narrow your search, we've collected a short list of styles that's sure to satisfy the outdoorsman, the athlete, the preppy office worker -- and everyone else in between. So without further ado, here are five alternatives to flip-flops for men.
Read the next page to learn about a shoe that's origins are older than the Declaration of Independence.
Birkenstock sandals are often associated with the laid-back hippie counterculture movement of the 1960s, but the company has been around a lot longer than that -- it was established in Germany in 1774! Birkenstock sandals feature cork bottoms and oiled leather straps, and they're popular in part because they mold to a wearer's feet over time. Every shoe features a heel that ensures even weight distribution and foot alignment, and toes are exposed to open air with ample room to wiggle and move freely. Like flip-flops, Birkenstocks are widely considered to be casual footwear -- so don't plan on donning a pair to your next business meeting -- but they're perfect for lounging and impromptu outings during the spring and summer months.
For an on-the-go, active lifestyle, athletic sandals are a safe alternative to flip-flops. Unlike athletic sneakers, feet are exposed to the open air, making these shoes a popular choice during warmer months of the year. Many designs feature buckles and straps that prevent them from slipping off your feet, making these shoes safe to wear when hiking and riding bicycles. Athletic shoe giants like Nike and Adidas sell sport-ready sandals with adjustable Velcro straps and cushioned toe gels that provide added support and comfort. Teva, another popular athletic shoe manufacturer, sells durable -- sometimes waterproof -- sandals suitable for outdoor activities like white-water rafting and fishing.
Penny loafers were first manufactured in the 1930s with a sleek, simple design that many still know and love today. Shortly after the shoe's debut, a strap featuring two open lips -- just big enough to hold a shiny copper penny -- was added, and the penny loafer craze truly began. Men started subbing penny loafers for summer flip-flops in the 1960s, wearing them without socks during warmer months. Years later, this trend is still in style, and while penny loafers are often worn with casual outfits, they're also acceptable office attire, too (with socks, of course). Penny loafers are not only a suitable shoe choice for men -- women enjoy wearing these sensible shoes for a wide variety of occasions as well.
Slide sandals are a hassle-free, convenient shoe for men that comes in a wide variety of styles. Materials range from leather to Croslite, a foam resin used by shoe manufacturer Crocs. Materials aside, all shoes of this type feature a design that allows feet to slip in and out with ease. Some slide sandals are dressy-casual and feature embellishments like buckles and braided straps. Others are simple and made of durable, waterproof material, making them the perfect footwear for pool and beach outings.
Topsies are a close relative to flip-flops, but instead of a thong, these shoes feature stretchable fabric that straps around your feet and ankles, providing full coverage and support. This casual, trendy line of footwear originated in California, where residents enjoy wearing flip-flops and sandals year-round. Topsies are loved for their lightweight, comfortable style and bold design. They're decorated with everything from peace signs to dragons, but even in plain, solid colors, these unique shoes make a striking fashion statement all on their own.
What's the history of the first Nike shoes? Learn more about Nike shoes and their waffle iron origins. Learn more in this HowStuffWorks Now article.
- Birkenstock USA. "Birkenstock History." (April 11, 2012) http://www.birkenstockusa.com/about/birkenstock-history
- Birkenstock USA. "Sandals, shoes and clogs for women." (April 11, 2012) http://www.birkenstockusa.com/women
- M., Racheline. "History of a Shoe: Penny Loafers." Zappos.com. July 8, 2008. (April 11, 2012) http://blogs.zappos.com/blogs/comfort/2008/07/01/history-of-a-shoe-penny-loafers
- Topsies Online. "Our Story." (April 11, 2012) http://www.topsiesonline.com/our-story-a/142.htm
- United States National Library of Medicine. "Athlete's foot." (April 13, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001878/
- United States Patent and Trademark Office, the (USPTO). "Frequently Asked Questions About Patents." Dec. 11, 2011. (April 13, 2012) http://www.uspto.gov/faq/patents.jsp