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Note the method of securing to the foot by a thong passing between the toes.
Thongs, pluggers, flip-flops, or jandals are an open type of outdoor footwear, consisting of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap, like a thin thong, that passes between the first (big) and second toes and around either side of the foot. Unlike sandals, flip-flops do not secure the ankle.

Uses and fashions

A pair of "Havaianas" thongs
A variety of colorful flip flops.

Flip-flops are a very basic type of footwear. They are essentially a thin rubber sole with two simple straps running in a Y shape from the sides of the foot to the join between the big toe and next toe. Some include a strap along the back heel. The popular use of flip-flops as simple warm climate beach or outdoor wear has spread through much of the world, although it is most common in Indiamarker (where it is immensely popular and called a Hawaii Chappal), Australia, New Zealandmarker, USAmarker, Brazilmarker, the Pacific Islands, and Southeast Asia.

In most developing countries, rubber flip-flops are the cheapest footwear available, often typically costing less than $1. Some measures may be used to reduce cost, such as making them out of recycled tires. Because of their low cost they are very widely used in these countries as typical footwear instead of a fashion statement. Despite their disposable design, street vendors will repair worn sandals for a small fee

However in many developed countries flip-flops are typically treated as annual or seasonal, short lasting footwear. Depending on the material makeup of the shoe, the average pair of flip-flops lasts a year or less. The strap between the toes can snap very easily after moderate use, and although this problem can be solved by using replacement straps that are easily "snapped" into the flip-flop, most people do not bother to repair flip-flops because they are very inexpensive and easily replaced.

These disposal habits may pose an environmental problem because most flip-flops are made with polyurethane, which comes from crude oil. This material is a number seven resin and cannot usually be recycled in small amounts. Because of growing environmental concerns, some companies have begun to sell flip-flops made from recycled inner tubes or car tires, as well as sustainable materials like hemp, cotton and coconut.

Flip flops are also popular with those who enjoy being barefoot but need to wear shoes, because they allow the foot to be out in the open but still constitute a shoe for wear in places such as restaurants or on city streets, and can be quickly and easily removed. They are also popular because they are easy to carry.

On July 19, 2005, some members of Northwestern Universitymarker's national champion women's lacrosse team were criticized for wearing "flip-flops" to the White Housemarker to meet with President George W. Bush. The women pointed out that their shoes were not "beach shoes," but were dressier thong sandals.

The use of flip-flops has also been encouraged in some branches of European and North American military as sanitary footwear in communal showers, where wearing flip-flops slows the spread of fungal infections. Following on from this, some soldiers and other trampers or hikers have begun carrying flip-flops, or a pair of flip-flop soles sewn to socks, as a lightweight emergency replacement for damaged boots.

The Indian manifestation of the flip-flop, the chappal, has even been known to be deployed as a weapon, both as a truncheon and a missile, although it is more commonly merely a threat. It is not unheard of for people to whip off their chappals in the heat of an argument, in order to make their aggravation more palpable to the other party. (Touching the shoes or feet of another, in some Indian cultures, is a sign of respect or submission).


Thongs were inspired by the traditional woven soled zōri or "Jonge sandals", (hence "jandals"). Woven Japanese zōri had been used as beach wear in New Zealand in the 1930s [50012]. In the post war period in both New Zealand and America, versions were briefly popularized by servicemen returning from occupied Japan. The idea of making sandals from plastics did not occur for another decade.

The modern design was invented in Auckland, New Zealandmarker by Morris Yock in the 50s and patented in 1957. However, this claim has recently been contested by the children of John Cowie. John Cowie was an England-raised businessman who started a plastics manufacturing business in Hong Kong after the war. His children claim that it was Cowie that started manufacturing a plastic version of the sandals in the late 1940s and that Yock was just a New Zealand importer. The children also say that their father claimed to have invented the name 'jandal' from a shortened form of 'Japanese Sandal'. John Cowie and his family emigrated to New Zealand in 1959.

Despite 'jandal' being commonly used in New Zealand to describe any manufacturer's brand, the word Jandal is actually a trademark since 1957, for a long time owned by the Skellerup company.

In countries other than New Zealand, jandals are known by other names.

In Australia they are known as thongs. The first pair were manufactured there by Skellerup rival Dunlop in 1960. Thongs became popular there after being worn by the Australian Olympic swimming team at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956.

In the UK and U.S. they are most commonly known as flip-flops.

Flip-flops may have been familiar in the United States in the mid-19th century. An 1861 letter to the editor of The New York Times mentioned poorly equipped troops in the Seventh Regiment Volunteers wearing "flip-flaps": "The men were not in uniform, but very poorly dressed, — in many cases with flip-flap shoes. The business-like air with which they marched rapidly through the deep mud of the Third-avenue was the more remarkable." Later the letter reads: "The men have not yet been supplied with shoes, and yet still march flip-flop. Why?" The letter does not describe the men's shoes in detail, so it is not clear whether it is referring to footwear of the flip-flop style, or perhaps to the poor state of their shoes.

Thongs now come in a variety of shoe styles other than the traditional flat sandal, such as women's heels, slides, and wedges.

The shoes gained popularity as celebrities started wearing them and high end designers started producing them. Designer Sigerson Morrison added a kitten heel to flip-flops.

Havaianas is a Brazilian brand of flip-flop that gained world recognition in 1998 after the company developed a style of the sandals for the World Cup that featured the Brazilian flag. Although Havaianas flip-flops have only become wildy popular in the United States in the last five years after many celebrities were seen wearing them, the brand has been around since 1962. The brand's famous slogan "Havaianas. The Real Ones." originated in the 1970s as a response to other companies making knock-off versions of the flip-flops. The shoes are known for their comfortable soles and straps. The name Havaianas means Hawaiians in Portuguese.

Health concerns

While widely regarded to be comfortable, flip-flops do not provide ankle support, and can cause many foot-related problems. Some flip-flops have a spongy sole, so when the foot hits the ground, it rolls inward and the sponge allows it to roll even more than usual. This is known as overpronation and causes many problems in the foot. Each time a foot hits the ground, the arch is supposed to be locked to absorb shock. But during overpronation, the arch opens and releases this locking mechanism, leading to problems such as pain in the heel, the arch, the toes and in the forefoot. Overpronation of the foot also results in flat feet, especially if flip flops are worn throughout childhood and adolescence when the muscles, bones, and tendons of the feet are growing and developing. Exacerbating this, some flip-flops force a person to overuse the tendons in the foot, which can cause tendinitis.

Ankle sprains are also common due to stepping off a curb or stepping wrong; the ankle bends, but the flip flop neither holds on to nor supports it. The open nature of flip-flops also makes the wearer more susceptible to stubbed toes, and exposes the foot to the environment. The toe grip can be useful for preventing the foot from slipping forward in a convenient sandal, but flip flops with bands across higher areas of the foot or the arch are recommended for support and keeping the shoe on the foot. Thong sandals are also popular with the same proportions and structures of flip flops, but with the addition of a slingback or an ankle strap that holds and supports the foot in a stable position. Arch support is also found in many more expensive and better made flip flops rather than the ubiquitous foam materials. Spending more on a better quality, better created shoe can influence the wearer's health and safety. Such shoes are also more commonly endowed with rubberized soles and better cushions.

In 2008, Auburn University researchers found that wearing thong-style flip-flops can result in sore feet, ankles and legs. The research team, who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in 2008, found that flip-flop wearers took shorter steps and that their heels hit the ground with less vertical force than when the same walkers wore athletic shoes. When wearing flip-flops, the study participants did not bring their toes up as much during the leg’s swing phase, resulting in a larger ankle angle and shorter stride length, possibly because they tended to grip the flip-flops with their toes. This repeated motion can result in problems from the foot up into the hips.

Regional names

Flip-flops are also known as jandals in New Zealandmarker, chappal, Hawaii chappel, Qainchi (scissor-like) chappals in Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker, thongs in Australia and Canadamarker, slip-slops (or just slops) in South Africa, go-aheads in the South Pacific, ojotas or chancletas in Spainmarker, chancletas o sandalias in Mexicomarker, Central America and South America, japanke (lit. Japanese) in Croatiamarker and chinelos in Brazilmarker, kafkafim in Israelmarker. In Hawaiimarker and several other places around the world, they may be called "slippers".


Toe socks worn with flip-flops
In Japan tabi are a traditional sock with a slot for the thong, and toe socks (with separate compartments for each toe) also mate with flip-flops.

See also


  1. Flip-flops not a type of sandal
  2. V10i3 human interest
  4. - Next big step in team spirit: Flip-flops
  5. New claims rock jandal orthodoxy
  6. "A Word in Season on an Important Subject", letter to the editor, New York Times, May 16, 1861, retrieved (from subscription archives, sometimes available to nonsubscribers) June 23, 2008
  9. Health Tip Of The Week: Skip The Flip-Flops
  10. Health Tip Of The Week: Skip The Flip-Flops
  11. Flip flops can damage your health
  12. Newswise: Overuse of Flip-flops Can Lead to Orthopedic Problems Retrieved on June 4, 2008.
  13. Flip-Flops Can Cause Long-Term Health Problems

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