Circus by Sam Edelman Carolina Review

9.7 score
[Editors rating (9.7)] = (WalkJogRun) score (9.7)/10

Editor rating: 9.7 / 10
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“Simple is beautiful and our Carolina sandal is the embodiment of both.” This is how Sam Edelman describes this model, and we agree. Rather than having flashy embellishments or complicated strap designs, the elegance of this pair lies in their simplicity. Appearance aside, they also have more practical features than your typical flip-flop: they ensure a snug and secure fit, are lightly cushioned, and are breathable. They are the perfect go-to pair for summer days, whether you’re at the beach or chilling in the city. That’s not to say they don’t have downsides, especially when it comes to protection and styling. However, after researching, we believe the benefits outweigh the detriments.

Read on to learn about the key features of the Carolina thong sandal. Who knows - maybe they’ll end up being your next wardrobe staple!

Editor's Pros & Cons
  • Simple laid-back style
  • Vegan-friendly
  • Adjustable buckle
  • Lightly cushioned insole
  • Affordable
  • Thin outsole
  • Casual wear only


Before talking about the specifics of this model, let’s first get to know their brand so that we know what to expect. Most of us have no doubt heard of Sam Edelman. This brand’s made a noticeable impact on fashion over the past 15 years, and now has a style that epitomizes the laid-back yet fashionable American lifestyle. Circus by Sam Edelman is simply an extension of this iconic brand, but a more playful and youthful version. Similar to the original Sam Edelman, it has a trend-driven aesthetic, but here you can see a more prominent trace of the style of modern youth. As the brand itself states, “The Circus girl is a bit of a rebel, she lives for fashion but plays by her own rules.”


Starting with the basics of their appearance, several different colors are offered with this model. The options are black, white, red, “saddle,” and “jute.” Saddle is a kind of toffee color. Jute, on the other hand, is actually the word for a type of vegetable fiber that spins into a coarse brown fabric. This does not mean, however, that the uppers are made of this material, but perhaps the word is used to describe the typical color of jute. The variety of colors offered is great; although each one is a pretty versatile color, having multiple versatile colors gives you even more ways to style this pair. If you’re going for a bolder look, you can pick up the eye-catching red pair. If you want a more toned-down look, you can choose the black; and for a more feminine and elegant outfit, the white will be a perfect finishing touch.


Now, as a disclaimer, we have to say that no flip flop can truly offer top-notch comfort. Most of us just aren’t very accustomed to having something in between our toes. However, this pair does everything it can to make it more comfortable to wear. For one, its uppers cover more of the foot than a typical flip flop, and there are also two extra straps along the side of the foot that connect the vamp to the sole. As a result, the foot is more securely strapped down. In addition, the insole is lightly cushioned. The counterbalancing aspects are that the outsole is pretty thin (scroll down to “Protection” for more on this), and the synthetic material could lead to a stiff and “plastic-y” feeling between the toes.


For flip-flops (or as they like to call themselves, “thong sandals,” though both mean the same thing), these are pretty stylish. They look more classy and elegant than the traditional flip flop. The vamp has an old-fashioned and slightly rugged look, and a decorative logo hardware can be seen at the top, acting as a subtle accent to the rest of the solid-colored uppers. The open toe and heel give off a casual and free-spirited vibe.


But as much as they are fashionable, they are not 100% versatile. The open toe and heel have a great look and render the sandals very breathable. However, it also makes them unsuitable for formal or semi-formal wear. After all, the office is not the place to show off your chipping pedicure from last month. For more formal occasions, you’ll want something closed-toed (maybe peep-toed) and maybe a slight heel. However, in terms of styling a casual outfit, we’d say that these are pretty versatile. Their colors can all go with pretty much any other color, and their simplicity makes them great for bold, patterned outfits as well as for chill, toned-down outfits.


Despite looking like they’re made of leather, these sandals are actually 100% synthetic. The uppers are made of patent leather, designed to have the same look or feel as real leather but in a vegan-friendly way. Some other parts of the shoe are made of microsuede, which is a super fine polyester fabric that’s soft to the touch. The advantage of synthetics is that it’s cheap (more on that in “Value”), water-resistant, easy to take care of, and lightweight. You don’t need to ensure this pair stays out of direct sunlight or break the bank to purchase it. However, the drawback is that it can be stiffer, and it’s also not as breathable (more on that in “Breathability”). Some think it’s eco-friendly because it’s vegan, but the fact that it’s not biodegradable (and will end up in a landfill while leather decays back into the earth) makes it arguably less eco-friendly than real leather. And there’s the moral side of things, too, which we won’t get into here.


Like we just mentioned, synthetic leather doesn’t offer as much breathability as real leather. It doesn’t wick away moisture from the skin so that it can dissipate. However, the style of the sandal makes up for that. With an open heel, an open toe, and a pretty much open everything (except for the vamp), there’s plenty of room for airflow. As a result, your sweat can dissipate, preventing the accumulation of odor, moisture, and the growth of bacteria. However, you might end up with sweaty patches in the places that are covered.


These sandals are adjustable to an extent. There is a strap on the side of the ankle strap, which allows you to adjust the fit around the ankle. This way, you can ensure it doesn’t dig into the skin or sit too loosely. Due to the strap design, you might also be able to slip on the sandals without adjusting the buckle every single time. The convenience makes them perfect for rushed mornings, or for people who are just impatient.


One glance at this pair will tell you that they’re not very protective. The toes and heels are left open and vulnerable to scrapes and scuffs. Furthermore, the outsole is very thin. Though it gives your foot more flexibility, it doesn’t act as a complete buffer between your foot and the ground. When walking on bumpy terrain such as trails, you might be able to feel the rocks under your foot, which gets really uncomfortable and annoying after a while. As well, there is minimal tread provided by the outsole, so it’s not very slip-resistant. With that said, you probably won’t need much protection anyway if you’re just going to be exploring the city or going to the beach. Depending on where and how you plan to wear this pair, this downside may not be very inconvenient at all.


When we first looked up this pair, we were shocked by how inexpensive they were. They are much cheaper than most Sam Edelman sandals. Further digging showed us that they are about average-priced compared to other sandals by Circus specifically. It seems like apart from considering youths’ fashion tastes, they are also considering their monthly allowances, which is quite thoughtful of them. Part of the reason why this particular pair is inexpensive is that they use synthetic leather instead of real leather. Synthetics are cheap, so they lower the price of the overall shoe as well. There are downsides to synthetics, of course. But in terms of price and value, it’s safe to say these sandals are a budget-friendly bargain.

Bottom Line

This is a great sandal to kick off summer vacation with. They are elegant in their simple laid-back style. Their vamp design is both practical and fashionable, and also makes them fit more securely. The ankle buckle renders them adjustable, and they are offered in lots of versatile colors. Their downsides are that they don’t offer much traction or underfoot protection, and their open design makes them unsuitable for anything other than casual wear. But for the amazing bargain they are, it seems like you’ll already be getting quite a bang for your buck. This summer, why not pick up a pair for yourself for your upcoming beach outing or cruise trip?