Ballet flats are an incredibly versatile shoe for the feminine barefooter. They are classy enough to wear with a professional outfit, simple enough to wear with jeans, and somehow dressy enough to wear with a formal gown.
But they present some problems for a person who prioritizes her foot health. The lack of straps, laces, and shoe upper give you little wiggle room (literally) for fit. They have to be just right or they will either not be secure, or the material will be so tight that it scrunches your toes. Understanding your feet and your options is more important than ever when picking out barefoot flats.
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Because I want my ballet flats to be super versatile, I pay a lot of attention to how they are made. In general, the smoother the shoe the classier the look, so learning to notice those details will ensure you’re happy with your choices. There are 3 main ways a ballet flat can be finished:
Invisible Stitching – This is my favorite and what I usually look for in flats. It is the cleanest look and easiest to cross over into all categories of life. Sometimes these flats are simply glued together, but high quality ones have an interior stitch for more durability.
Top stitch with raw edge – This is the most casual finish and can sometimes look bulky. I have seen it done well (in Botky Mechovky’s work, for example), but I generally avoid this type of finish in anything I want to be dressy. The flats I have with raw edges are for casual occasions.
Understanding your foot volume is also super important when choosing shoes. Because I have low volume feet, I often employ little tricks to get my shoes to fit well (see here). For flats, moleskin is my favorite to fill in space that might want to slip.
My Ballet Flat Picks
1. ZlaTush Shoes ($120)
ZlaTush Shoes is my favorite find of the spring. Zlatica has some flats with an invisible seam and some with a top stitch, and she has some of the cutest designs around. This t-stap flat is a ready-made size with lots of color options, but she also has a line of fully custom-made shoes. She is located in Slovakia and ships internationally, accepting payment through Paypal or bank transfer. Zlatica is a lovely woman, dedicated to making great shoes for her customers that are truly foot shaped. The ability to customize shoes with the colors and details you need make her an excellent choice if you’re looking for something specific. You can read my review here.
2. Softstar Ballerines ($160)
Softstar Ballerines are one of the best simple flats around. They are soft and unstructured but not wrinkly; spacious but not bulky. You can order it in tons of different colors and it has a very mainstream look (calling all Tieks fans!). Softstar hand makes all their shoes in Oregon and they are very high quality. I was pleased to find that the insole is a little bit cushioned, which makes these more practical for all-day wear or pavement walking. You can get a sport strap if you’re concerned about slipping and they also come in a wide version. Mine are a 5u regular (women’s 6).
3. The Storehouse Flats ($75)
These are a good affordable option and they come in tons of different colors. They are unstructured so they can really stretch, but it takes breaking in and some people still find them too narrow. They have a baggier look to them, but for the price and color options I think these are a good brand to keep in mind. My favorites are the suede ones you see here because they look the most structured and fit me well, but their special editions change each month. You can read my full review of them here.
These Harare flats have the cutest details, they’re a style I have yet to see elsewhere. I’d love to see more color options in the future, but I could not resist the scalloped toe and ankle strap. Sizing is tricky with Lisbeth Joe and I had issues with my foot sliding forward in these at first. I even thought I might need to return them. But after stretching out the elastic and putting moleskin in the top they are fitting much better. I also have the loafers which fit me well (once I put a felt insert in the top). The flats are a full size up from my usual and the loafers are a half size up. See here for more details.
Ima be honest, I ordered these 100% for their looks. I had some reservations about the toe box width, but studded flats? Had to try them at least. I got them in a 37 which is a size larger than my usual because that was all they had, but that turned out to be best. The toe box is indeed narrow, so a size up is the only reason they don’t squish. Zaqq has many beautiful flats options, but be aware of the toe tapering. Their sneakers and boots have a much better foot shape to them and in the future I will stick to those styles from Zaqq. Read my review here.
I have an order in to Eliska for the flats shown here. She is very busy at the moment and they won’t be ready until summer, but I have been very impressed with her work and am really excited about them! They are fully custom made to my measurements and I expect them to be some of my best shoes. Because these have a top stitch and raw edge I won’t wear them to a fancy event, but I do think they’ll be great for date nights, semi-dressy stuff, and everyday.
The Full Barefoot Flats List
Angles Fashion ($100)
Sole Runner – Miranda ($105)
The Storehouse Flats ($75).
Gea Soles ($90)- Custom
Lisbeth Joe ($120)
Yosi Samra – Options on Amazon as low as $50. Wider toe box than Cinderollies (and Tieks, Rothys, and most conventional flats) but still one of the narrower options on this list.
Mary Jane Flats – with a Strap
Gea Soles Yrsa ($100)
Best Brands for Wide Feet
Softstar Ballerines in wide ($160+)
Gea Soles Yrsa ($100) – Custom