For women, barefoot ballet flats are an incredibly versatile shoe. 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. In the world of barefoot & minimalist shoes, which doesn’t usually cater to women, that’s a tough find.
But ballet flats present some problems to a person who prioritizes their 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. Read on for my personal favorite barefoot ballet flats and the complete list of minimalist ballet flats for women.
*For more dressy barefoot shoes for men, women, and weddings see my Minimalist Dress Shoe Roundups!*
- 1. What Are Barefoot/Minimalist Ballet Flats?
- 2. How to Style Barefoot Ballet Flats
- 3. My Favorite Barefoot Ballet Flats
- 4. The Full Minimalist Ballet Flats List
- 5. Barefoot Mary Jane Flats – with a Strap
- 6. Best Brands for Wide Feet
- 6. Vegan Barefoot Ballet Flats
1. What Are Barefoot/Minimalist Ballet Flats?
First off, a quick reminder for what we are talking about here. A flat is a flat, right? Once you start paying attention to the shape of your footwear (and how conventional footwear may be shaping your foot in unhealthy ways), you’ll notice that plenty of “flats” have raised heels or have a pointy toe box that squishes your toes. As far as I’m concerned, barefoot or minimalist ballet flats (I’m using the terms interchangeably here) must have the following essential qualities:
- Zero drop (i.e., actually flat). No heel rise.
- Shaped like a foot. No squishing of the toes into unnaturally pointy, symmetrical shaped toe boxes.
- Secure to the foot. If it’s not secure, your gait will be affected.
*For more on why I care so much about the “barefoot qualities” of footwear, see What Are the Benefits of Barefoot Shoes?
2. How to Style Barefoot Ballet Flats
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 feet is super important when choosing barefoot ballet flats! Make sure you check out this post on The Best Barefoot Shoes for Your Foot Type to learn your volume, width, and shape!
3. My Favorite Barefoot Ballet Flats
Below is a collection of my personal favorite barefoot ballet flats! Check the image for a quick reference on toe box shape and width comparison, it is ordered from most narrow to most wide. The first 3 (Xero, Softstar, and Shapen) are all quite similar in width, and Zlatush and Softstar Primal are quite a bit wider than all the rest.
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.
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). Use code ANYA for 15% off your first shoe purchase from Softstar!
The Ballerine was updated in 2021 – Read my detailed review of the regular and wide Ballerine here!
Lisbeth Joe Harare ($120)
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. Code ANYASREVIEWS will get you 5% off.
Shapen Poppy Flats ($120)
I’ve been watching the brand Shapen for a long time, and am so excited that they are now available to US residents AND in Anya’s Shop! Mia, the creator of Shapen, has an eye for style and has created some of the best looking dressy barefoot shoes for women in the world. These are the Poppy style, my personal favorite. They run medium width, so are a touch snug on my wide toes. The shape is good, my big toe lays flat, and the sole is thin and flexible. I am wearing a size 36 and could not size up or they would be too long on me. US/Canadian readers can get them from Anya’s Shop without the hassle of an overseas purchase. International customers can save 15% off shoes and accessories with code ANYA10.
Ela Faustus ($115)
Ela Faustus is a shoemaking business run by Eliska (formerly known as Botky Mechovky). She custom makes every single order to each customer’s measurements and does great work. I adore these flats she made me! The leather is thick and sturdy, so they required breaking in, but now are formed to my feet and fit like a glove. Because each order takes time and her styles are so unique, she is quite busy. It was a few months after ordering before I received these, but a custom shoe of this caliber is worth the wait. She accepts payment by bank transfer, which is not very convenient but not terrible. I used Xoom so I could pay by PayPal and didn’t pay until she had begun working on my pair.
See my review of them here on Instagram.
Ima be honest, I ordered these MARQ flats 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 flat size 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.
The Storehouse Flats ($75)
The Storehouse flats 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. As my feet have widened I find I don’t wear them very often anymore, but they can be a great way to break in to barefoot shoes and still feel cute and chic! My favorites are the suede ones you see here because they look the most structured and fit me well, and they have fun special edition colors/prints each month. You can read my full review of them here. Code ANYA will get you $5 off + a free bag.
4. The Full Minimalist Ballet Flats List
Here is a full list of ALL the barefoot ballet flats out there, in alphabetical order!
Beda Boty ($80)
Cinderollies ($14) Very cheap, a little bit narrow.
Jenon Leather ($115) – Custom. Only available for shipping within Europe.
Joe Nimble StepToes and PrimaToes – StepToes style is currently only available on the international site, and can’t be shipped to the US. International customers can use code
AFFANY10 for 10% off their first purchase. The online store Baer Shoes carries Joe Nimble for US customers, but only carries the sportier style, PrimaToes.
Lisbeth Joe ($120) – ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off
Shapen Tulip ($115) – Use code
ANYA10 for 15% off
Softstar Shoes ($160+) – Use code ANYA for 15% off first shoe purchase
Sole Runner Miranda ($105)
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.
5. Barefoot Mary Jane Flats – with a Strap
These barefoot ballet flats all have a mary jane strap, which can make them fit more securely.
Conker Shoes ($200) – Custom
Duchess and Fox ($110) – Use code
ANYAJENSEN for 10% off
Magical Shoes ($100) – Use code ANYA for 10% off.
Senmotic Benita & Allegra ($200)
Softstar Merry Jane ($160+) – Use code ANYA for 15% off first shoe purchase
6. Best Brands for Wide Feet
Have extra wide feet? Here are all the barefoot ballet flat brands that cater to wide feet, with many custom options to get your exact shape and size.
Magical Shoes ($100). Use code ANYA for 10% off.
Tadeevo ($99) – Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off
6. Vegan Barefoot Ballet Flats
If you wear vegan shoes, here is a list of all the vegan barefoot ballet flat options. Check out this post for more on vegan barefoot shoes.
Cinderollies ($14) – Very cheap, a little bit narrow.
Oesh Flats ($93)
Tadeevo Velvet and Mesh pumps ($99) – Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off
Zaqq Flats ($170)