A Guide to Barefoot Ballet Flats – Updated 2021

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A photo collage of barefoot ballet flats for women - Zaqq Marq, Lisbeth Joe Harare, Storehouse Flats, Softstar Ballerines, Zlatush shoes, and Vivobarefoot Jing Jing

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!*

A collage of a woman wearing 3 different outfits and 3 different pairs of barefoot ballet flats - Zaqq Barefoot, Storehouse Flats, and Lisbeth Joe Harare

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:

A closeup of invisible stitching on the Zaqq barefoot ballet flat.

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.


A closeup of top stich on Gea Soles barefoot ballet flats.

Top stitch with finished edges – This will add a little bulk to your flats, but still has the potential to be smooth and classy. Examples of brands that do this well are Gea Soles and Drifter Leather.


A closeup of a top stitch with raw edge on Botky Mechovky barefoot ballet flat.

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.

A side by side collage of 7 different barefoot ballet flat brands with the text "Barefoot Ballet Flat Toe Box Comparison" and the brands Xero, Softstar, Shapen, Lisbeth Joe, Zlatush, and Softstar Primal

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.

Zlatush barefoot Shoes barefoot ballet flats outfit inspiration

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!

Softstar shoes barefoot ballet flats outfit inspiration

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.

Lisbeth Joe barefoot ballet flats outfit inspiration

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.

See them in action in this post on Instagram! I also used them in my Audrey Hepburn Halloween costume. See my full review here.

Shapen Poppy barefoot ballet flat outfit inspiration.

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.

Botky Mechovky barefoot ballet flats styling idea.

Zaqq ($195)

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.

zaqq barefoot shoes minimalist ballet flat outfit inspiration

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.

the storehouse flats minimalist ballet flat outfit inspiration

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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)

Botky Mechovky ($115) – Custom

Cinderollies ($14) Very cheap, a little bit narrow.

Dextra Perspective ($70) – Custom. My experience here.

The Drifter Leather ($120) – Custom. My Drifter Leather reviews here.

Gea Soles ($90)- Custom. My Gea Soles Yrsa review here.

Groundies Bella ($130) – Review here.

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

Magical Shoes ($110). Use code ANYA for 10% off. See my review here.

Rachell Design ($65) – Custom

Shapen Tulip ($115) – Use code ANYA10 for 15% off

Softstar Shoes ($160+) – Use code ANYA for 15% off first shoe purchase

The Storehouse Flats ($75) – ANYA for $5 off + free bag

Unshoes Primrose ($110) – ANYA for 10% off

Ursanina ($60) – Custom

Vivobarefoot ($120) – Vivobarefoot releases a new Jing Jing flat seasonally, but it is currently sold out everywhere but here. My code ANYAVB will get you 10% off.

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.

Zaqq ($160+)

Zlatush ($120) – Custom options

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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.

Ahinsa ($120) – ANYASREVIEWS for 10% off

Botky Mechovky ($115) – Custom

Conker Shoes ($200) – Custom

Duchess and Fox ($110) – Use codeANYAJENSEN for 10% off

Gea Soles Yrsa ($100) – My Gea Soles Yrsa review here.

Magical Shoes ($100) – Use code ANYA for 10% off.

Posh Panda ($108) – Read my mocc review here!

Rachell Design ($65) – Custom

Softstar Merry Jane ($160+) – Use code ANYA for 15% off first shoe purchase

A front view of a pair of feet wearing the primal merry Jane in elderberry from softstar shoes on pavement

Softstar Primal Merry Jane ($140) – Use code ANYA for 15% off first shoe purchase. Read my review here!

Tadeevo ($99) – Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off. Read my review here!

Zeazoo Mary Jane ($130) – My review here. Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off

Zlatush ($120) – Custom options

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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.

Botky Mechovky ($115) – Custom

Dextra Perspective ($70) – Custom. My experience here.

The Drifter Leather ($120) – Custom. My Drifter Leather reviews here.

Gea Soles Yrsa ($100) – Custom. Review here.

Magical Shoes ($100). Use code ANYA for 10% off.

Softstar Ballerines in wide ($160+) – Use code ANYA for 15% off first shoe purchase. Review here!

A front view of a pair of feet wearing the primal merry Jane in elderberry from softstar shoes on pavement

Softstar Primal Merry Jane – Use code ANYA for 15% off first shoe purchase. Read my review here!

Tadeevo ($99) – Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off

Unshoes Primrose ($110) – ANYA for 10% off

Zlatush ($120) – Custom options

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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.

Ahinsa ($120)

Cinderollies ($14) – Very cheap, a little bit narrow.

Dextra Perspective ($70) – Custom. My experience here.

Groundies Bella ($130) – Review here.

Tadeevo Velvet and Mesh pumps ($99) – Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off

Ursanina ($60) – Custom

Zaqq Flats ($170)

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Comments

25 thoughts on “A Guide to Barefoot Ballet Flats – Updated 2021”

  1. I’ve often looked at Softstar Ballerines, but from their pictures it looks like they curve in and come up high at the back, which would not work for me, would rub and cause blister. I need a more vertical, straight up/down around the heel, if that makes sense (Like the back on the Vivobarefoot Jing Jing Lace shoe). (Sorry, I don’t know all the proper shoe terminology ?)
    Thoughts? Thanks, love love your blog.

    1. The Ballerines do have a big curvy heel cup, but it is not stiff at all. I have a Halgund’s deformity on my heel and haven’t had any irritation from the Ballerines, but my heel does want to slip a little so I put a heel grip in there. Otherwise, the Zlatush shoes would be a good option for you. It’s a lower cut heel with a straight cut.

  2. Brilliant job! I can’t be the only person who loves barefoot but has to wear clothes that Just don’t go with sports type shoes. This guide is the first sensible list I’ve seen. SO much appreciated! (Now I’m going to have a nice cup of tea and drool over The list 😉

  3. You forgot about crupon! I love my crupon shoes and I bought them based upon your recommendation. Thanks for all that you do 🙂

    1. I never made a selection about sole thickness because the T strap flat is a ready made style, not custom. I think it says how thick it is on her website, but I’d guess it to be about 4mm.

    1. Hi!I have looked at those and link to them in the post, but haven’t tried them yet. I actually came really close to ordering them! They seem like a really good toe box shape, but I don’t have any knowledge on sizing, fit, or quality of the brand.

  4. Hi Anya!

    I too have the Lisbeth Joe flats, and I’m curious how you stretched out the elastic? I love the shoes, but I’ve never been able to wear them for very long because the elastic at the back pushes my foot forward and jams my toes in the front toe box and its so uncomfortable! They would be perfect if they didn’t have the elastic.

    Thank you for all the amazing reviewing you do!! 🙂

    1. Hey there! I stuffed the toebox with socks and devised a sort of contraption with a pen where one end was pressing into the socks and the other pushing out the heel. I also just pulled on it with my hands for a minute or so at a time.

  5. Was looking for advice. I have been in the minimilist shoe game for 8 years now. Vivobarefoot and New Balance were my go-to. I have found groundings now because of your site and I appreciate it. May grab a pair of Liverpool and the Japanese style minimalist boots look great too. My question is about my wife. She uses zero drop for the opposite reason of you and me I think. She has CMT which is a disease that has has to do with high insteap and arch, from lack of muscle around the arch and instep and ankle making her gate hard to lift her toe box, making it easy for her to trip over her toes. Getting a mimimalist shoe for her is just trying to get something lightweight with zero drop to help her lift her foot easier during walking. She has not been able to wear a mary jane or ballerina style because her instep is so high she just slips out of them when walking. I see some of your reviews here looks like the instep can get held in the shoe with good straps. Just wonder if they will be uncomfortable straps that dig in if cinched too much. Anyway thanks for all the shoes and reviews. -Dan

    1. Hi Dan! Great to hear from you, and I’m glad you’ve found some use out of the site. For your wife, she might like the options with an ankle strap. Those won’t go over her instep but will still keep the shoe secure so she isn’t tripping. Some examples of those are the Lisbeth Joe Harare or the Magical Shoes Ballerina. She can also get some custom mary janes with an extra long strap over the instep. Dextra Perspective might be a good option, or the Softstar Ballerines have an elastic strap option she could request to be extra long.

  6. Hi! Wonderful collection indeed! I am in love with botky mechovky ballet flats but I am still undecided about the style. Is the closing of your pair comfortable? Thank you!

  7. Great, thank you! Last question: as I live in a colder climate and I lean towards minimalism,I would invest in a ballet flat (or Mary Jane) that could give that dressy feeling but that could also be wore with tights during autumn and spring and without in summer. Which model or brand you would suggest, as you also have chilly mid-seasons (I guess)? 🙂
    Thank you very much!

    Miriam

    1. Really any of them! Tights are so thin that they shouldn’t affect the fit (You might consider 5 toe tights so your toes don’t get squished!), unless you want thicker tights in which case a flat with a strap would be helpful so that they still fit well without tights. I do have cold mid seasons, but I usually switch to dress boots and tights instead of flats when I need to dress up and it’s chilly.
      Here are some 5 toe tights I’ve found (but haven’t tried): https://toetoesocks.com/plain-nylon-toe-tights-black.html

  8. Hi, I love the Softstar flats and have purchased them before. Are yours in Shiny Pewter? I’m trying to get out of my all black comfort zone, haha. Your reviews are great!

  9. Wow! This is an amazing resource! Thank you. Do you have any recommendations for a brand that has more cushion? So many Barefoot shoes are so HARD, a little squish would be nice on my transitioning journey. Even as stack height increases, it’s often just more of the same hard material. I have put Northsole insoles into some of the boots and shoes from Lems and Vivo, and Bedrock sandals got more cushiony after a break in period. But I haven’t had much luck with dressier sandals and flats. Any suggestions?

    1. You should check out Oesh Shoes! They have a ballet flat with a thicker cushioned sole, but they still have toe space, are zero drop, and no arch support.

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Hi. I'm Anya.

Hi. I'm Anya.

I first discovered barefoot shoes after a long history of foot issues. By changing my footwear and strengthening my body I was able to completely transform my life. Anya’s Reviews is my way of sharing with the world that healthy feet are happy feet!

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