Reliable flat shoes: DO YOU HAZ THEM?
February 18, 2011 9:18 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for good quality ballet flats?

Last winter I upgraded from vinyl boots to all-leather ones and, while they cost five times more money - ON SALE - and it took forever to find a pair for my wide calves, the difference was incredible. I'll be getting them resoled soon in time for autumn. I've never had a pair of shoes-I-wear-every-day last so long! The same magic happened when I swapped my Target tennis shoes for Converse. Now I am looking to upgrade my ballet flats also.

I normally buy the $5 ones from Kmart because, dude, $5. But they smell funny and last about two weeks and one wonders at the production environment of a pair of $5 shoes, really. I have seen some nice leather ones at chains like Country Road, Sambag and Witchery for around $100, more expensive ones from French Sole and Repetto, and really reeeally expensive ones from Chanel and Lanvin.

I worry a bit about the chain store ones because you can sometimes actually see the glue holding the soles on - they're very thin. I'm hard on shoes (flat feet, and I'm rather heavy and walk a lot), so I don't expect them to last longer than maybe a year, but they won't be getting rained on or anything. I'm looking for very plain, matte, black leather in a size 40 or 41.

There is a question in all this! What ballet flats have you/your wife/your friend/that lady you sit next to on the train personally worn and considered to be good quality? I'm especially looking for shoes where the sole didn't peel off at the toe or heel, which is what happens with the cheap vinyl ones. I'm happy to shell out for the Repettos if they're the best out there, but if there's an acceptable cheaper option that would be awesome. Equally, I know that expensive shoes can sometimes be crappily constructed. Also - does your brand of choice run true to size?

If you have failed with ballet flats but know of another kind of shoe (like maybe those more rugged-looking Kumfs sort of flats, but perhaps more attractive) which has held up to a lot of wear, that would also be helpful.

I'm in Australia but happy to order from Piperlime or any other stores that ship down under (Zappo's, however, does not ship here. *Sobs with rage*).
posted by jaynewould to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Laius ballet flats from Arche. THE BEST, MOST COMFY SHOE YOU'LL EVER WEAR! And mine have lasted a long time. Very good quality, you definitely get what you pay for.
posted by hellomina at 9:30 PM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have a pair of Jessica Simpson ones that took a little breaking in, but they're lovely.

(And, ugh, yes, it was hard to force myself to buy a pair of fricken Jessica Simpson shoes. But they're OK.)

I am also generally a fan of rocketdog and Steve Madden.
posted by Sara C. at 9:43 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: I have some Bjorn flats that I ran into the ground but that were really comfy and cute. And it took probably a year of heavy wear to do them in, so I think it was worth it.

I have had pretty shitty experiences with Steve Madden shoes, but it could foot shape or something. So just REALLY try them on. Because they do make cute shoes.
posted by grapesaresour at 10:34 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: I just went on an obsessive ballet flat hunt, here's what I can report:

I used to have a pair of Jeffrey Campbell flats that I loved and wore to bits. They did stretch, but were otherwise great. Not the highest quality but absolutely fine.

Also had some Ann Klein (II?) shoes that were very comfortable but the sole peeled off.

Had a air of Cole Haan flats that were amazingly comfortable until they stretched.

Sometime last year I bought green suede Calvin Klein Lexa flats. They have held up remarkably well, including surviving dropping a bunch of tomato sauce on them (cleaned up spotlessly). The sole is also quite comfortable. The downside is the elastic on mine runs around the heel, and the heel sides are soft so my foot slides around.

Then in December I got a pair of ballet flat/ loafer hybrids from French Sole. Quality seems high, shoes are comfortable, seem to be wearing well. They have stretched some, probably helped by the wearing of wool socks.

My latest addition is a pair of Bloch from Ebay, and I love them. Only had them a week but they are so far my favorite pair yet. Construction quality is impressive and they are very comfortable. I think they are Australian, actually.

I am cheap so buy everything on sale or ebay. Oh, all those seemed true to size, assuming you also wear your ballet flats a little tighter than your other shoes. For context, I'm very hard on shoes.
posted by sepviva at 10:50 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: I loooooved the Repetto ballet flats that I used to have. They were pricey ($140 or so) but totally worth it. I finally had to retire them but it was after a lot of abuse. The price seemed steep but they were hand-sewn and very comfortable, and soooo cute.
posted by radioamy at 11:42 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: I have friends who like French Soles. Me, I LOVE my Prada ballet flats. Yes, they were expensive but they've lasted several years and I've worn the hell out of them.
posted by shoesietart at 11:43 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: I JUST got a pair of French Soles TODAY because I've heard so many good things about them. AskMeFi reads my mind sometimes, I swear.
posted by 200burritos at 12:14 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: Also, you might try and ('s returns) for the Australia shipping issue! I just checked and both of them ship to your part of the world.
posted by 200burritos at 12:17 AM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've always found my Wittner ballet flats last the longest. They have a beautiful pair of plain black flats for $100 at the moment. Also, if you search through their catalogue, you'll see lots of other flats that are slightly different shapes to the traditional ballet flats - slightly less rounded toes, which I prefer. I have this pair in both black and blue, and can attest to how awfully comfortable they are. (Teacher, on feet all day, knee injury, requires the most comforting shoes).

Can't speak for Sambag's quality; they're a fraction overpriced but I would love to try them.

(Online retailers which seem to have a decent Zappos-like range (admittedly focussing on a more comfortable than fashionable range) that ship to Aus:
Shoe Superstore
posted by chronic sublime at 12:29 AM on February 19, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone - all of your answers were really helpful. (The stretch-ability thing is kind of a bonus in my book, as I have really wide feet.)

I can't believe I totally forgot about Wittner! My shoes from there have always been good quality and their sales are brilliant. And Bloch, duh.

Good to know people are happy with French Sole and Repetto (and Prada. Mmmmm, Prada). I think I'll have a go with the cheaper local ones but if they don't suit, then several-hundred-dollar flats will be totally justifiable. Yup.

And hey, Jessica Simpson shoes don't suck? Interesting. Neither does Britney Spears' perfume, incidentally. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

One last thing: radioamy, did your Repettos run true to size? I've heard their sizing is odd.
posted by jaynewould at 1:03 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: Frye, which is known for their high quality all-leather boots, also makes leather ballet flats. It took a week to break mine in, but now they're super comfortable. Bonus: since they're leather soles, upper, and liner, they don't smell as much as fabric lined shoes, they stretch a bit as you wear them in, and they're resole-able. Sizes (and widths) in Frye can be unexpected - try a few styles.
posted by asphericalcow at 3:09 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: And hey, Jessica Simpson shoes don't suck?

Unfortunately, they do. This blog mirrors my experience. Too bad, for the price, they'd be nice!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:02 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: seconding Frye! They are amazingly comfortable and last forever.
posted by dizziest at 7:54 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, I wouldn't buy the Jessica Simpson boots or heels or anything more complicated than "it's a covering! for your foot!" flats and sandals. I was looking at her website's boots and felt a little suspicious that most of them came in well under $100. You get what you pay for, I suppose.

My little flats are still going strong after almost a year of wear.
posted by Sara C. at 9:27 AM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: FYI I also have wide flat feet.

The backs of my Michael Kors ballet flats lost their elasticity within a year of fairly moderate use (maybe 2-3 days per week of wear). Until then, though, they were extremely comfortable and didn't require any breaking in.

I do like my Jessica Simpson ballet flats, but you do have to watch out about the shitty quality material. I actually like that mine are a bizarre faux leather rubbery concoction because they are basically fancy ballet galoshes that I wear in the wet Florida summer so I can fearlessly walk through puddles. I do not think that the designers meant for me to think of them in this way, however. Retail on these is a joke, though.. I got mine for $30 on clearance and wouldn't pay more than that for the quality.

I really love my Tory Burch ballet flats. The ubiquitous Reva style is actually my least favorite pair because they weren't immediately comfortable and did require some breaking in. Even now, I wouldn't wear them if I had to do a ton of walking. My favorite style is Abbey, which required absolutely no breaking in and are very, very comfortable.
posted by gatorae at 12:23 PM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: As you say you have fairly wide calves, I think that Prada or Miu Miu flats will be a great style for you and well worth the money.
posted by tel3path at 12:44 PM on February 19, 2011

Best answer: I, too, have trouble finding good, super-durable flats for my wide feet! For the past year or so, I've worn BC shoes almost exclusively. Once they've broken in/conformed to your feet a bit, they're quite comfortable (you can always add a slim-line insole for extra padding, too), relatively sturdy, and very affordable. You may have to replace them twice a year vs. once or so for a more expensive shoe. But to be completely honest, I've had pairs of $150 Frye flats fall apart in four months... it broke my heart. The Limousine is my favorite. You might also want to consider BC's sister company, Seychelles. I've had a lot of luck with their heels and wedges.
posted by faeuboulanger at 2:57 PM on February 19, 2011

I have 42 feet and I really like Clarks' Cocoa Creme and Cocoa Bean styles. The soles are durable enough for walking around in and they're cute.

I didn't know Seychelles were a company - I have some boots with that on the sole and just thought it was a style name.
posted by mippy at 9:38 AM on March 14, 2011

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