Are quality ballet flats worth it? Do you resole them?
February 17, 2012 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Are quality ballet flats worth it? Do you resole them?

I just graduated from university and I'm looking to enter the workforce. I live in Vancouver, Canada, so the attire is almost universally business casual (heck people would wear polarfleece and sometimes even yoga wear to the office).

I'm looking for good ballet flats to wear with pencil skirts, and I've been eyeing these ones by Clarks with leather uppers. What holds me back from purchasing them is that I don't want to buy a nice ballet flat just to destroy it within months.

I don't drive; I walk and take public transit anywhere. It's always raining in Vancouver and there's sometimes salt on the sidewalks. I usually wear boots and oxfords, and I take decent care of the ones with leather uppers (moisturizing, polishing, waterproofing, etc.). They get worn at the heel often but that's okay since I can get them resoled.

I'm hard on my existing ballet flats, but they're all cheap--like $15 and less. They're cute but made out of synthetic materials and are essentially disposable. Since the soles are so thin, they tend to wear down on the heel to the point that it rips the upper, and I have to throw them out after a season.

So should I buy nicer ballet flats or stick to the cheap stuff? How long do your ballet flats last? Do you resole them? How do you maintain them?

Shoe recommendations are also welcome, but my preference is for ballet flats, especially with a pointy toe or an almond toe. I don't like the look of loafers with pencil skirts and I don't like heels, not even kitten heels. I don't like Mary Janes either because I already look young for my age, and Mary Janes make me look like I'm 10 years old. But I can live with a ballet flat with a small wedge heel if it doesn't look clunky. For price, my upper limit is $100 if it can stand up to five years of regular use.
posted by Hawk V to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
From my point of view, those Clarks shoes will be worth it over $15 flats, so long as you're not blowing your shoe budget for years to come, because they will probably last a couple of years, not 5+. You won't be able to resole them because they have a one-piece rubber sole that will still wear down, but much more slowly.

Really expensive flats, like $200 and up will often have a leather sole you can resole, but they will be high maintenance, they won't have much cushioning for hard pavement, they will wear down really fast, they will be slippery, and the rain will kill them.

I think buying shoes like the Clarks and expecting to keep them for a couple of years of tough, comfortable wear is probably a good middle ground for you, especially if you keep a look out for them on sale. You could also keep your good shoes at the office or bring them in a bag and wear some "commuter shoes."
posted by crabintheocean at 3:06 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a couple of pairs of Vera Wang Lavender ballet flats that I bought on clearance at Nordstrom and love. The first pair I resoled when I wore down the heel; I put a rubber sole with a thicker than normal heel on the second pair before I wore them the first time. The older pair is a year and half old and still going strong and way more comfortable after breaking in than the cheaper pairs that I had before.

My first pair of more expensive ballet flats didn't last. After about 9 months, the interior was falling apart and the leather was really worn on the exterior or the heel, but they were quite comfortable while the lasted - more support than most ballet flats.
posted by asphericalcow at 3:09 PM on February 17, 2012

I have had very good experiences with all of my Clarks shoes and boots, though I tend towards their loafer styles.

My only "higher end" ballet flat purchase was a basic black pair from Steve Madden and they barely made it through one season...certainly not longer than the $15 Target flats I replaced them with. I just don't think ballet flats are a long-lasting shoe, personally.
posted by terilou at 3:09 PM on February 17, 2012

Oh, and I have very similar shoe tastes to you (although I find the ones you linked a bit too chunky) but a bigger budget, and most of my flats are from Jones Bootmaker, Kenneth Cole, and Cole Haan. I think you'd love the Cole Haan "Air Andi" style, and you can often pick them up on Ebay for about the price of those Clarks.
posted by crabintheocean at 3:11 PM on February 17, 2012

I'm liking Naturalizer these days, and the Canadian site has a ton of stuff on clearance. You might like these Mirana flats in black or taupe for $39.99. I'm just about to hit the Add To Cart button on these myself.

(I bought these Brazen Chianti heels a few months ago for full price--2 inches is usually my upper limit for heels--and I'm contemplating a second pair in black because they're so comfy and cute.)
posted by sillymama at 3:36 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: You probably won't be able to resole the Clarks, since they have a rubber sneaker type sole. However, I have a pair of Clarks boots I love, and they're more comfortable and more durable than other shoes I've bought at this price point (Steve Maddens, for instance). Having lived in Vancouver, I just think it's hard to make ballet flats last a really long time, especially when they're going to be getting wet and you're walking on damp, poorly maintained sidewalks a lot. If you do go for the Clarks, be prepared to replace them after a couple of years at most -- if not, stick to the super-cheap synthetic ones, or keep a pair at work and switch from your boots.
posted by SoftRain at 3:37 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: Oh, and I meant to say, I lived and worked in downtown Vancouver for 11 years. My strong suggestion is to get cheap Old Navy flats (15% off right now!) for outside and keep any cute, nicer shoes inside at the office.
posted by sillymama at 3:41 PM on February 17, 2012

Clarks are great. I've had a couple of pairs of Clarks flats for three years and they're as good as new.
posted by something something at 3:46 PM on February 17, 2012

P.S. Keep an eye on - it's Zappos' clearance site and they have really good deals on Clarks fairly regularly.
posted by something something at 3:47 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: I generally stick (and recommend sticking) to the cheap stuff when it comes to ballet flats because there's a huge variety of it out there. Huge variety, as I've recently discovered looking for a specific style of ballet flats myself (that search is amazing: it goes on for 121 pages of just black ballet flats!).

My ballet flats generally last a while but I come from Southern California and now live in the Great White North (which means before my shoes were getting gentle weather and now I can only wear them four months a year). I don't think rain or especially salt will be kind to shoes of any kind.

My all-time favorite place to buy ballet flats as well as cute shoes with low heels of all variety is Blowfish. They just updated their spring collection this week; isn't this ballet flat adorable? Or this one? Or even this one? They ask that buyers outside of the US call to place their orders so I'm guessing you can ship to Canada fairly easily. Otherwise, the sad truth is they are all too frequently ripped off and copied by other retailers and you'll see their designs everywhere.
posted by librarylis at 3:48 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: I get most of my shoes online at I love ballet flats, but I buy the mid-range ones - Me Too, Naya, Bandolino. All of these have rubber soles (much better for traction and comfort, I think). I actually like my Nayas the best - they have extra cushioning inside the shoe; I find that can be a real issue with ballet flats - my feet really thank me for the extra cushioning.

Clarks are along the lines of the brands I mentioned - they are a good-quality mid-range shoe. I think you'd do well buying them. (Nayas just happen to fit me the best!) Really expensive ballet flats aren't worth it, IMO, because a ballet flat is innately a more flimsy shoe than a pump. On the other hand, I hate cheap ballet flats because they feel cardboardy and terrible on my feet and I've actually had them burst or shred on me.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:15 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want a pair of shoes that are worth an eventual re-sole, Repetto is the only game in town, IMO. Those Clarks are fine but they will probably be ready for the bin by the time you would need to re-sole them, as is the case with most ballet flats.
posted by devymetal at 4:27 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: Really make sure you add cushioning or support to them somehow. I totally wrecked my knees by wearing thin soled ballet flats for years, doing nothing higher-impact in them than simply walking on pavement.
posted by cairdeas at 4:46 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a pair of Clarks ballet flats (not the ones you linked to), that I bought on sale in the summer of 2009. I've been wearing them to work 80% of the time since then (until I went on mat leave last fall), and they are still not totally dead yet - though I should probably retire them now. But like you, I take public transit to work and walk quite a bit, and they have stayed in good shape. I have never resoled them, but they honestly haven't really needed it.

The best thing about my shoes is that they provide a lot more comfort and support than typical ballet flats. That's worth the extra cost to me, since I do a lot of walking. They're obviously not the highest quality shoes in the world, but to me they are a good mid-range of cost & quality.
posted by barney_sap at 4:47 PM on February 17, 2012

2nding Repetto. They usually cost the earth ($200-350), but if you keep an eye out, you can find them on sale. A few weeks ago Saks had them for $110. Beautiful, classic shoe that will class you up for decades.
posted by apparently at 5:02 PM on February 17, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the advice. Good to know that I can't the resole the Clarks, but 3 years of wear does seem reasonable for the price point.


@crabintheocean: The Clarks Poem Court shoes I linked to seem clunky in the picture and on the shelf, but they're surprisingly trim and elegant when I tried them on the store, especially the light-pink-type-flesh coloured ones. I can't judge a shoe well until I actually try it on, which is why I like to try them on IRL before ordering them online.

The Cole Haan Air Andi is definitely up my alley. Could they be resoled? Anybody know where I can probably find them in Vancouver?


@SoftRain & sillymama: Thanks for the Vancouver-specific advice. I'll consider keeping cute flats in the office and wear boots during the commute :P But I want to wear nice flats outside while going about town! Oh well, Vancouver…


@librarylis: I love love love the Nordie Blowfish flats.


@cairdeas: Yeah, I wear my flats with insoles and liner socks that have extra padding on the heel. Seems to improve things.


I've heard of Repettos on fashion blogs, but I'd opt for something mid-range since I'm not earning money yet. But you folks have convinced me that while Clarks cannot be resoled, the comfort and reasonable durability is worthwhile.

So the next question is, should I talk myself into getting them now so I can wear nicer flats to an interview? Or is that just my consumer-self talking and really I can just walk into an interview with cheap flats so long as they're not too blingy/glitzy… considering that this is Vancouver? (my nicest shoes are probably my black oxfords, but unfortunately I do not have interview-worthy slacks to go with them).
posted by Hawk V at 5:45 PM on February 17, 2012

My wife has a pair of Frye flats -- these, I believe -- that are resole-able.
posted by supercres at 7:27 PM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Andis have a half-rubber half-leather sole that looks like what you get when you have the thin rubber protectors put on leather soles. I think it probably could be repaired, but I have a pair that are about three years old and I've trashed the leather uppers (mostly by driving in them) while the soles are holding up great. I don't think the Andi is still in production or in retail stores, but they come up on ebay a lot.
posted by crabintheocean at 8:15 PM on February 17, 2012

I had amazing Repetto ballet flats that were very well-made (as they should be for $140!) but they were definitely not made for the type of weather you're talking about. As for the Clarks you linked to and similar shoes, those seem like a good "adult" shoe for you.
posted by radioamy at 9:22 PM on February 17, 2012

Walking and public transport reliant person here, too. I buy cheap ballet flats if I want to vary things up somewhat and perhaps have a different colour or style for occasional wear. But for day to day wear I'd invest in reasonable quality for greater comfort and durability.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:54 AM on February 18, 2012

Best answer: You might as well splash out on the Clarks now, if you know you're going to wear them often. Comfort is very important in ballet flats (as Cairdeas noted) because they are not a shoe that offers a lot of natural support. I've found un-padded, thin-soled, flimsy ballet flats to be positively uncomfortable for large amounts of walking and standing (one day I wore a pair of cheap cloth ballerina flats to an all-day museum jaunt, and my feet were killing me at the end of the day). Padding and a sturdy sole are essential and well worth paying for.

Another time I was out running errands via bus and foot, wearing another pair of cheap ballet flats, and the "leather" upper literally burst open at the side of my shoe. Finally, I've had slips and near-misses in thin-soled ballet slippers which don't offer much traction on wet ground.

The only time I'd buy cheap ballet flats is if I wanted a dressy pair just for evenings (the one place I tend to cheap out on shoes because I don't wear dressy, sparkly evening shoes that often) that I'm not going to do a lot of walking in.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:54 AM on February 18, 2012

I recommend ECCO flats like these -- they have a bit of a wedge in the sole that ends up giving me fairly good arch support for a ballet flat. Like you, I hate heels and loafers and wear shoes like this with just about everything. I have three pairs of similar styles, and wear them nearly every day, and they've all held up for several years now. They have rubber-y soles that make them somewhat OK on ice, as well.

ECCO doesn't make as many flats with the wedge style as they used to, unfortunately -- for a while, all of the shoes in their "Bouillon" line were like this. Since they seem to have discontinued most of them, I now just look for the things on eBay.
posted by heurtebise at 9:37 AM on February 18, 2012

It's not that model in particular, but I've gone through two pairs of Clarks Book Pump flats in the past year. They did not hold up long to daily use, but they held up longer than other flats I've purchased. Clarks are not necessarily a high-tier brand, but I definitely believe in splurging a little on shoes if you can afford it (so nothing from Payless).
posted by theraflu at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments, everyone! I just bought the Clarks Poem Court shoes today and they're very comfy. There was a sale in the store where there's a discount if you buy a second pair of shoes, so I got some rain boots for 50% off. I'll wear the much cheaper rain boots on my commute, and change into my nice flats at work. Perfect!

Now on caring for flats with leather uppers... do you folks put shoe polish on them or is it overkill?
posted by Hawk V at 10:06 PM on February 19, 2012

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