Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ballet flats: How to choose

I noticed a little bit of controversy in the comments to Manolo's recent post on ballet flats, so I thought I'd throw in my one and a half cents.

I have to say, I agree with many of the naysayers. I'd say, use ballet flats sparingly--or choose with extreme caution.

But Scarpediem! you will say. They are flat! and so, so cute! and in fashion! Weren't you the one to rebel against stilettoes and determined to find a comfortable and stylish alternative between, say, pretty but painful 4" pointy heels and ugly Birkenstocks? Aren't ballet flats fitting that bill?

Well, yes and no. Behold this pair of Delman ballet flats:
So cute! So innocent! Such good quality! From such a renowned brand!

Well let me tell you: I have this exact model in Kiwi green, and on the only occasion I wore them, months ago, they hurt like the dickens. They don't have any support whatsoever, and their flimsy leather sole (designed to be flexible, no doubt) allows you to feel every stray pebble on the road. They're cut so low I couldn't wear them with my orthotics (they would flap out of the shoe). But worst of all, they are very narrow across the vamp, crunching my toes as if I was pirouetting my way en pointe to the restaurant and back (about one mile round-trip). Plus, they show a lot of toe-cleavage, which is neither here nor there, depending on whether or not you're into that sort of thing (I'm not).

Honestly, these were one of my worse shoe-choices. They're also insidious, in that you don't realize they're going to end up being so painful, since they feel fine when you try them on on a smooth surface. And, unfortunately, most of the Delman flats I've looked at seem to be cut on the same last.

However, ballet flats can, occasionally, be comfortable:
These Marc Jacobs flats are both adorable and very comfortable. Because of the particular cut of ballet flats (quite low, with a short vamp), I can't wear my orthotics in them, so they're still a little flat, but the leather is sturdy, the toe-box much more comfortable and less revealing, and overall, they offer a much better walking experience.

In order to avoid some of the pitfalls of ballet flats, I gravitate toward a skimmer/ballet hybrid. My first rule is to avoid any kind of ankle-straps attached to the flats (mimicking the actual ballet flats used by dancers)--I don't need them, and they do nothing for my ankles and calves. I've also learnt my lesson and avoid super-low cut vamps--they're not comfortable, and don't stay on your feet that well. Finally, I try to get at least a 1/2 to 1 inch of stacked heel, for good measure and for a little support. (I guess at this point the term "ballet flats" becomes really murky. Oh well.)

If needed more ballet flats/skimmers, and budget wouldn't be a problem I would, of course, go with Taryn Rose--for example, these Bauble ballet flats:
Why? Because Taryn Rose shoes ALWAYS have great arch support, great soft leathers and fabrics, and really lightweight soles. They have a hint of a heel, the vamp is not too low, they're super-comfortable and beautiful. What's not to like? Ok, one thing: the $394 price tag.

I'm also curious about the Anyi Lu brand, apparently designed by a former dancer--so you know she appreciates foot comfort! These bronze skimmers are on sale right now, and I'm very tempted:
And I know this Cole Haan G-series metallic flat is not technically a ballerina, but it's close enough. I have the orange version and they are comfortable beyond belief:
Many commenters on Manolo's site pointed out that ballet flats make their legs and ankles look thick. That may be true especially if you use the ankle straps (avoid at all costs if you don't have skinny legs!) or if you have a particularly high instep. I personally use ballet flats almost exclusively with long pants/trousers, or with ankle-long skirts--that's when they look best, in my opinion. This way I avoid any potentially disturbing visual distortions, while looking good and comfortable, and feeling good and comfortable at the same time.

17 Comments:

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

I agree about the Delmans - I have a pair of their ballet flats, and they are exquisitely cute, but not comfortable. I end up wearing them only on days when I have no meetings at work AND I've brought my lunch, so that my walking in them is minimized.

How sad is that?

 
At 10:31 AM, Blogger Jitterbugbaby said...

I will back you up on the "lack of support, squeezing toes" issues with ballet flats. I've had very good luck with the G series ones (I have 2 different styles, and both are extremely comfortable... one even has removable insoles so you might be able to put your orthotics in them).

A word of caution about Taryn Rose, though. While most of her shoes have amazing support and I would lie, cheat, and steal to have some, the last she uses for the shoes that start with "B" is the same as many other ballet flat lasts: no support, very flexible/thin sole.

Maybe you've figured this out already, but any Taryn Rose's that start with the same letter are made on the same last, and I'm sorry to say that the "B" last didn't quite live up to the rest of her shoes, in my opinion.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger Scarpediem said...

No, I didn't know that about Taryn Rose, and I don't have any shoes from that series--I have a low wedge, a low heel, and a high heel, and they're all super-comfortable. If what you say is true, then I'm quite disappointed. Thanks for the heads-up!

 
At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just have one word for you REPETTO. Being a stilleto lover myself I tought I'd wear these ballerinas sparingly, but no. I think I'm going to go and get them in all of the colours they have!

 
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