Do comfortable ballet flats even exist?

I remember when I first noticed ladies wearing ballet flats in 2004. Two years later I was surprised to see women still wearing them. Although I thought flats were cute, I was hesitant to get a pair myself, since the trend might not last. It’s been ten years already, and women are still wearing them, because “they’re cute and comfortable.” Comfortable compared to what? Heels, yes, I get that. But given how I wear running shoes or cross training shoes on a daily basis, most of the ballet flats I’ve tried on are not comfortable to me at all.

Last year I finally decided to get a pair, since it was possible that there would be times when I would have to dress professionally but also be on my feet for hours. The other girls wore flats (or boots, since it was winter and snowy). I didn’t know where to shop since I was new to the area, so I looked online. Although there was a Target store nearby, we were already heading into boot season, so they didn’t have any flats in stock. I really liked the style of the Matia Ballet Comfort Flats by Merona® ($24.99), and nearly all the reviews talked about how comfortable they were. Since I already owned a pair of heels by Merona® that were very comfortable, I seriously considered ordering the flats online, but my mom told me to try them on first before buying. When I returned to California for winter break, I was able to try on a pair and buy them.

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My Matia flats by Merona.

I had a cold that day and my nose was running like a faucet that was left on, so I was not in the right mind for shopping, but my mom insisted that we go that day. (I don’t remember why, maybe something to do with the weather.) I tried on the shoes. They fit. I can walk in them. OK, check out! It wasn’t until later that I realized that while these flats are padded, as opposed to the ones that have a paper-thin sole, they have very little arch support. They’re okay for standing in (and even better for sitting in!) If I’ve stood for long enough, then they get a bit more comfortable to walk in. I haven’t worn them much, except to venues where I spend more time sitting than standing. (I prefer to remove them while seated, since as someone mentioned in the reviews, they are not breathable so your feet will sweat.) Update: I put in arch supports, which makes them more comfortable.

I was still in search of comfortable flats, and all the reviews for Oka-B looked promising. I decided to get their Taylor ($38), which is the most basic ballet flat. After all, seeing the various raised areas in them, I figured they’d have better arch support than most of the other flats out there.

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My Taylor flats in “hot chocolate” by Oka-b.
I apologize for the dirty floor.

The style is cute, and it is nice that they’re made from a very flexible material, but I wish the soles had more padding. As someone else mentioned in a review, I can feel the bumps on the ramps at street corners. Also, like another person’s experience, the skin on back of my ankle got cut the first day I wore it. That problem can be solved by wearing socks with them, which also makes the sweating more bearable. At least they bend while I walk, which allows some air flow, but keeping them on when keeping still means lots of sweating.

I would say the arch support is moderate, but still not enough for me. To illustrate, I wouldn’t want to walk non-stop in these for even half an hour.

*      *      *

These past three days we’ve been having temperatures in the 90’s (°F, of course)  so I’ve been wearing skirts. The last time I wore a dress to work, I still wore sneakers to make my commute easier. On Tuesday I wore the Oka-B flats. Yesterday I wore the Merona® ones, and I ran a little in order to catch my bus. It was a short distance, like just the length of the bus. Immediately afterward, my feet started hurting. It felt as though whatever was holding my metatarsals together had snapped so they were all spread apart a bit more than usual. (I’m not sure that makes sense anatomically, but that’s how it feels. It also feels as though parts of the bones that normally don’t have contact with the floor when I walk are pressing against it.) My feet were swollen in the evening, but that might have been due to the heat. It felt better when I stood with my arch on top of a rock that was sticking out of the ground. (I laughed when I wrote that sentence, but it’s true!) My feet still hurt today. I’m not sure how long this will last, but I will wear sneakers for however long it hurts.

It seems to me that there are no comfortable ballet flats, or at least not in the $50 and under price range.

Have any of you worn comfortable ballet flats before? Are there any that you would recommend?

Update 7/30/2014

At the same time I bought the Taylor flats, I also ordered a pair of Nolly slingbacks by Oka-B. They’re basically the same as their plain slingback Brooke but decorated with pretty beads. I was debating returning them because they seemed a bit tight in the toe box, but I kept them. I recently wore them without socks and they were actually quite comfortable for walking. Having the back open reduced the sweating, so I’m happy with them. The back keeps slipping off when worn with panty hose, and I had to stop every six steps to adjust them, so I won’t wear them with socks.

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7 thoughts on “Do comfortable ballet flats even exist?

  1. I too have a hard time finding a flat that works well with my feet. My go to brand has always been Bongo, it’s the pair I have kept for 12 years and is so worn but never gives me the typical problems other flats do (a bloodied heel and blistered toes).. and I’ve tried a lot of shoes from two different countries! They’ve walked up cliffsides and been to weddings. I’ve tried Naturalizer, which is supposed to be so known for comfort, but these were by far the worst, which shred the back of my heel in a few hours. Next.co.uk also sells good shoes, Topshop, Sketchers have a few, and Crocs offers funky print flats that seem supportive and go well with a pair of jeans. But if you’re looking to go all out and splurge, designer Matt Bernson offers flats with memory foam and heel pillows to stop the typical pain.

  2. I think it would be hard to find a really comfortable pair b/c of the thinness which you have already experienced. However, both pair you got are really cute!! You might could get inserts to help.

  3. to me, ballet and comfortable dont seem to fit in the same sentence. 😉 i have a hard time with shoes that fit. and i refuse to spend $$$ on shoes. hmmm, maybe that is the problem?? i currently wear L L Bean lo cut slip on ‘boots” most of the time as they are my ranch wear. other than that, it is my crocks, unless i go to work and then i bout 2 pairs of slip ons that are very cushioned as i am on my feet a lot.

    • That’s true, though it’s just the name of the style of the shoe and not actually used for dancing, which I’m sure you knew.

      Ironically, I’ve bought more expensive running shoes but didn’t want to spend as much on flats. Perhaps I should go shopping more so I can try out a number of flats to find comfortable ones.

      I think it’s easier for men since most of their shoes are more comfortable than women’s shoes, and there isn’t the same expectation of them looking a certain way. For now, I’m sticking to sneakers.

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