Ballet flats are back in a big way. While the timeless silhouette never really goes out of style, its relative trendiness comes and goes in waves — and with Gen Z’s insistence on reviving all things Y2K, we’re very much living through an “in” period. “They were so trendy when I was a kid, and at the time they seemed a bit too adult and too mature for me. So I’m really happy now that they’re in rotation again. I get to participate this time around,” says Natalia Spotts, founder of vintage store Funny Pretty Nice.
Considering the enduring popularity of all things balletcore and the furor that erupted last fall over the Miu Miu and Sandy Liang ballet flats, the trend clearly won’t be flagging anytime soon. If you’re ready to relive your early aughts style, we’ve polled a panel of stylists, editors, and actual ballet dancers about their favorite ballet flats right now. Their recommendations range from budget-friendly to designer options in a variety of materials including lush leather, sleek satin, and unexpected mesh.
Best ballet flats under $150
“As a dancer, I’m very particular about my footwear,” says artist Nayomi Van Brunt, who likes her shoes to be “comfortable, but without sacrificing style.” She’s tried multiple pairs of ballet flats in the past, but none of them have held up to the quality of these Everlane flats. She’s been wearing them for over a year now and has found them to be “very functional” because she can slip them on and off when she’s between rehearsals. And the “all-day wearability can take me straight through to happy hour,” she says.
Rothy’s square-toed flats have been a warm-weather mainstay for writer and illustrator Maggie Slover ever since she discovered them last summer. According to Slover, they’re perfect for summer rainstorms and “travel like a dream” thanks to their breathable, waterproof mesh material, which adds an interesting texture to outfits. Plus, both the shoes and their insoles can go straight in the wash, so they’re a breeze to clean if you get caught in a sudden downpour.
Writer and content creator Mackenzie Thomas thinks these Shop Peche flats evoke “Eloise and Madeline and Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, all those cute animated girlies.” They’re made from vegan leather and have a classic Mary Jane silhouette thanks to the single strap across the instep. Thomas says the break-in period was completely painless, and she reaches for them “pretty much every day.”
Content creator Isabella Ricci is usually in sneakers because of her sensitive feet, but she’ll throw these J.Crew ballet flats into her bag for a fancy occasion. “They don’t take up a lot of space, and I’ll just put them on whenever I need to be wearing some nicer shoes,” Ricci says. She often styles them with ribbons wrapped around her legs and ankles to really play up the balletcore look: “It’s a way to have fun and customize them and get more out of them for your money,” she says.
Model Molly D’Amato fell in love with the fine details on these Circus NY flats, such as the criss-cross straps and darts at the toe that give them the look of a real pointe shoe. Her foray into the ballet flat world is fairly recent — “I used to be kind of a hater,” she admits — but she’s been enjoying the flash of red these ones provide when peeking out from under a bootcut jean. “It just feels so Carrie Bradshaw to me!” she says.
Model and dancer Camri Hewie considers herself a hardcore heels girl, but was recently converted by these Birdies flats, which she reaches for when she’s “running errands or just casually walking around.” She likes pairing them with a going-out top and a miniskirt in the summer; in the fall and winter, she’ll throw on some tailored trousers and a black turtleneck “if I’m going for an Audrey Hepburn vibe.”
Best ballet flats under $300
Hewie also loves these Von Holzhausen flats, which have the very polished, dainty look of a classic ballet flat. She especially appreciates the brand’s focus on sustainability — though the material may resemble leather, the shoes are actually crafted from a biodegradable bamboo. They’re also fairly low maintenance; Hewie just “wipes them with some warm water” to buff away scuffs.
Strategist senior editor Ailbhe Malone has been a loyal Russell & Bromley fan ever since she bought a pair of the brand’s loafers on her 25th birthday that are still going strong. She got these flats a few months ago, and though she does warn that they require some breaking in, it’s thankfully nothing too intense: “I wore them to the ballet at the Royal Opera House a few weeks after purchasing them and though they weren’t comfortable enough to wear sockless, I wasn’t wincing on the tube home either,” she reports. She likes how the slight heel accentuates her ankles and thinks they pair especially well with faded raw-hem jeans.
These Loeffler Randall flats also come recommended by Ricci, who finds the satin fabric to be softer and more forgiving than leather. This allows her to “wear them for longer periods of time because they’re less tight on your feet.” The slipperlike profile and decorative bow may make the shoes seem deceptively delicate, but Ricci assures that the flats are very sturdy and constructed with “high-quality craftsmanship,” adding that “you can see the work that was put into them.”
Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla is “almost always in flats because I don’t have the grace it takes to be a regular heels wearer” — but for the longest time, her shoe wardrobe was missing a plain black pair. (“Plain for me means something with only a little twinkle,” she clarifies.) She likes these Larroude Lee flats for their elegant pointed toes and the “crystal-laden bow, which shimmers even more IRL.” They’re dressy enough for a wedding, but Pardilla prefers styling them with more casual pieces, like slouchy pants and T-shirts.
Best ballet flats $300 and up
Multiple sources shouted out Repetto, a French footwear company that also makes shoes for professional ballet dancers. The brand’s Camille model, which is outfitted with a small block heel, is favored by stylist Emilia Fishburn and content creator Ashley Brown. “Flats that have a bit of a heel look more modernized and give my foot a bit more definition,” Brown says. “The traditional ballet flats with no heel tend to make my feet hurt when I’m walking around for a long period of time.” Fishburn also calls out the low heel for giving the shoe “a little something extra” and adds that she can picture herself “wearing them for many years to come.”
“I don’t know that anyone expected mesh ballet flats to take off as much as they have,” says The Love List editor Jess Graves. Khaite’s crystal-encrusted Marcy flats lead the category in her mind, but these Le Monde Beryl flats suggested by stylist Djuna Bel are (a bit) more affordable. “If you haven’t gotten a pedicure or you’re on the subway and you want more of a barrier between your feet and subway grime, they’re a great alternative” to sandals, Bel says.
Content creator Francine Vega always liked the look of Margiela Tabis but never found a silhouette she was willing to splurge on until she came across these pale pink Tabi flats. “It’s unconventional, but it’s also timeless and goes with so many different outfits,” she says. A pair of low-waist jeans and a white T-shirt are her go-to so that the uniqueness of the Tabi toe really pops: “They get a lot of attention!” Vega says.
Slover pondered purchasing the Martiniano Glove shoe for almost a year before finally taking the plunge, and she has zero regrets. With a wooden sole and a leather upper that provides a bit more foot coverage, they’re a “more substantial flat than their dainty ballet-flat predecessor” and feel “both more mature and visually interesting,” she says. Although they’re a certainly an investment, Slover hints that you can often find gently used pairs on eBay and other resale sites.
Of course, there’s always Chanel, the pioneer of prep. “Everyone is bringing back the early 2000s Chanel flat!” Bel says, and the evidence bears out: Bel, Spotts, writer and editor Aemilia Madden, and New York City Ballet dancer Jenelle Manzi all own a pair. “As a ballerina and someone who lives in New York, you want a shoe that’s pretty supportive,” Manzi says, and the Chanel flats have a sturdy, substantive sole that make them easier to trek in than something softer and flimsier. “And you get a good clack when you walk in them,” Manzi adds. Madden picked up a pair of cap-toe flats secondhand and calls them “an easy hack to make my outfit feel dressier.” To extend their lifespan, she took them to a cobbler and got sole protectors “to keep them from wearing or scuffing.”
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