admittedly, flats are not the most exciting of shoes, but they’re usually the most hardworking pieces in people’s closets, including mine. while they lack the va-va-voom factor and leg-lengthening capabilities of their heeled cousins, flats are great for when you’re on your feet all day or have to quickly get from point a to point b. comfort is their primary selling point, but as they’ve become more available in more designs and options, they’ve become chic, sartorially on-point footwear in their own right. referencing my own pieces, here are some options and tips to keep in mind if you’re in the market for a new pair or two.
ballerinas | let’s start with the quintessential flat. who hasn’t seen the impossibly elegant Audrey Hepburn in a pair?
smoking slippers | these are great if you’re looking for a little higher profile on the foot than the traditional ballerina flat. I like that these add a little touch of insouciance to even the most basic of outfits.
oxfords | for the flat with a “borrowed from the boys” feel. I like to play up the juxtaposition between masculine and feminine by wearing these with a flirty skirt or a cute sundress.
slingbacks | take the basic flat, cut out the back, and add a strap for a little ladylike sophistication. these lend themselves to dressier situations really easily and in the right material, can be a modern alternative to a heel.
colors | if you’re planning on using these everyday, it’s a good idea to get a pair in a neutral color that goes with the majority of your clothing. I wear a lot of black, so the first flat I ever bought was black, but if you tend to wear warmer colors, a pair of flats in a shade of brown might me more practical. after you’ve got the basics covered, though, pick up a fun pair, like in an animal print, which is more versatile than you’d think.
some fun details | bows are classic details on ballerinas, but if bows aren’t your thing, look for a pair adorned in studs or in a pattern you love, like a polka dot.
toe-shape | while the body shape of a flat remains relatively unchanged between styles, the toe shape can change quite a lot. the three most common are the rounded toe, the pointy toe, and the almond toe. the rounded toe is a classic, but can look a little youthful. the pointy toe is dressier and elongates the foot much like a heel, but can be uncomfortable for those with wider feet because of the narrow toe box. the almond toe is a nice, happy medium between the two. try each style and find out which one suits your style and needs best.
material | the most common materials are traditional leather (the soft, buttery kind), suede, and patent leather (shiny and harder). traditional leather gives a more refined look, but it’s prone to scratches. suede is usually very comfortable straight out of the box, but it takes the most maintenance, especially if it’s in a lighter color. patent is the most hardy, able to stand up to a little rain and snow and easy to clean with a little elbow grease, but I’ve found that it takes the longest to break in. I’m partial to traditional leather, but I have pairs in each material, so feel free to mix and match. there are also plenty of non-leather options out there, so don’t feel as though you have to wear leather. there are plenty of great vegan leather options if you still want the leather look, or go for a canvas or satin option.
comfort & quality are key | no matter how cute the flat, make sure it’s comfortable. my tolerance for uncomfortable heels is pretty low as it is; my tolerance for an uncomfortable flat is nonexistent. look for pairs with decent padding and a little bit of a heel, between 1/4″ and 1/2″. I find the little bit of separation from the ground makes a huge difference. lastly, a good quality flat can be found at a number of different price points. the most expensive flat isn’t necessarily the most comfortable. that being said, don’t skimp. buy the best quality you can afford. I go by this rule of thumb in general, but especially for shoes.
personal favorites | for my short but wide feet, I’ve had a lot of success with the skimmer flat from madewell. I currently own two pairs that are both a couple of years old and still going strong. they have decent padding and a forgiving almond toe. at around $100 a pair, they’re not the cheapest, but the price is fair for the quality and you can often get them on sale if you do a little waiting and stalking. they come out every year with a little tweak here and there. I’ve also had decent success with flats from j.crew and j.crew factory. surprisingly, I’ve found the factory flats to be more comfortable than their retail cousins, probably because in part of the more prominent use of rubber soles in their selections. I know some people only like leather soles, and while I do prefer their look to the rubber ones, there’s no denying that a rubber sole provides a little bit more cushion and shock absorption, not to mention more traction. I like the classic ballet flats from factory, and I love the kiki flat from the retail stores. what works for me might not work for you, so try on many different pairs until you find a winner.
back to basics is a series on short&lovely highlighting the workhorses of my wardrobe, the pieces that work day in & day out, without fail. without these babies, then I really wouldn’t know what to wear.