I used to own one or two pairs of shoes at a time. Big, clunky, super-comfy shoes, sandals when I could get away with it. I wore them until they gave out entirely. Then a previous job made me hyper-self-conscious about appearance and social signals, so I changed.
For about a year, I wore just plain old ballet flats that you could buy at any shoe store. Then I noticed a large, soft bump developing at the top of my foot. Turned out ordinary ballet flats are both too narrow and not supportive enough for my feet.
I want people like me to be able to easily find arch-supportive flats. So here are my personal favorites, along with other options that might work for you.
Favorite Overall: Ziera Blair
Ziera shoes, formerly known as Kumfs, are expensive and kind of hard to come by in the United States, but they are entirely worth tracking down. I have 3 pairs of this shoe in 3 different colors. They are as supportive as Danskos (if a little less squishy in the footbed), but a little less clunky than a lot of Dansko’s shoes. They also actually come in wide sizes.
My disclaimers about this: the gold color of the shoe wears off pretty visibly, and I have yet to find a shoe polish that matches it perfectly.
Also, the sole of my particular pair is wearing down quickly in odd, symmetrical patches.
Despite that, these are my current favorite shoes. I love the ballet-like styling. If you have wide feet, you can buy them on clearance at Shoe Mill, and there are a few pairs on clearance in medium through extra-wide at Footwear etc.
If none of those work, I haven’t tried the Ziera Hazel, but I imagine it’s great too. You can find it on Walking Company’s website in medium widths.
Favorites for Comfort: anything by Born and many things by Dansko
If you have medium-width feet, I highly recommend Born. (People with D-width or wider feet: avoid Born.) Of all the shoes I have worn, these are probably the best combination of squishy and supportive. They have a variety of styles, the padding is also made out of leather rather than memory foam, meaning that the support will last longer. Memory-foam-padded shoes tend to wear down with your body heat—a salesperson told me to expect a pair of memory-foam-padded to be supportive for about a year. I prefer shoes that last longer.
They have a lot of pretty nice-looking shoes on their website. The Julianne in panna cotta metallic is pictured, primarily because I am a magpie who is fond of metallic flats. You can get more of their shoes at a discount at 6pm.com.
Dansko doesn’t really have ballet flats, per se, but in each collection they have a few things that can almost pass for ballet flats. I like the retro styling on the Dansko Lulu. I also like the angular sides on the Dansko Nanette Mary Jane.
Danskos can be a little clunky, but you won’t find any other shoes anywhere that are quite as comfy. The toe boxes are wide enough for wide feet. If you want to find Dansko shoes on sale, check out the Dansko Outlet for factory seconds or 6pm for discounted shoes.
Favorite for style: Casa Couture
Casa Couture is a relatively new (2011) startup with some neat design innovations. It’s a shoewear line meant for pregnant women, so it has special elastic portions that stretch the shoe in 4 directions. It’s helpful if you have foot swelling: it’s also helpful if you have wide feet.
Beyond that, the shoes are completely beautiful. I have bought the Diana (pictured above) and the Carolyn, and they’re the softest, most beautiful leather shoes I’ve probably ever owned. All the customer service I’ve ever gotten from them has been informative and incredibly friendly. Also, I may be the only one who cares about this, but all the shoes make a lovely sharp clicking sound when you walk.
I do have a few caveats about the shoes, but I consider them relatively minor:
- I can’t tell you with complete accuracy how well the shoes would fit a wide foot, since I accidentally ordered the wrong size. Relatedly, pay close attention to their sizing guidelines. I still found their shoes supportive and strongly suspect they would be very comfortable in my size. And it should tell you something that even though the shoes didn’t fit me right, I couldn’t bear to just get rid of them: I gifted 2 pairs to a friend with smaller feet and kept one pair for myself for special occasions.
- What they have on the site has been on the site for a long time, so if you see a shoe you like in your size, grab it! According to the company’s owner, Claudia, they are in the process of moving to US production—hence the delay in new shoes.
- Relatedly, I can’t guarantee that the US-made shoes will be as nice, but given Claudia’s clear commitment to quality, I suspect they will be. I certainly plan to buy another pair as soon as they become available.
LifeStride has a bunch of supportive ballet flats in a variety of widths, though I personally found their wide a bit too narrow. I like the geometry of the Native pictured above. These are also faux-leather, so… hooray vegans? At full price LifeStride shoes are usually between $50 and $60.
Dr. Scholls shoes have a nice wide toe box and are reasonably cute. They are usually padded with memory foam, which doesn’t last as long as some other kinds of padding, but you can’t really argue with the price. On sale they cost about $40 and range up to a maximum of about $88. The above is the basic almond-toed Really flat.
Arcopedico has a few vegan shoes—I’ve tried the L15D. I didn’t find them as supportive as I liked, and they looked a little like slippers, but other than that they were comfy.
Awesome-looking shoes I have not personally tried:
Visually, I like the Ukies Grace (technically a Mary Jane), and I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Aetrex Erica. Vionic Orthaheel Minna also looks nice, though I have heard that the materials Orthaheel uses for their uppers aren’t the greatest. A good friend personally recommends the Cobb Hill Eva.