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Soft Star Shoes Ballerine Review

Something I still struggle with since transitioning to barefoot shoes is replacing certain styles that were my previous shoe staples.

One such style, that never really go out of fashion, are ballet flats. Every season seems to offer a slightly reinvented version (currently it’s the lace up look) and they pretty much go with everything, jeans, leggings, midi skirts, maxi skirts, you name it.

Are ballerinas barefoot?

Although ballerinas can seem like a very minimal and flat shoe, they often have a very narrow toe box and a very hard, inflexible sole (so not very barefoot in my book). And if actual ballerinas (as in the dancing kind) are anything to go by then they definitely do not have healthy looking feet…

A number of barefoot brands do offer a ballet style flats (check out my barefoot shoes list for more info), one in particular I have been wanting to try out for a while is from Oregon based Soft Star Shoes.

First impressions…

I have to be honest, when I first discovered Soft Star Shoes, I initially dismissed them as a brand that made barefoot shoes that only kids can actually get away with wearing and not ones I could ever see myself in. So if you head to their site and first lay your eyes on a pair that look like they would be worn by Robin Hood then please bear with me…

They have a few really good looking styles, including the Ballerine, along with the winter Phoenix Boot and newly released Hawthorne Chukka. And hey, if you’re ever on the lookout for a Robin Hood themed party then you know where to look too

So here’s my thoughts on their ballerina style…

Here, there and everywhere

Since I’ve had my Soft Star ballet flats I’ve worn them just about everywhere – from a friend’s wedding, to a loved one’s funeral, from a day at the office, to a night out with my colleagues.

And as they are made from real leather not only are they super soft – I haven’t had blisters once, which is a first for me for a new pair of ballerinas – but they also don’t get smelly like so many flats do when you go without socks.

Another pretty amazing feature is that Soft Star Shoes offers a design your own option on their ballerinas, which gives you 34 body colours, 53 heel colours and 16 trim colours to choose from.

That’s 28,832 colour ways.

And I went for all black. I think I panicked with that many to choose from but have to say I do love the idea of a flash of leopard print on the heel like these for an evening out…

Soft Star Shoes Ballerine Review


Getting the right size is super important when buying any ballerina-type shoes. Too small and you risk squishing your toes and too big and you risk them slipping off as you walk.

The challenge with any ballerina style is that because there is so little material they need to fit snugly to ensure they don’t slip off. However, if like me, you like a roomy fit then Soft Star recommend to order one size larger in the Ballerine than the size you measure on their sizing guide.

The leather will stretch slightly over time, so there is a risk in going up a size that they could feel too loose over time but personally I would prefer a too little loose than a little too tight.

Another option is to go with the addition of a sports closure, although personally I’m not as keen on the look of these. (I’m actually hoping Soft Star might consider creating a lace up version as a more fashionable alternative… Of course there is the option of doing a DYO lace up as per Sugar Lane’s tutorial, but personally I just couldn’t bring myself to make holes in that leather.)

In case like me, you didn’t take the advice to go up a size and feel that they are too tight then there’s a few tricks you can try to speed up the stretching process of the leather:

  1. Wear them around the house with thick socks – one thing to note with this is that this can stretch both the width and length, so if they are only a bit snug in the toe but perfect around the rest of your foot this might not be the best option.
  2. Stuff the toe box with a damp cloth (and leave them overnight) – this is a tip I got from someone on Instagram and it did help to give me a bit more room above my toes.
  3. Use a wooden spoon – although I haven’t tried this out myself I can imagine it is good if there’s a particular area where you feel you need more room.

For my next pair I’ll definitely be ordering a size up although I do think they’re still likely to stretch a bit further yet so I’ll add an update if I change my mind on that.

And if you want to find out a bit more about the best sizing option for you, it’s worth have a watch of this short video from Soft Star.


Soft Star Shoes Ballerine Review


HEEL (5/5) for a zero drop

Soft Star Shoes Ballerine Review

TOE (2/5) all Soft Star Shoes are made without a last so that the leather lays over the foot rather than being molded into a more rigid toe box. In the case of the Ballerine, this means you don’t have much available room above the toes and you can make out the impression of the toes on the leather of the upper. Due to the snug fit needed in any ballerina styles I feel my toes are too restricted in these (although the softness of the leather certainly minimises this) however, I’m hopeful there’s still a bit more stretch to go in mine yet.

Soft Star Shoes Ballerine Review

SOLE (4/5) unlike many ballerinas the soles are super flexible (in multi directions) and have grip to them – so many times in the past I’ve been slipping around (and down) in ballerinas. Although they have a thin 4mm Vibram sole, with the addition of the 4mm padding, which is super comfy, you don’t get the most barefoot feel but you importantly have the flexibility there.

Soft Star Shoes Ballerine Review

UPPER (4/5) I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well these have held on to my foot with so little material and think that’s down to a great design. I haven’t experienced any heel or ankle rubbing as the leather is so soft and as the heel is angled back towards the foot it means they hold on well for such a small surface area.

One more thing…

I can’t help share my discovery that Soft Star can also make single shoes if required (at half the price of course). Not only is this amazing in case one gets eaten by the dog, or lost on a wild night out or something, it’s also amazing for anyone who has different size feet and who usually have to buy two pairs in two different sizes (like my Granddad used to). What an awesome thing to offer!

Thanks to Soft Star Shoes for providing their Adult Ballerine for this review

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Comments (8)

  1. Shaina DeCiryan
    September 02, 2016

    Wow, I am so pleased to have discovered your blog. My boyfriend and I have been transitioning all our shoes to barefoot/ minimalist styles and are finding it’s much harder to find stylish women’s shoes than men’s options. He absolutely loves his vivobarefoots (suede moccasins and leather work shoes), and I’ve been searching for shoes that I can work in for long wedding photography days. I’ve been considering either this ballerine by softstar or the vivobarefoot jing jing. Do you have any preference between the two?

    • Emma Thornton
      September 02, 2016

      Hi Shaina
      Glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog 🙂 totally with you in that it’s so much harder to find good-looking women’s options (my husband also lives in his Vivobarefoot boots in the winter and Luna Sandals in the summer).
      Softstar Ballerine vs Vivo Jing Jing is a tough one… For me it comes down to which fits best as I find sizing on ballet flats really tricky to get right.
      If you’re somewhere that Vivo ships to I’d probably say to order a couple of pairs online to try out the fit first and see how you get on. I found that I had to go up a size in the Jing Jing, which was also the same for the Softstar Balerine. So if it’s easy for you to order a couple of different sizes from Vivo and return any that aren’t right I’d recommend doing that.
      With Softstar you definitely have to wear them in a bit and stretch the leather so if you’re not in the US then I’d say this is the more difficult option to make sure they fit you right (am just thinking you want to make sure they’re super comfy if you’re going to be shooting in them all week!) Also bear in mind that if you’re outside of the US you might have to pay tax through customs.
      If you do go for Vivo I’d recommend the leather Jing Jing over the Daisy as feel the leather is longer-lasting on the Jing Jing, especially if you’re going to be in them for long periods at a time. Personally, I also think the Jing Jing look a bit smarter than the Daisy.

      Good luck with it – would love to hear how you get on!

  2. Alexa Borgman
    February 19, 2017

    Hi there, I am also transitioning to barefoot shoes and am wondering if you think these or the jing jing would be okay to wear with correct toes? Correct toes website suggests the ballerine in a wide, but I have pretty narrow feet and am worried they will be too wide. I suspect I’ll have to order a few and see what works best, just thought I’d see if you or your readers had tried correct toes in these. Thanks!

    • Emma Poppenborg
      February 22, 2017

      Hi Alexa, I’m afraid I’ve never tried Correct Toes myself so wouldn’t be able to say. However, I have tried the Jing Jing (as my mum has a pair) and they tend to come up quite small so I would suspect you will probably need to go up a size larger than what you would usually wear. From what I remember, I think they’re quite close fitting around the mid-section of the foot (as I also have quite narrow feet) but give a lot more room than usual ballerinas in the toe box so fingers crossed they might just work for you.
      As for the Soft Star Ballerines, I found them quite snug around the toes, especially above the toes and take quite a bit of wearing in so I don’t think I would recommend these with the Correct Toes as think you could have a problem with stretching the leather. Hope that’s somewhat helpful?!
      Would love to hear how you get on, good luck!

  3. Alexa Borgman
    February 24, 2017

    Emma, thank you for your response! I ended up ordering the ballerine and I LOVE it. The toes are a little tight, but not enough to go a size up. I got a wide and I can definitely wear correct toes in them, in case any of your readers are interested. I love this blog!

    • Emma Poppenborg
      February 27, 2017

      Fantastic, so glad they worked out for you and that they fit with your correct toes – result! 🙂

  4. Jasia
    February 27, 2017

    Did your ballerines end up stretching enough to make it worth it to size down? I sized up and they fit comfortably, but I’m wondering if they’ll stretch more that they’ll be too big in the long run, so I’m thinking of sizing down…

    • Emma Poppenborg
      February 28, 2017

      Hi Jasia, have you seen the video from Softstar on sizing tips for the ballerine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay8o39g6Thc Personally I wouldn’t have wanted to go down a size as prefer to have a roomier fit rather than risk feeling my toes are cramped in them. If you’re unsure, it might be worth getting in touch with them directly as they are really helpful and might be able to offer some more specific advice for you. Good luck with it (and do let me know how you get on) 🙂


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