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.
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.
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…
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…
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:
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.
HEEL (5/5) for a zero drop
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.
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.
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.
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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