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Ballet flats are trending again! Podiatrists share tips on finding a comfy pair

Shop podiatrist, shopper and editor-approved picks starting at $16
Vivian Le / TODAY

When it comes to footwear, few things are as easy to throw on as flats. Whether you're heading out to run errands or heading to the office, flats can make almost any outfit look polished. In fact, we've been seeing a resurgence of ballet flats this season. They're trending big time, from the runways to TikTok (#balletflats has over 140 million views).

But since they're true to their name and tend to be flat in design, they might not feel comfortable after hours of wear. So, we asked podiatrists how to find comfortable flats that don't compromise on style. From the shape of the shoe to the build of the footbed, Dr. Emily Splichal, a functional podiatrist based in Arizona, and Dr. Miguel Cunha, podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare, shared everything you need to know.

What are the most comfortable flats?

If comfort is key, the basics you should look for are materials that allow your foot to bend at the toes, a spacious toe box, a contoured and cushioned footbed and adequate arch support, Cunha told us via email.

Since dress flats do not have a shank (a rigid material that runs between the insole and outsole of the shoe underneath the arch) Cunha recommends looking for an insole "that is made of cushioned materials that are light, soft, and durable against moisture such as ethyl vinyl acetate, memory foam, and gel padding."

One way to determine whether your flats will feel comfortable is to walk around in them before you purchase them. "Squeeze the insole with your fingers or place the insole directly onto the floor and stand on them to determine if they have sufficient cushioning and feel comfortable," Cunha says.

Splichal recommends looking for a flat that won't irritate the back of your foot, either.

"I prefer flats that don’t have stiff heel counters — so that’s the back of the shoe that kind of wraps around the heel," she says. Stiff heel counters can irritate and rub the Achille's tendon, it's best to opt for a softer fabric that wraps around your foot. Softer fabrics that are not restrictive also allow your feet to spread, which is what you want in a flat.

“There are some flats that are more pointed; the more pointed that a flat is, versus rounded at the toe, now you’re starting to constrict and restrict and then that can lead to you know, hammer toes and neuromas and bunions," Splichal says. "So there’s all this forefoot, or the front of the foot issues that I think is important in flats, versus getting really excited that the flat is flat."

If you're going to spend a lot of time on your feet while wearing flats, your feet will pronate for longer, which Cunha says can alter the distribution of weight and pressure in your feet, which may eventually lead to the front-of-foot issues Splichal mentioned above.

"This imbalance can then translate upward affecting other parts of the body such as our knees and back," Cunha says.

If you want to be kind to your feet, we asked Splichal and Cunha for their recommendations for flats that you can wear to the office and beyond. We rounded them all up below and also rounded up more affordable options that meet their recommendations, too.

Podiatrist-approved ballet flats for women

Allbirds Tree Breezers

"Allbirds is one that is actually a good flat because it has kind of that soft, stretchable upper," Splichal says. "And then it’s going to be breathable materials because that’s their branding, is that they use that Merino wool, which is very breathable."

Rothy's The Point Flats

Cunha recommends these flats from Rothy's, which have a flexible knit upper and cushioned insoles. As a plus, they're also machine washable, so you can keep them feeling fresh for your daily commute.

Associate editor Shannon Garlin recently got her hands on a pair and says they're worth the price: "Once you get past the initial break-in phase, they're super comfortable. The insoles are really cushy and are comfortable enough for me to wear on my commute to work and all day in the office."

Tory Burch Minnie Travel Ballet Flats

Another recommendation from Cunha is these flats from Tory Burch. They're made from leather and come in several different colors, but the classic black style proves to be versatile. They have a layered foam footbed that provides cushion and a flexible build that makes them easy to both wear and take with you while you're on the go.

More top-rated ballet flats to shop

Old Navy Faux-Leather Ballet Flats

This option is currently $15 and checks all the boxes of a classic ballet flat, from shape to sleekness. According to the brand, the shoes are made of soft, faux-leather material and have a cushioned insole, which reviewers say is extremely comfortable.

Amazon Essentials Knit Ballet Flats

Another popular option with high reviews from shoppers is this pair from Amazon Essentials. They have a memory foam insole and a "heel pillow" to help provide support for your feet, plus a sweat-absorbing liner to help keep your feet dry.

Frank Mully Knit Flats

The knit fabric and padded sole make these flats an affordable option to consider. They come in a range of patterns and colors and have earned a near five-star overall rating from reviewers.

One Shop TODAY writer says they molded to her foot and they are comfortable enough to walk long distances, even a mile to and from the dog park.

Dearfoams Misty Ballet Flat

From the scalloped detailing and flexible knit fabric to the range of colors that these Dearfoams flats come in, this pair is all about the details. Plus, the shock-absorbing insoles and arch support make them comfortable options.

Crocs Brooklyn Ballet Flats

Yes, these are crocs! The podiatrist-approved brand is known for its comfortability and these ballet flats feature the same molded design as other Croc shoes, says the brand. They're made of TPU material, and reviewers say they love them for rainy days.

Zara Satin Effects Ballet Flats

If you're looking to channel the balletcore trend, this option is a wearable take on the classic ballet must-have. And you can expect them to be comfortable. According to Zara, they feature soft satin fabric and foam cushioning.

Oak + Fort Ballet Flats

This classic ballet flat option has a wide square toe, allowing for plenty of room for toes.

"I recently saw these flats at an NYFW event and couldn't stop thinking about them so I immediately went back to the store and picked them up. Not only are they extremely cute, but I wore them all night and I never got any blisters, which is rare with flats. Needless to say, these are going to become my new go-to's for fall and winter," says production coordinator Camryn Privette.

Steve Madden Lorando Mary Janes

Production associate Audrey Ekman has been eyeing this Steve Madden pair after she saw them at an event for the brand. They're said to be extremely comfortable with the lightly padded footbed. You can choose from black or Ekman's wishlist pick, silver.

Everlane Day Glove Flat

Buttery soft Italian leather helps this flat earn its name since it hugs your foot like a glove. The pullback tab makes them easy to slip on and the cushioned insole also makes them a comfortable option.

"I also think these from Everlane are really chic and actually comfortable — they're so simple and elevated, come in a bunch of colors and the quality is excellent. Plus, they're on sale!" says Ekman.

Birdies The Blackbird Flat

These trendy women's flats are made of a knit, washable fabric. Birdies, according to the brand, deliver support like a sneaker but remain stylish.