Our picks for the best flats won't give you blisters, and they'll transition from work to weekends.
One of the most cliché but true pieces of fashion advice we all come across at one point or another is this: Buy at least one good pair of flats. Heels are great and all, but flats are the shoes that you can really live your life in.
To use another cliché, comfort is key here. Otherwise, what's the point? Your flats should be cozy enough to wear morning and night, cute enough to elevate a basic outfit, but simple enough to go with most of the items in your closet. We've rounded up five pairs of flats that our team has personally tested to help you break the cycle of hope and bleeding ankles that so often comes with finding the perfect pair of shoes.
Everlane’s leather Day Glove flat is an almost (but not quite) ballet slipper guaranteed to go with just about all your clothing, and it’s a staple of nearly every style writer and editor on our team. We wrote up a full review after test-driving these flats, and they remain an all-time favorite. “Everlane’s Day Glove flats are much more comfortable than any other flats I’ve tried,” writes deputy editor Malarie Gokey, “They actually fit my foot and move with me — not against me.”
The leather molds to the foot, so not only will the flats last, they’ll get more comfortable over time. The shoes also feature pull tabs, ventilation holes, and comfy insoles to eliminate some of the most common comfort-related issues flats pose. The Day Glove flats come in tons of colors, including classics like black and white as well as some fun shades like cobalt blue or lime green.
They cost $115, and while not inexpensive, it’s a steal for shoes that will last you for as long as these do. Several of us have been wearing the same pair for years, with plenty of life in them left. — Erin Mayer and Sally Kaplan
You don’t have to resort to wearing sneakers when you travel thanks to the soft, pliable, and supportive Allbirds Tree Breezer.
Allbirds is probably better known for its Silicon Valley uniform-mandated sneakers like the Wool Runners and Tree Runners. But when you don’t want to wear sneakers but still need the same comfort and support, you’re better off with its flats, the Tree Breezer.
These are the flats you’ll want to pack in your suitcase because a) they’re very light and you can fold them up to maximize packing space, and b) you can walk around in them all day long.
Quell any fears you have of hobbling through a walking tour or calling it an early night because your feet have become one giant blister. The Breezers have bouncy outsoles made from sugarcane and soft, odor-minimizing merino wool-lined insoles. The knit collar wraps onto your foot securely, and the rest of the shoe’s knit body is breathable and feels silky smooth against your skin. Plus, they’re machine-washable, so they’re easy to take care of even if you get them all grubby on your trip.
Since the style is more sleek and formal than Allbirds’ other shoes, they won’t look out of place in a dressier environment. Instead of packing multiple pairs of shoes, you can just bring your all-in-one Tree Breezer flats. If you don’t have a chance to try them first before you board your flight, don’t worry — most of the Insider Reviews team didn’t need to break them in. — Connie Chen
On top of being versatile, lightweight, and machine-washable, the Rothy’s Flat is sustainably made and comes in a pointed-toe silhouette. It’s the ideal shoe for the conscious consumer.
Shoe brand Rothy’s was born out of the desire to repurpose wasteful, single-use plastics into something beautiful and practical. All of its knit shoes are made from 100% post-consumer plastic water bottles, which are hot washed, sterilized, then fused into a fiber that is knit into yarn.
The insoles contain recycled foam, while the rubber soles are carbon-free. The adhesives used are non-toxic and vegan. Even the packaging is made from post-consumer recycled materials and is biodegradable.
The lofty challenge of reducing your impact on the planet feels more manageable when you start with the things you use in your everyday life. Thanks to Rothy’s, the endeavor won’t compromise style or comfort.
Rothy’s Flat is the choice for many modern working women because it boasts zero break-in time, a sleek look, and moisture-wicking breathability. You’ll feel the difference immediately after slipping your feet in; the flats are very light and flexible, with a bit of give, and there aren’t any uncomfortable seams or edges. They come with either round, square, or pointed-toe silhouettes.
Keeping them in top shape is as easy as throwing them in the washing machine. You can also buy extra insoles to help prolong their life. After wearing them often (and you will because of their versatility), you might wonder if they’ll actually hold up. But we’ve been wearing and washing our pairs for more than a year and they look and feel as good as they did on day one. — Connie Chen
Margaux’s Demi Flat comes in three different shoe widths, so you never have to miss out on a cute flat style because of your foot shape.
Ballet flats look deceptively simple. You know if you’re reading this guide that it’s hard to get the fit just right — some pairs gape, while others rely on uncomfortable heel elastics to stay on your foot.
You won’t encounter this problem with Margaux. It makes flats in a large range of sizes (from 3 through 14), including half sizes. Instead of suggesting you size up or down for wide and narrow feet, the company ensures fit precision by offering each size in Narrow, Medium, and Wide widths. There’s also a made-to-order option for a truly custom fit.
The Demi Flat from Margaux is a simple and elegant ballet flat. Senior editor Sally Kaplan, who has tried both Medium and Wide pairs of the flat, realized, “With all the walking I do, my feet end up swelling a bit, and the wide pair is more comfortable for long days out.”
They feature plush foam padding to give your foot some support, as well as a small heel so you’re not walking completely flat on the ground. The bow at the top of the shoe is adjustable in case you want to give your foot even more breathing room.
You can get the flats in two luxuriously soft and flexible materials, Italian suede or Italian napa leather, which each come in a small selection of colors that show off the materials beautifully.
Though they’re more expensive than average at $178 a pair, the way we see it, it’s better to own one pair of really well-made flats than five pairs of fun ones that fall apart quickly. — Connie Chen
These designer flats by Mansur Gavriel are buttery-soft with a comfortable cushioned insole. They’re not cheap, but they’re a worthy investment considering how much wear you’ll get out of them.
There’s something to be said for splurging on a really gorgeous pair of designer heels that you only wear on special occasions, but honestly, I’ve always felt that it makes more sense to spend that money on a practical pair you’ll get more wear out of. A beautiful ballet flat that’ll never go out of style is exactly the kind of shoe that deserves the designer treatment.
We think Mansur Gavriel’s Dream Ballerinas are the absolute best designer flats out there. The $395 price tag isn’t so unreasonable when compared to flats from brands like Chanel ($750+) or Louboutin ($500+), and the comfort rivals that of Everlane’s Day flat, our best-overall pick on this list.
Though I haven’t had many places to wear them during the pandemic, I have been testing out Mansur Gavriel’s ballet flats out at home (provided by the brand as part of my testing efforts for this guide). The lambskin leather is buttery soft and the insoles provide enough cushion that the flats wear almost like a loafer. The bow on the shoe is actually functional, so you can use it to tighten or loosen the opening. The bottom of the shoe has just enough traction that I feel comfortable on slippery tile surfaces, which can’t be said for other slick-bottomed designer pairs I’ve ultimately passed over. Ultimately, these flats have it all. And even after having tested every other pair of flats on this list, I can confidently say these are worth the cost.
As far as sizing goes, I am usually somewhere in between a 7.5 and 8, and I ordered a size 38 (the European equivalent of an 8). Mansur Gavriel’s site says to order a full size up from your usual size, but in my experience, it’s better to opt for either your true size or one half size up if you sometimes find your true size to be tight in other brands. — Sally Kaplan
Other flats we considered
Everlane ReKnit Day Glove Flat
We love these flats, but we opted to list the leather version as our best overall pick because the knit version gets dirty more easily, and it stretches out faster. This pair is still ultra-comfy, but it’s very low in stock. You can read our full review of them here.
Everlane’s classic ballet flat got an update with a slightly squared-off toe, a look we’re big fans of. The fit is fine and all of us who tried this pair liked them, but as far as comfort and color options go, they just don’t beat out any other pairs on this list. You can read our full review here.
We tested these as a point of comparison against Everlane’s Day Glove flat since they look so similar, but found that they just didn’t compare in terms of comfort or fit. They’re a perfectly fine pair of flats, but we did notice that the toe area of Oliver Cabell’s leather flats creases outwards with every step. Even though these are a comfortable pair, we recommend sticking with Everlane for a better fit.
Italic Bella Flat
Italic is a member-only shopping platform that sells brandless clothes, shoes, and accessories produced in the same factories used by luxury designers. Italic sells the items at cost to its members, who pay $120 a year to shop from the site.
While we tried and loved these designer-quality flats from Italic, which are made by the same manufacturer as Chanel and Prada, we didn’t ultimately include them as a top pair because you have to be a member of Italic in order to purchase them.
We tested this pair of flats specifically to compare them to Allbirds Breezer flats because they also claim to be washable and are theoretically great for travel. While we actually prefer the look of these flats to those from Allbirds, they just aren’t quite as comfortable. The mesh is a little stiffer and the almond-shaped toe can cause a bit of squishing.
What else we’re currently testing
Right now, we’re on the hunt for the perfect pointy-toe flat. We’ve tested pairs from Rothys and Everlane, but they weren’t comfortable enough for us to include in this guide.
Currently, we’re researching fan-favorite pointed-toe flats, like the ones from Margaux, and beginning the process of testing them for a new pick in this guide.