[box] The Soft Star Ballerines were provided to me free of charge for the purposes of writing this review. I also own three other pairs of Soft Star shoes that I have purchased myself over the last few years. After I discovered how much I liked Soft Star shoes, I applied to be an affiliate advertiser, which means that if you buy any of their products through my links I receive a small referral commission that does not affect the price you pay. [/box]
I have been mostly barefoot for the last 18 months. This means for running, gardening, shopping, and dancing. However, very occasionally one of the establishments that I enter makes it clear that footwear is their policy. Once in a while, it just seems best to accommodate social norms about footwear, so as not to cause a scene for my companions. For these kinds of situations, I have been on the lookout for a comfortable, dressy women’s minimalist shoe. When Soft Star came out with their ballet flats, called Ballerines, I was very excited and planned on buying a pair. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)
When the opportunity presented itself to review a pair, I spoke right up. I specifically wanted to evaluate how the Ballerines would work for dancing. I was a little concerned about how they would stay on, being the basic cut of ballet flats, with less coverage over the top of the foot. When I learned that there was an option for a “sport strap,” I was pleased. I chose a vivid turquoise with the sport strap.
I have larger than average feet for a woman, in the past having been a standard size 11. I say in the past because with all the time I have spent barefoot in the last 3-4 years, my feet have spread. I can tell when I look down that my toes are more spread now, from all the good work that they do helping me keep my balance and run with good shock absorption. Standard shoes that I could previously wear are now much too tight across the ball of the foot. It is not just a matter of not being used to them. They don’t fit the same.
In years past, it was also a common frustration that the cute little size 7 shoes on the display racks simply did not look so cute on my feet. At least in my opinion. The designs often accentuated length and made me feel like a clown. So, I am very aware of how certain design features grow on a larger shoe. Why do I tell you all of this? Because I didn’t have any of these issues with the Ballerines. In particular, the sport strap does nothing to make the shoe look or feel bulky. It blends nicely with the look, is easy to adjust, and makes the shoes feel secure without feeling tight.
Even though I have ordered Soft Star shoes in the past and fit perfectly into their shoes that matched a women’s size 11, the Ballerines did feel snug on me. The company has changed their sizing since I ordered last time, just in the range of my size, but I decided to try what was listed as for a women’s size 11 still. I tried on my Soft Star RunAMoc’s and Moc3’s to compare fit, to see if I could pinpoint what the difference was. These older shoes of mine still fit quite comfortably, with plenty of room in the toe box. It is true they may have stretched some with use, though.
I don’t have any noticeable difference between my right foot and my left foot, so I put one Ballerine on and one Moc3 on. I stood outside against a straight edge to make sure the heels were even. I could see the somewhat different toe box shape of the Moc3, and I could see how my big toe pressed more into the end of the Ballerine. I could also see how the toe box of the Ballerine curved in and around the toes sooner than the Moc3’s. I found that the leather on top of the Moc3 was loose enough to be able to pinch some. I could not do this over the toes on the Ballerines while I was wearing them, but when I turned my foot sideways to compare, it was easy to pinch some there. The leather was nice and soft.
I also emailed the company to ask their opinion. They explained the cut of each shoe design may vary slightly, favoring one basic foot type or another for different sizes. They also wear their own shoes and have experience with the leather shoes stretching as they are worn.
The Ballerines were not uncomfortably snug. I suspect that someone who is used to wearing shoes would not think them snug at all. I wore them around the house and periodically forgot I was wearing them. Shopping was the next test for the Ballerines. I went to Walmart and walking was quite pleasant in them. They have a very flexible sole that is hardly an ⅛th of an inch thick. A padded insole of about the same thickness does not detract from this flexibility or give any feeling of height. In short, they felt like princess slippers. Turquoise princess slippers.
Dancing was on the agenda for the evening. I knew the place we were going let me dance barefoot, but I thought it would be useful to be able to compare the shoes with being barefoot the same evening, under the same conditions. So I took them.
The large dance floor was wood, fairly polished and smooth. I can dance on it very actively with bare feet and don’t get any slivers or hit any ridges. I started out dancing with the Ballerines on. This was not quite as comfortable as walking had been. The snug fit of the shoes kept my toes from being able to spread like they normally would with all the dance movement. I was pleased that the soles were not so slick on the wood so as to send me flying, but not so grippy so as to hamper my moves. After a couple of dances, I let my toes free.
Two of my young adult daughters, who have feet just a little shorter than mine, have tried on these Ballerines, and are interested in my new, cute shoes. They also run mostly barefoot, and work in very minimalist shoes in the restaurant industry. I haven’t quite decided if I will pass these shoes on to one of them and buy the next size up to try for myself, or try to wear these more for walking and see if they stretch. They are still clearly the most comfortable ballet flats I have worn. If I do buy another pair, I still think I’ll order turquoise! And I will be trying dancing in them.