What Are Ballet Slippers?

What are ballet slippers - 1

One of the most common footwear types that you will find in almost any woman’s closet is the ballet slippers (often referred to as ballerina flats or dolly shoes). A good pair of ballet slippers can be easily dressed up or down depending on the occasion, making them one of the more versatile footwear types. Additionally, they come in a wide variety of designs, making them ideal for when you intend to make a statement or if you would prefer to keep things toned-down. Read on for more information about ballet slippers, including what to look out for when choosing a pair and how to clean them.

What are ballet slippers? Ballet slippers are a type of footwear that is inspired by ballet shoes, featuring a thin heel or the illusion of no heel in some cases. They come in a variety of shapes and styles, with a majority of them differing in the design of the upper and the toe box area. The common toe designs you will come across include rounded, squared, and pointed designs.

Although some ballet flats have thick insoles which provide the wearer with both cushioning and support, many of them are generally lacking in terms of support. The material used in the construction of the ballet slipper upper varies widely, with some of the most common materials used being leather, suede, synthetic, and cotton, among others. Some ballet slipper varieties are made from breathable materials, while others incorporate antimicrobial and antibacterial properties to prevent the buildup of odor.

Ballet slippers are renowned for their comfortable yet fashionable qualities. Furthermore, they can be worn to virtually any occasion thanks to their versatility, making them a must-have. Here are the various aspects of this shoe type to keep in mind.

Factors to consider when choosing ballet slippers


Although ballet slippers tend to look similar in terms of design, there is actually some variety in their style and shape. The main discerning features are the upper design and the toe box area. The toe box is a crucial design aspect, so much so that if it is too small, you could end up with a serious foot condition. There are three common toe box shapes incorporated in ballet flats.

  • Squared – The squared toe box design provides the most room for you to spread out your toes, although many people consider this style of ballet slipper to be bland and boring. However, if your feet are wider than average, you may be better off going for ballet slippers that have a squared toe.
  • Rounded – A rounded toe box falls somewhere in the middle – it is not too narrow nor too wide. If you have feet that are average in size, you may want to go for this design of ballet slippers.
  • Pointed – The pointed toe box design is by far the narrowest, and even those who have narrow feet may take issue with how tight on the toes this style of ballet slipper can be. Of course, you may come across varieties that are wider, but if you have wide feet, you will want to avoid purchasing this design.


Stability and support are perhaps more crucial in ballet slippers than in other footwear designs since they are generally thinner and smaller. Some designs have a strap or ribbon which you can wrap around your ankle for more support, but most styles don’t have this feature.

Some ballet slipper designs have thick soles that provide support as well as cushioning to the feet. Similarly, the outsoles of most modern ballet slippers have sturdy outsoles, although some of them don’t provide much support.

  • Insole – When choosing ballet slippers, the insole is an important factor since it will determine how comfortable you will be wearing them. Therefore, you will want to take into consideration just how much cushioning and support you need, and the styles of ballet slippers that offer this kind of comfort. Cushioning is important in absorbing the shock that results from being on your feet. Modern ballet slippers generally feature some sort of cushioning – some even have latex foam and memory foam insoles.
  • Outsole – The outsole of a ballet slipper is typically thin, and even ineffective in some designs. Generally, the outsoles are made of rubber, leather, or synthetic materials.

Traction and flexibility

Traction is paramount in any type of footwear, including ballet slippers. Footwear that features adequate traction will significantly reduce the chances of slipping and falling. Some ballet slippers have very minimal traction which smake them a safety hazard on slippery surfaces, while others feature outsoles with a solid grip, allowing you to walk with little difficulty even on the smoothest surfaces.

Ballet slippers are generally flexible, with some of them even featuring elastic top-lines or elastic bands to allow for more flexibility and a more comfortable fit.


A variety of materials are used in the construction of the upper of modern ballet slippers. Some of the most common you will come across include:

  • Leather – Leather is generally firmer than other materials used in the construction of the upper of this footwear style. Asa result, it can be abrasive especially when the slipper does not fit properly. Leather does not stretch as well as other materials used in the construction of this slipper style.
  • Suede – Suede is actually a variety of leather that has a fuzzy and napped finish. However, unlike leather, it is quite flexible, although it is also quite hard to break in slippers that are made of suede.
  • Cotton – Ballet slippers that have cotton uppers are relatively flexible although it absorbs heat very easily. As a result, they can be quite uncomfortable when worn for extended periods of time, especially when your feet start sweating.
  • Synthetic – Synthetic uppers are man-made, which means that they don’t include any animal products. Depending on the combination of materials used in the construction, ballet slippers that have synthetic uppers can be very flexible.


Breathability is an important consideration when choosing ballet slippers since it will determine how comfortable they will. A material that allows for breathability will allow air circulation through the slippers, thereby cooling your feet when they get heated. As a result, you won’t have to worry about sweating or the consequent odor buildup.

Antimicrobial & antibacterial properties

As a replacement for breathability, some manufacturers opt to construct ballet slippers that incorporate antimicrobial and antibacterial properties so as to preserve the durability and support features of the slipper. The accumulation of bacteria in footwear can result in stinky odors and even nasty foot infections in some cases.


Some types of footwear are susceptible to water damage. The level of a vulnerability is mostly determined by the material used in the construction of the upper of the slipper. Waterproofing is especially important if you live in an area where the weather is mostly gloomy. Some slipper designs incorporate protective coatings and sealants that prevent water from penetrating the interior of the slipper.

How to clean and maintain your ballet slippers

Just like any other type of footwear, ballet slippers undergo wear and tear over time as a result of continuous use. Your first instinct may be to toss them in the washing machine for a fast and easy clean. However, this technique of cleaning could end up irreversibly damaging your slippers.

You are better of using a soft brush to remove the dirt visible on the surface of the shoe, and then depending on the material used in the construction of the slipper upper, use a damp soft cloth to clean the slippers further.

If the ballet slippers are made from suede, you will want to avoid using water in cleaning at all costs. This is because water stains suede and generally ruins the aesthetic appeal of the slippers. Opt to use just a soft brush when dealing with suede. After cleaning, use a protection spray that is suede-friendly as a preventative measure. For ballet slippers that have leather or patent leather uppers, you may be able to use shoe polish on them, as long as it is a variety that matches the color of your slippers.

Since ballet slippers are typically worn without socks, it is inevitable for them to start smelling with constant wear as a result of the accumulation of bacteria caused by the feet sweating. The best way to combat potential odor is by alternating the footwear you opt to wear on a daily basis. This will significantly reduce the chances of bacteria building up, and it will also allow your ballet slippers to dry out.  A mixture of bicarbonate of soda and talcum powder can also be useful in absorbing dampness as well as getting rid of the odor.

If you have been caught in a downpour, it is highly likely that your slippers will get wet. When drying your ballet slippers, you will want to avoid using direct heat sources such as heaters. Instead, use balled-up newspapers or hang them in front of a fan to dry them.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to the versatility of ballet slippers, you can wear them for a variety of settings, from the boardroom to a casual date night. However, since they come in a wide variety of designs and styles, it can be a little overwhelming to choose a pair that will suit you. To ensure that you are making a good choice, analyze aspects such the material, design, traction, and support.

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