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The 8 best pairs of flats for work, travel, and walking, tested by style editors

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Six pairs of flats on a white floor.
Just because flats are, well, flat, it doesn't mean that they can't offer support.

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. Learn more about how Insider Reviews tests and researches style products.

Best flats overall: Everlane Day Glove
A pair of black Everlane The Italian Leather Day Glove on a peach background.

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

Read our full Everlane Day Glove review here

Best travel-friendly flats: Allbirds Tree Breezer
A pair of Allbirds Tree Breezers on a peach background.

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

Read our full Allbirds Tree Breezer review here

Best sustainable flats: Rothy's Flat
A pair of Rothy's Flats on a peach background.

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

Read our full Rothy's Flat review here

Best flats for wide feet: Margaux Demi
A pair of Margaux's Demi Flats on a peach background.

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

Read our full Margaux Demi Flat review here

Best luxury flats: Mansur Gavriel Dream Ballerina
A pair of the Mansur Gavriel Dream Ballerina flats on a peach background.

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

Best flats for formal events: Betsey Johnson SB-Reeve Champagne Flats
A Betsey Johnson SB-Reeve Champagne Flats on a white background.

Weddings, prom, galas— evenings I associate with shoes that give me blisters just thinking about them. A pair of flats that don't compromise on glamour are key when dressing for a special occasion. I love having a pair that only come out for black tie affairs, making them feel like a treat to put on. 

Designed by the original queen of maximalism Betsey Johnson, the SB-Reeve Champagne flats feature heel to toe rhinestones. The satin upper will be gentle on your skin and the pointed toe is subtly elongated to prevent any pinching. The elegant partial d'Orsay allows my feet room to swell after dancing for hours. 

A glittering half-inch block heel creates just enough lift to support standing for extended amounts of time. Johnson designed these as part of a wider collection of flats featuring slight variations in silhouette, which all come in a range of jewel tones that pair beautifully with gowns. Considering the detailed rhinestone embellishment, I place $79 as a reasonable amount to spend on a shoe reserved for special events. — Gabrielle Chase

Best flats for arch support: Naturalizer Vivienne Flat
A Naturalizer Vivienne Flat in Dusk Blue Fabric on a white background.

I've realized that having high arches has deterred me from shopping for ballet flats in the past. I'm guilty of wearing sneakers where they don't belong because I assume walking on pavement in anything else will ache. But as much as I love my tennis shoes, they're owed a break now and then. 

One of the most common orthopedic conditions is sore arches. Vivienne flat remedies those pains with ample arch support, yet still maintains a sleek ballet flat silhouette. Naturalizer, which belongs to the same brand family as Dr. Scholl's, designed the Vivienne to be as comfortable as grandma's orthos without the chunky rubber sole. 

The Vivienne in particular contours the foot effortlessly with a U-shaped topline and subtle 3/4" padded heel. These flats slip on and off with ease, making them an ideal chic errand-day shoe. Naturalizer offers this flat in hard-to-find sizes and wide fits for a custom-made feel. The Vivienne comes in 10 colorways, and at this price point, I can justify buying a couple pairs to cover my bases. — Gabrielle Chase

Best flats for work: Marks & Spencer Suede Stain Resistant Flat Ballet Pumps
A pair of black Marks & Spencer Suede Stain Resistant Flat Ballet Pumps on a beige background.

Take a look around the next time you're in the elevator at the office. Someone is bound to be clad in ballet flats, no matter what's on the agenda that day. Marks & Spencer's Suede Stain Resistant Flat Ballet Pumps are a versatile shoe option that is easily styled with workwear. You'll also notice they bear a significant resemblance to Chanel's iconic ballerinas, but at a fraction of the price. 

The Marks & Spencer flats feature patented Insolia Flex technology. This is meant to create a balance between the sole of the shoe and your foot's natural padding, so they're well suited for standing for extended amounts of time. The pretty bow detail makes them deceptively dainty despite the support they provide. 

The interior is padded with an antibacterial liner to spare any embarrassing odors that naturally occur when forgoing socks. And when you're commuting on a rainy day, you need not jeopardize looking neat and professional. The Marks & Spencer flats have a water-repellent, stain-resistant exterior to help keep them looking fresh and new. This simple suede option pairs well with outfits in year-round weather conditions. — Gabrielle Chase

What to prioritize when shopping for flats

Know your true size. Flats are an intimate category of footwear since they're typically worn without socks. Take your best fitting shoes and check out where they're made.This will inform your knowledge of how different countries size up or down in comparison and help you find the closest match. 

Assess your shape. Whatever your silhouette, the shape of the flats you wear can make or break the fit, even if the length is correct. Notice the curve of your toes and try to find flats that won't squish them or leave gaps. Some toes are squared off, some rounded, others come to a point at the second toe. Your best chance at the right fit will depend on how your flats resemble your shape. 

Where to wear: If you're shopping for a one-night-only kind of flat versus an everyday pair, or if you're in a climate that relies on temperature-controlled materials, consider how your new flats will hold up. Your mode of transport when commuting to your destination also plays a part. Walking on asphalt to the office will have a different lasting effect on a pair of flats than stepping out of a limo once you've reached the function.

Read the original article on Insider

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