25 Upgraded Ballet Flats That Don’t Try Too Hard

Alexa Chung in ballet flats.

Alexa Chung in her go-to shoe; Image: Alo Ceballos/GC Images

Some say the mule is 2017’s It shoe, but allow us to make a case for the ballet flat. Ballerinas are the Stan Smith of the non-sneaker world. They complete your look without detracting attention from whatever’s going on above your ankle. They are, by nature, more polished and professional than their tennis-ready counterparts.

In ballet flats, you’re never out of step with the fashion set — the shoe is a perennial staple on the Chanel (and lately, Miu Miu) runways. Plus, as the athleisure movement has picked up speed and embraced a broader definition of sportswear (think of Christian Dior’s fencing jackets), styles that originated in dance — wrap tops, tutus, lace-up shoes, bodysuits — have taken the stage. Aside from all that, ballet flats shoes just exude a certain uncalculated, classic cool. They’re the shoe of Alexa Chung. Sofia Coppola. Audrey Hepburn. Brigitte Bardot. Coco Chanel. (Oh, and unlike mules, you can actually run for a train — and, you know, walk comfortably — in them.)

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Ballet flat naysayers argue that the classic French-girl accessory is a bit too, well, classic. They associate it with stiff, predictable outfits (tweed two-pieces, cropped black skinnies topped with sailor stripes, etc.). Of course, it being 2017, ballet flats are in the midst of a maximalist makeover. For Spring 2015, Phoebe Philo, champion of playful utilitarianism, showed stretchy, hardware-accented versions of the shoe at Celine. During the Fall 2016 season, the fashion set lost its collective mind when grommet-strapped, gingham-ribboned ballet flats walked the runway at Miu Miu.

Since then, designers’ taste for experimentation has only grown. Ballet flats come in more materials (frayed denim, rabbit fur, tinsel) and with greater embellishment (pearls, wings, snakes, arrows) than ever before. And even your more classic styles can’t be labeled cop-outs when paired with a good statement sock.

Degas Ballet Flat, $68 at Free People

Ankle strap ballet flats play well with cropped or rolled up jeans. Degas Ballet Flat, $68 at Free People

Shop 25 of our current faves in the slideshow below, then wear ‘em with kick flares, decorative socks and cutoff shorts, silky pajama sets, gauzy skirts, maxi dresses, shirtdresses or those quintessential cropped black trousers.