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Although we love to play with our style and footwear choices—between a heel or sandal option, there is one category that is a win for many if not all, and that’s the flat shoes. Making a huge return to our wardrobes, flat shoes are the versatile, comforting, and effortless pairings in our wardrobes.
Meet the Expert
Mickey Freeman is a New York-based celebrity stylist and designer who has worked whose client list includes Keke Palmer, Kiana Madeira, and Shahadi Wright Joseph.
According to celebrity stylist Mickey Freeman, “flats make the perfect work option by offering equal parts cool and comfort” and they do say that comfort is king. Flat shoes come in an array of styles and fits, so finding what works best for you and your wardrobe is essential. Those with narrow feet can choose a pointed style option as the tapered end accentuates the foot. If you find that you are on your feet all day, then opting for a style with a moderate or chunky sole will help to cushion the feet throughout your working day. Once you find the best flat shoes for your style and function, you’ll find that your shoes will become the center of attention.
To help you with your flat shoe options this season, here are the best flats for your everyday working wardrobe.
Best Overall: Mango Leather Penny Loafer
Material: 100% leather | Size Range: 4-10 | Colors: Black, burgundy
The perfect seasonal update on a classic style, adding some prep into your workday, this penny loafer is both contemporary and cushioning in fit. With tights, without tights, with trousers, with dresses—this penny loafer is made of bovine and goat leather that carries the right amount of polish (without becoming a school shoe) and enough sharpness to say you mean business.
Best Splurge: Gucci Jordaan Leather Loafers
Material: 100% leather, horse-bit detailing | Size Range: 4.5-10 | Colors: Black, brown | Heel/Sole Height: .5-inch
When it comes to investing in a pair of shoes, you want to look for versatility, endurance, and the fact that they’ll be a timeless piece despite the trend. Standing the test of time, the Gucci loafer is a staple in the wardrobe for its ability to go with everything. Sleek? Yes. Hardwearing and well-made? Tick. Minimal? Absolutely. Worth the investment? It will be in your wardrobe for years, making the cost per wear more justifiable.
What Our Editors Say
"I've had these for about 5 to 6 years and wear them constantly! I'm about to buy another pair in brown. I was always embarrassed to splurge on them, but they are worth the investment. The only thing is that they need to get re-soled every couple of years. They are so comfy as well, and they do stretch so keep that in mind."
—Hanna Watt, Senior Product Manager, Commerce
Best Babouches: Bohemia Design Moroccan Classic Pointed Babouche Slippers
Material: 100% leather | Size Range: 6-9 | Colors: Black, chalk, white, violet, green, pink, purple, blue, orange
If there ever was a style that could give you endless options without having to own multiple pairs of shoes it would be a babouche. Between a pointed flat, ballet, flat and mule your styling options are endless. The most beautifully handcrafted material with a minimal and sleek design that will go undetected with any outfit. Getting the most for your money, whilst crafted with the most intricate of artisans, they are essential. We recommend refraining from commuting in them and simply keeping them at the office, as the soles aren't meant for the elements.
Best for Wide Feet: ASOS Wide Fit Lozzy D’orsay Pointed Ballet Flat
Material: 100% matte faux leather | Size Range: 4-11 | Colors: Black, beige, orange patent
It can be a case of trial and error when it comes to finding flat shoes that fit and are equally comfortable. This pointed ballet flat still gives optimal styling points whilst complimenting the foot with an additional open design for the feet to relax. It rocks a slip-on style, buckle detail, and pointed toe whilst providing a pain-free day in and out of work.
Best Ballet Flat: Everlane The Italian Leather Day Glove
Material: 100% Italian leather | Size Range: 5-11 | Colors: Black, white, caramel, tan, mocha, lime, navy +more
Understated, sleek, and arguably the most versatile of all, the ballet flat is the perfect essential for any work outfit. In an array of colors, and fitted with the softest of Italian leathers, you can run around town and in between meeting with ease in this Everlane ballet flat. No tender feet by the end of the day as the butter-soft composition mold to the feet with a robust but comfy rubber sole.
“This season, I’m obsessed with ballet flats," Freeman tells Byrdie. "Ballet flats stay in style year long. Whether bedazzled or sling back, in the office or for an after-work soirée, minimal effort is needed while achieving the maximum effect in this timeless style of flats."
Best Mary Jane: Sam Edelman Michaela Mary Jane Flat
Material: Leather or velvet | Size Range: 5-11 | Colors: Black leather, mauve velvet, pebble grey leather, rust velvet, eggshell leather
Not wanting to take on the chunky flat for work, then this mary jane is the answer to your work wardrobe. Delicately framing the foot, in soft leather or velvet—it will be as though you're wearing your slippers to work all over again. Structured with dresses, skirts, or trousers, the Mary Jane is the dainty flat shoe update that you will want to wear over and over again. This shoe by Sam Edelman is classically balanced with a modern rounded toe and gorgeous velvet and leather colorway options.
Best Chunky Loafer: Reformation Agathea Chunky Loafer
Material: 100% leather upper, rubber | Size Range: 4.5-10 | Colors: Black | Heel Height: 1.4 inches
It's the right amount of chunky to make a statement, matched with the perfect amount of polish to either smarten or make any work outfit casual. This chunky shoe is the perfect definition when it comes to being a party on top and practical on the bottom—it says "I mean business" without trying too hard to impress anyone in the office.
Best Mule: Zara Flat Mules With Buckle Detail
Material: 100% polyurethane | Size Range: 4-11 | Colors: Black and green
Traditional mules can be so plain and blend into the background, but this style stands out so much that you’ll want to show it off. Still holding onto the traditional slip-on style, the flat mule is instead updated with chunky buckle detail—in stunning seafoam green. For those that love their shoes to do the talking, this flat mule is the best on the market. These will keep your feet comfortable all day thanks to the flexible latex foam insole. You do have to bear in mind that, made from PU, the quality and durability of this shoe may be compromised depending on how much you wear them.
Best Clogs: Aerosoles Wreeland Mule
Material: Suede leather upper | Size Range: 5-12 | Colors: Beige suede, white combo, leopard green | Heel Height: 1.25 inches
The ultimate WFH transition into the office, this style is perfect for not wanting to give up on at-home dressing but still wants to try. With an adjustable ankle strap, you can easily flip between a clog and a mule, whilst the molded footbed perfectly houses your feet for your long days. We especially love the cow print option, which is right on-trend.
Best Derby: Vagabond Shoemakers Eyra Derby
Material: 100% leather; rubber sole | Size Range: 6-11 | Colors: Black | Heel Height: 1.75 inches
This style is the most universal flat shoe in your work wardrobe—it’s practical, easy to wear, and can style and complement any foot shape or length. Brogues can so easily look too much like a school shoe, but this smart update by Vagabond Shoemakers includes a chunky sole, minimal upper, and square toe crafted from buttery soft leather to pair perfectly with the most paired back of looks.
What to Look for in Flat Shoes
This ensures that you will be able to wear your flat shoes for long hours with pain-free feet by the end of the day. A cushioned sole will help to protect your heels as you carry out your day-to-day.
If you want your flat shoes to go the extra mile, hold up against weather changes, scuffs or the impact of daily wear then focus on durable materials such as leather as opposed to PU or slightly cheaper materials. Investing in robust materials means they will not only be in your wardrobe for a significant amount of time but you won’t have to be too precious about their overall maintenance and upkeep.
Room to breathe
You want to avoid pointed flat shoes that squeeze and restrict your toes or slingbacks that cut into your heel—the main selling point of a flat shoe is its comfort, therefore prioritizing comfort over style is vital when looking for the right flat shoe.
How do you know if a flat shoe will give with time?
Most often 100 percent leather shoes will soften over time, so you can get away with a normal to snug fit knowing they will mold to your foot the more you wear them. If opting for a patent, velvet, or PU style shoe—stick to your normal size or even size up in some cases as a rigid, synthetic material, little give is provided for the feet.
How do you know if a flat show will last more than a season?
Look at each style to compliment your style and ask these questions: Can I style with five or more outfits? Is this a color I will wear often? Are they practical for my comfort level?
If all the above tick the right boxes—it’s a purchase.
How do you know what flat shoe to invest in?
It all comes down to personal taste and assessing your wardrobe—look at other styles of shoes you have in rotation. Also, think about what flat shoe style often pops up in your head when you are deliberating over outfits day-to-day. These are good indicators as to whether the flat shoe purchase will be loved and worn in your wardrobe.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Nateisha Scott has over years of experience in fashion, working with some of the most popular brands and magazines. A flat shoe is her preferred shoe choice; for versatility, comfort and effortlessly matching her minimal style.