What are Ballerina Shoes

Traditionally Ballet Pumps were shoes worn by ballerinas. However, thanks to style icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor the ballet flat became symbolic of their classic styles. After their adoption the ballet flat soon become popular amongst consumers who wanted a simple classic design to emulate their elegant style icons.

A Ballet Shoes is often soft and has a thin sole with a small heel. Once leather ballet pumps were the main style seen but as the style of shoe grew in popularity it was created in more materials and we started seeing canvas Ballet Pumps and even PVC ballet flats.

Difference between a Ballerina Flat and a Ballet Pumps

A Ballerina Shoe or pointe shoe differs from a fashion Ballet Pump due to the different construction. The pointe shoe is typically made out of satin and features two long pieces of ribbon which are delicately tied. The defining factor of a ballerina shoe is the toe box or platform which refers to the rigid from of the ballerina shoe, the box helps the ballerina perform intricate and delicate moves whilst keeping their posture correct. Another defining factor that differs in a ballerina’s shoe to a fashion ballet flat is that the sole in a pointe shoe is much thinner and covers only a small proportion of the sole. Whereas in a ballet pump the sole will cover the entire base of the shoe to offer more support during the day and make activities such as walking more comfortable.

The Ballerina Shoe or Pointe Shoe History

Ballet Shoes were originally worn by the Royal Academy of Dance and were slightly different that the once ballerinas were today, instead the pointe shoes had a chunkier heel. These were changed because ballerinas found that whilst they wore them it made executing moves difficult. One dancer from the Paris Opera Ballet- Marie Camargo was said to be the first dancer who removed her pointe shoe heels which enabled her to dance much better.

In 1795, Charles Didelot invented a move called the en pointe that meant ballerinas had to rise on their tiptoes for long periods of time. The move was a hit with audiences and as ballet grew and more intricate moves were created the ballet shoes had to be modified to make such moves comfortable and possible. Marie Taglioni a choreographer and ballerina Pierina Legnani in 1832 modified the satin slipper and added leather soles and well as a sturdy flat end to the Ballet Slipper. The updated ballet shoe was named the pointe shoe after the move than made them necessary.

The modern pointe shoe that we see today was created by Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in the early 20th century. Pavlova is regarded as one of the most influential ballerinas who could perform the en pointe better than anyone. Pavolva had to increase the support in her shoes and harden the toe area more in order to reduce the pressure on her big toes. Pavlova’s shoe was commissioned and is now installed in all Ballerina Shoe we see around today.

How to wear you Ballet Flat (Ballet Pump)

The beauty of the Ballet Shoe is that its simplistic design means it can be worn with pretty much any outfit. However, we have broken down some of the key ballet flat styling options to keep you on trend.

  • Kate Moss helped raise the ballet pumps profile in the 90s by wearing the classic shoe with a simple pair of jeans, military jacket and an iconic 90s thin scarf.


  • A great styling option is to wear a one tonal outfit and complete it with a understated ballet pump.


  • Another option is a take on Kate Moss’ everyday outfit and wear a simple pair of jeans with a statement jumper and wear a pair of bright colourful ballet pumps.


  • Fashionista Alexa Chung loves wearing the ballet flat with short dresses or tailored shorts as the minimal shoe has the ability to elongate your legs.


  • The ballet pump has also become a popular school shoe choice too.

Ballet Pump Trends throughout the years

  • In 1957 the most popular shoe of the year was the loafer. The loafer is a more sturdy practical form of the ballet pump. Also in 1957 Audrey Hepburn was seen in Funny Face wearing a pair of cigarette pants and styling them with a pair of ballet pumps which immediately made the simple shoe a wardrobe necessity.


  • In 1962 the ballet pump was a popular choice, however people were adding ankle straps for extra style points.


  • Jackie Kennedy is a style icons who’s fashion choices have remained relevant year on year and in 1963 her favourite pointed shoe because extremely popular. The pointed flat was again a take on the traditional ballet pump.


  • The ballet flat really hit the wider market in 1982 after style icons such as Princess Diana wore them repeatedly.


  • Again in 1987 the ballet pump was the shoe of the moment. A list stars such as Jamie Lee Curtis even wore them on the red carpet.


  • The pointed toe flat, a cousin to the ballet flat made a comeback in 1990.


  • In 2012 the ballet flat got an edgy look by the addition of studded details.

Ballet Pump Top Tips

When choosing the right ballet pump for you, make sure you try on various styles and if you have a wider food then this needs to be considered because if the ballet flat is too tight it will rub on your heel and side which could cause corns.

The Ballet Flat is not regarded as a shoe that has a high level of support so try and choose a Ballet Shoes that has a thicker sole and chunkier heel to ensure you have the proper support you need.

A big positive to the Ballet Flat is it’s ability to be carried with you, the ballet pump fits perfectly in a smaller sized handbag making it the perfect shoe to bring with you and transform an outfit.

How to care for your leather Ballet Shoes

To ensure your Ballet Shoes last for a long time, treat them with respect. Making sure you are walking properly and aren’t scuffing the soles too much.

Whilst some Ballet Pumps have cork in the sole this mean you don’t want them to get too wet. Therefore, when cleaning your ballet flats it is important to not put them in your washing machine and instead care for your shoes using special leather care. At Radley we have created a special leather protection cloth which has been specially formulated for use on Radley leathers. It will protect the leather with an invisible barrier helping to minimise the effects of everyday dirt and soiling. We recommend applying the Protection Cloth before using your product. This product is intended for single use.

If your Ballet Pump is particularly dirty you can try handwashing them to ensure they don’t get too bogged with water.

Take care of your leather ballet shoe by ensuring you don’t keep them folded up. Whilst a big positive to the ballet pump is that you can fit them in your everyday bag but just make sure you don’t keep them folded up in your bag all day everyday as this will damage the sole.

When to wear Ballet Pumps

The perfect wedding guest shoe is the Ballet Pump. A wedding ballet flat means you will be comfortable all day and be able to dance the night away without your feet hurting and having to abandon your shoes in the corner of the venue.

The ballet pump is also a great work shoe choice. The reason for this is that the ballet flat is classic and smart.

A ballet flat school shoe is a popular choice because they are seen as more fashionable than a lot of other school shoes and still meet the school shoe requirements.

Radley Ballet Shoes we Love

Selby Ballet Pump


Opt for the Selby ballet pumps for a timeless yet stylish addition to your shoe collection. Crafted from soft leather in a classic black hue, this style is detailed with gold-tone hardware with a cut-out of our iconic Radley Scottie dog. The cushioned insoles guarantee comfort and support all-day long. Perfect for daily commutes and weekend strolls.

Flower Ballet Pump


Stylish and timeless in equal measures, the Flower ballet flats are an everyday style staple. Crafted from smooth leather, and designed with a classic round toe, they are accented by a gold-tone Radley Scottie dog charm attached to a bow with gold tips. The leather insoles are cushioned for added comfort. The beautiful Flower Ballet Pump comes in a magnetic sapphire blue, a classic tan and an iconic black ballet pump.