Ballet barre classes may do wonders for the body, but they’re not so hot for one’s sense of personal style. The standard uniform is a loose tank top and a pair of leggings—no big deal there—but then you get to the footwear. Or rather, lack of footwear. These intense butt workouts, most of which are a careful calibration of ballet, yoga, and pilates (along with light weight training and cardio) seem to deserve more than the schlubby pair of bulky cotton ankle socks most of us wear. Sure, they’re comfortable, but the $12 socks (which have little sticky dots on the bottom of the feet to prevent slippage) aren’t particularly attractive. More important, they fall short during several key stages of the barre workout—plank-like push-ups (it is hard to keep your feet gripped) and standing movements (they offer no support). Which is why I was intrigued to test a pair of Blake Brody shoes. The company has been doing pop-up sales at L.A.-area barre studios, but with a somewhat steep price (the style I tried called the “Rachel” are listed on their website for $98) I thought I’d give them a spin for several weeks to see if they’re worth the premium payment for my fellow Barre-bies.
Pros: The shoes are great looking with an eco-conscious construction and feminine detailing that make them something between a ballet slipper and a Tom’s shoe. Doing standing moves in them are a revelation: the arch support is far superior than the zero-level you get from socks. Even better are the shoes staying power: at the bottom are clear strips that help you “stick” to the floor during challenging planks/pushups (hey, you need all the help you can get) and help keep feet firm on the ground during the core strengthening and lower abdominal/hip movements that usually happen at the end of class.
Cons: The shoes are more constricting than ankle socks (as you might expect) so prepare to compromise support for a measure of comfort. The staying power of the strips at the bottom of the shoe are a double-edge: you definitely hold power positions longer, but I found maneuvering legs onto the barre trickier, and doing sliding moves (like split-stretching) was more awkward, as foot movement was restricted. Overall, they’re a stylish addition to your workout, but I found myself returning to my ugly socks after the novelty of these pretty shoes wore off. However, that might change as I break them in. I suppose it’s worth noting that I’m seeing more of this style of shoes in class. I also see teachers wearing them nearly every class I go to, so it’s not a bad idea to also ask the pros their take.
Takeaway: If you can afford the shoes, spring for them. The quality is high and it might be cheaper than 10 pairs of socks over a year. One key thing to know if you do buy: The shoes are narrow and run nearly a full-size small. If you do order them, go for one size larger than your usual shoe size.