Skip to main content
Blog / The Ballet shoe

How ballet pumps went
from dance class to wardrobe star

Ballet pumps are having a moment in the spotlight – but did you know they’ve been style superstars for centuries?! We think our Allegros are the most evolved ballet pump to exist in all that time, and they’re the perfect duet of our two greatest passions – top-notch design and kick-ass technology that makes your life better. But how did we get here? Dance and fashion have always been intertwined, and the history of the footwear legend has more sass, scandal, and glamour than all the Real Housewives put together…

What’s the history of the ballet pump?

Back in medieval times, shoes called ‘pompes’ were popular among the working classes, and were made of flimsy rags with slithers of wood on the sole – not too far removed from what a lot of other ballet pumps are made of in 2021, much to the despair of our resident foot expert Dr Kim. They climbed the social ladder all the way to the palace in 1581, when the Kardashian of her day, Queen of France Catherine de’ Medici, hired some razzle-dazzle dancers from a local village to entertain her court with their mind-blowing movements – thus inventing ballet! The ‘pompe’ made its onstage debut, and a footwear star was born.
That was to prove a brief moment in the spotlight for the ballet pump, thanks to Catherine’s unwavering devotion to the high heel. From the moment she requested a platform be added to her wedding shoes, the high heel was the only shoe for society’s superstars to be seen in. Would anything ever knock the heel off its lofty pedestal?

So people used to wear heels every single day?

Oh yes… but not for long! During the French revolution, glam cake fiend Marie Antoinette was sent to the guillotine – and like a supermodel doing community service, insisted on doing so whilst wearing her favourite pair of towering heels. As society deemed Marie bad from head to toe, this saw the heel cast to the back of the wardrobe immediately…
And who was there to take the starring role on stage? Our tenacious icon – the ballet pump! Even ballerina pumps weren’t impervious to the previous century’s heel trend (yes, ballerinas used to dance in heeled ballet pumps!) but as pioneering dancers added extra ooh la la to their routines, the heel was removed and the ballet pump was back on top. In fact… people loved ballet pumps so much, devoted superfans would actually eat ballerina’s worn shoes in the hope it would give them some of the talent. We don’t recommend this… probably a bit chewy.

WHEN DID BALLET PUMPS GET COOL?

In the 1910s, Anna Pavlova, the most famous ballerina of all time, bought ballerinas from an Italian dancewear maker and had them resoled with rubber so she could wear them while out and about. Anna was the mega-influencer of her day, so regardless of the fact they offered zero comfort or support, the shoemaker saw requests for the ‘Pavlova shoes’ rocket.
Along comes Brigitte Bardot… sex kitten, style icon and unlikely savior of our feet! Trained as a ballet dancer, Brigitte asked a cobbler friend to make her a fully leather pair of ballerinas to wear on film sets whilst resting. Brigitte’s pal Audrey Hepburn saw them, fell in love, and wore a pair in 1954’s iconic Roman Holiday. The rest was history.
Since then, off-duty ballet pumps have been worn by everyone from runway queens and screen sirens to true royalty – from 50s and 60s Gallic moviestar chic, to the 00s British renaissance thanks to Kate Moss, Alexa Chung and Amy Winehouse, through to 2021’s chic, polished comeback, as seen on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and even Angelina Jolie on the cover of this month’s British Vogue.

Are ballet pumps good for my feet?

Ours are! We’ve revolutionised the ballet pump for 2021. There’s some shoes that our resident foot expert Dr Kim despairs at – and the old-fashioned ballet pumps have always been right at the top of the list. Offering no support for the foot, they can give you an awkward gait, which in turn increases the risk of knee and back pain. But – we like a challenge. And we also, obviously, like a ballet pump. And thus – the Allegro was born.
Containing our Dynamicush Footbed Technology, FitFlop Allegro Ballet Pumps have enhanced cushioning to minimise impact, with an anatomically contoured footbed. And, much to Anna Pavlova’s liking, a durable slip-resistant rubber outsole. Evolved, chic footwear with a fascinating history – what’s not to love?