Vivaia vs. Rothy’s: Which Comfy, Cute and Sustainable Ballet Flats Reign Supreme?

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I’m something of a ballet flat aficionado—maybe I’d go as far as to say connoisseur. Since the age of around 7 or 8, flats have been on rotation in my wardrobe. In fair weather, they’re usually on my feet every day. I’ve run the gamut, trying everything from cheap discount store pairs as a kid to Sam Edelmans, Tieks and my beloved Margauxs once my feet stopped growing. Then, Rothy’s came along, and I’ve had my eye on them for years. As a big advocate for sustainability, I was intrigued by shoes made of recycled plastic. I eventually bought a pair of their sneakers (which I love), but never tried the flats. Then, during the pandemic, another sustainable shoe brand, Vivaia, launched, and I knew I had to do a comparison between the two. So, I spent the weekend pounding the pavement, crisscrossing New York City in a quest to see if these two pairs of flats lived up to the hype. Spoiler: They do.

12 Pairs of Ballet Flats with Arch Support That Are Equal Parts Comfy and Stylish

vivaia vs rothys review2

What Sets Vivaia and Rothy’s Apart?

Vivaia is a relatively new brand, having launched in 2020, while Rothy’s was established in 2012. Both companies make eco-friendly ballet flats out of recycled plastic. Rothy’s line also includes sneakers, loafers, boots and a dedicated men’s shop, which Vivaia also does in addition to mules, sandals and an insanely comfortable heel. (I’ve logged literal miles in the heel—best pair I’ve ever worn.)

Rothy’s does offer more color options, especially when it comes to the flats, but Vivaia offers more variety in terms of types of shoes and design.

How I Tested the Shoes

I received a pair of Rothy’s The Point ($149) shoes and a pair of Vivaia’s Vienna flats ($97) to test. I then spent two days in each going about daily life—this included swing dance class, long(ish) walks to the subway (I live about a ten- to 15-minute walk from a station), grocery shopping and running to catch the bus.

When testing any shoe, my top considerations are style, versatility and comfort. Style and versatility are paramount to me, because I want shoes that will take me from the office or a coffee date to a night out swinging in a jazz club or to a wine bar. I also militantly do not believe in “surrender shoes,” aka the backup shoes you pull out of your bag once the “pretty” ones are too painful. Comfort is also crucial because I have flat feet and bunions, which tend to protrude through fabric and footbeds. So, stretchiness and flexibility are essential, while still providing decent padding and/or arch support. With both pairs, I wore pre-emptive bandages on my Achillies heel, which is a spot that gives me trouble no matter the brand.

My Rothy’s Shoe Review:

  • Appearance: 20/20
  • Comfort: 18/20
  • Fit: 17/20
  • Value: 18/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Total: 91/100

First things first: sizing. Rothy’s says that The Point runs small and that you should order a half size up. This is true. I called in a 6.5 and they were a perfect fit. I’ve never had so many compliments on a shoe before—three in one day, to be exact. Something tells me it partially has to do with the color: I went for a sunny shade of daffodil.

Other things I loved: a tapered toe for a touch of elegance, soft heel backing, plethora of colors (30 for The Point alone) and the surprising sturdiness of the sole. The footbed itself is rather thin, but the rubber sole held up well on the uneven sidewalk and unpaved street in my neighborhood. They even made great swing dancing shoes, and I was able to twirl and twist my way through class without so much as a slip of the heel.

Rothy’s are also, helpfully, machine washable. Per the brand’s instructions, to wash Rothy’s shoes, remove the insoles and place everything in the washing machine, using cold water, mild detergent and the delicate cycle. I placed mine in a laundry bag to prevent everything from flying around in centripetal ecstasy.

Because I do not have in-unit laundry, I had to do this at the laundromat, where there is no delicate cycle—only cold. It worked fine, and I washed the shoes in a bundle with other washable pairs (so, no, you don’t need to do a dedicated load for one pair). They came out nearly good as new, but my pair still has a little stain on the toes from a day in the rain (though it was noticeably less severe). I suspect, however, that with a scrubbing and stain remover, it’ll come out fine. PureWow’s special projects director Rachel Bowie has had success washing hers (she owns a variety of colors, including white). In any case, the wash definitely freshened them up.

The only thing I’d keep in mind is that because the insole is rather thin, my flat feet seemed to collapse a little into the shoe. It wasn’t painful and I walked all day in comfort, but it would have been nice to have a little more support. (This is an easy remedy, though, as Rothy’s plus an orthopedic insole are recommended by an orthopedic surgeon).

Now, onto Vivaia.

Vivaia Shoe Review:

  • Appearance: 17/20
  • Comfort: 19/20
  • Fit: 18/20
  • Value: 19/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Total: 92/100

If I could only use one word to describe these Vivaia flats, it would be plush. The insole is made of shock-absorbing herbal foam with extra padding at the heel. I was nearly floating, even over gravelly sidewalks and rough patches of asphalt. I felt nothing.

Compared to the Rothy’s, I immediately noticed that these flats were sturdy—not speaking in terms of quality, but stiffness of the material. Where Rothy’s felt more flexible, the Vivaia flats were more structured while still being supple. I felt supported but not squeezed to death, especially around my bunions. There’s also a little arch support built into the sole, which I think contributed to the “floating” feeling, plus a ton of heel padding.

Vivaia also seems to be a good brand for those with wide feet—speaking as someone who will gravitate to a wider size if offered. The shoe is specifically designed to stretch in a way that avoids squeezing your toes, and I found them to be a good mix of comfort and support, not letting my bunions spill out but not strangling them, either.

My only notes here are that the color selection is more limited (nine versus the 30 Rothy’s offers) and I potentially could have sized up by half—the stitching at the top of the heel seemed to rub a little but was mitigated by a bandage. (Again, heels are a problem for me with any brand on the first few wears.) These shoes held up well in the washing machine, too, and the scuffs came right off—do note, however, that I did not wear them in inclement weather.

Vivaia vs. Rothy’s Final Notes

Overall, both are great shoes, hitting all the right features: comfort, style and even sustainability. Rothy’s The Point highlights were the fun color options and design; the V-cut is lower than the Vivaia flats, which felt more fashionable. Because the V-cut is higher on the latter, it gave me a little bit of a “Princess Jasmine” vibe. With Vivaia, it was a winner in the comfort category, with arch support and a sturdy knit that contained my feet. Whichever you pick, though, you can’t go wrong.

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I’ve covered the lifestyle space for the last three years after majoring in journalism (and minoring in French) at Boston University. Talk to me about all things sustainable &...