Are the internet-famous Rothy's shoes as amazing as they seem?
I washed and wore the flats for a month—here's what happened.
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We at Reviewed are just as curious about those flashy products we see in our Instagram feeds as you are. For our 'As Seen On IG' series, our writers buy them and put them through their paces to find out if they're actually as good as they look online—or too good to be true. Spot one that we've missed? Email us at AsSeenOn@reviewed.com.
Meghan Markle wore them once. For some people, that’s enough to buy them.
I am referring to Rothy’s ballet flats, the shoes that have taken the world of sensible office footwear by storm. If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen the ads pop up all over your Instagram and Facebook feeds, as well as on the feet of the Duchess of Sussex, who wore a pair one time and caused the shoe's sales to quadruple.
What’s the deal with Rothy’s?
Rothy’s is a sustainably-minded, internet-startup shoe company based in San Francisco. The brand carries flats—with a pointed or rounded toe—as well as loafers and slip-on sneakers, in a multitude of colors and patterns (with names like “Sherbert” and “Mocha Spot”). They range in price from $125 to $165 a pair and are made of recycled plastic water bottles, foam, and rubber. This, according to Rothy’s Twitter bio, makes the shoes both “wildly” comfortable and hardy enough to be tossed in a washing machine.
I decided to put both claims to the test by getting two pairs of the $145 Point flat in black, the brand’s top-selling style (and the same one Markle wore). I wore the first pair as much as I could, about four days a week, over the course of a month. The other? I washed in Reviewed’s labs every workday—so, 20 times during the month—just to see how durable they really are.
My first impressions of Rothy’s
My Rothy’s arrived in a single shoe box. This might not seem noteworthy, but it’s a lot less packaging than, say, Zappo’s, which puts the shoe box inside another cardboard box, with maybe some other packing material to keep it from sloshing. This demonstrated to me that the eco-friendly commitment touted all over the Rothy’s website isn’t just lip service. The box also had minimal packaging on the inside—just a sheet of thick, plain paper and cardboard shoe inserts—which is bad if you rely on packages for tissue paper in gift bags, but good if you prefer your online purchases to come with as little packaging as possible.
The Point style I ordered are not the most exciting shoe, but they look well made and about as expensive as you'd expected for their $145 cost. The toe shape is pointy, as suggested in the name, but not so pronounced as to look witchy. I also appreciated the subtler design touches on the shoe, like the horizontal navy blue line across the heel.
Rothy’s recommends you size up a half size when you buy them, though some reviewers say to go up a whole size. I am sometimes an 8½ and sometimes a 9, so I went with a 9½. When I tried them on, they seemed to fit perfectly—my toes stopped right before the point, and the back of the flat didn’t feel too snug, nor too loose that the shoe would slide off when I walk. Some reviewers complain about the shoes running narrow around the pointed end, which I didn’t have an issue with, so if you have wider feet you may want to be more generous with your sizing.
With their casual chic looks and good initial fit, I found myself eager to pull them off my shoe rack the first morning of the test. The Rothy’s were ideal for looking presentable in my casual office, paired them with skinny jeans, t-shirts, and striped tops.
The wash test
Let’s start with the good news.
Most people don’t wash their shoes every day, even if, like Rothy’s, they can be put in a washing machine. Still, if you figure most people would like to wash their shoes monthly at most, laundering them daily was the best way to replicate two or three years of regular use—which, if you’re spending $145 on a pair of shoes, you probably hope to get.
Washing Rothy’s shoes is simple. According to their website, you remove the insole from the shoe, stick both the shoe and the insole in the washing machine, on a cold water, delicate setting, and let them air dry (which they do overnight).
In the GIF above, you can see the photos we took after each week of five washes. I am not the kind of person who says “Would you fancy that?” but after seeing these results, the urge is unshakable.
I have to admit, I was hoping for something dramatic to happen, like one flat splitting in half on the second wash, but, as you can see, the shoes look almost unchanged. Sure, there’s a slight fade in their color—after week 4, the shoes appear a little less black than they were in the first week—and some minor warping of the upper lining, but remember that these shoes were washed 20 times. On my own, I’d probably wash them about once a season, so I was impressed.
The bottom line: Rothy’s flats do, in fact, live up to their claim of holding up against the wear and tear of a washing machine.
The comfort test
Now, for the less-good news.
The first day I wore my Rothy’s, it was drizzling. This, I thought, would be fine—fortuitous, even, considering Rothy’s are made of recycled plastic, and the slight sogginess outside would allow me to test out Rothy’s fabled resiliency against water, whether in a washing machine or out in the open.
This, uh, kind of worked out, in that the shoes weren’t affected by the rain. But then there was the actual shoe-wearing part. I walk just under a mile to my office and, by the time I got there, the friction of the new shoes combined with the moisture that got into my Rothy’s caused two large and exquisitely painful blisters to form on the back of my heels. Like, blood-trickling-down-my-foot-until-I-had-to-ask-for-the-office-bandaids-type of blisters. (I did not take a photo of said blisters, though I’m certain any such photo put in this article would have been gory enough to turn Reviewed into a very different kind of website, and perhaps put some readers off for good.)
I kept wearing the shoes, with bandage reinforcements, for the first few days. They became more comfortable every day, until, eventually, they molded to my foot—or, at least, no longer rubbed against the back of my heel. As time went on, the shoes’ comfort went from “egregiously painful” to “perfectly mediocre”—and stayed right there.
They offer nothing in the way of arch support, which I don’t love in a shoe if I’ll be spending a lot of time on my feet, though I find that most flats lack in that department. Also, the liner and upper part of the flats are woven with essentially plastic thread, which might have been fine with a soft or stretchier material, but the material rubbed against my pinkie toes in an aggravating way. So, I’d wear them to and from work then change into Birkenstocks or flip-flops as soon as I got home.
Aside from people in the office who knew I was testing out Rothy’s, I didn’t get a ton of comments or compliments about them, which was fine by me, as the style I picked wasn’t the flashiest one. I wanted the shoes to complement my outfits, and I think they did that pretty well.
I should also note that, after wearing them out and about over the course of four weeks, they still looked brand new.
Are Rothy’s worth it?
I would not say these shoes are wildly comfortable, as the company purports them to be. Sure, they’re (eventually) comfier than, say, stiletto heels, but their breaking-in period was brutal for me. I have also worn much more comfortable flats before, so I don’t think I would recommend Rothy’s to anyone who plans to wear them for long periods of standing or walking activities.
That said, they deliver on two things: durability—seriously, I wasn’t expecting them to look as good at the end of the washing experiment as they did—and being a great office-appropriate shoe. The latter is especially true if you work at a desk where you have to sit for much of the day. They have a polished look that help elevate the most casual of jeans, which makes them perfect for a grab-and-go outfit if you oversleep or can’t be bothered to coordinate something.
As to whether or not you should get them, that depends on what you’re looking for in a shoe. If it’s durability or presentability, I’d say they’re worth the $145—based on the tests, you should be able to get one pair and wear it daily for years on end.
But if comfort is what you’re after, you should hold off, or maybe try their loafers or sneakers instead. I haven’t tried those yet, but both styles have more padding and arch support and great reviews for comfort—one reviewer of the Mocha Spot loafer wrote that she is a hairstylist and the shoes are “heaven” for her feet when she stands all day. Some breaking-in is to be expected with flats, but I have never bled from a shoe like this before. Some people in the reviews raved about the Point’s comfort, but others said they experienced blisters like I did. And, based on that, I cannot in good conscience recommend them on a comfort level alone.
All told, if you can bear the potentially agonizing breaking in period, Rothy’s shoes round out to be a decent flat. And, hey—Meghan Markle wore them (once).
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.