I will start this review by stating that these are clearly my favorite shoes in my closet. In almost every instance, these are the shoes I will reach for first. I am on my second pair of black Juliannes and also have the shoe in both navy and brown.
One of the first things I look at in a shoe is quality of construction, and the first indicator I look for is whether the sole is stitched or just glued to the shoe upper. The Born Julianne has a rubber sole that is stitched to the leather upper and you can see the stitching when you look at the bottom of the shoe.
Other aspects of shoe construction are equally well done. The heel counter and other components of the incredibly soft leather upper are stitched together well. Immediately after opening the box you can tell this is a well-made shoe, even though it is made in China. There is one issue related to durability that I will get to later in this review.
These are certainly the most comfortable flats I own and in many ways are probably the most comfortable shoes I own. The leather is incredibly soft and is very pliable. I have been able to put all four pairs on brand new and wear them all day without any blisters or other issues. Despite this softness, the shoe is well constructed and has a very solid heel counter (part that cups the heel of the foot) is very solid which provides a lot of lateral stability in the shoe. All of the flats made by Born that I have tried have a very soft padded insole with better arch support than any flat I have ever tried. The insole itself is part leather and part fabric with a leather arch support. I have seen complaints about the seam between the leather and fabric, but I find the shoe to be extremely comfortable. You can see the insole below:
Wear and Tear
As with any well constructed shoe, the Julianne hols up very well to wear and tear. I have been particularly surprised at how well the sole has held up with all the walking I do in them. There are two areas where the Julianne falls short on durability, one can be mitigated and the other cannot.
1. Leather scuffs easily. This is particularly true for all of the leather colors except black in the Julianne. For some reason black wears very well. If you read many of the reviews a common complaint is that the shoes very quickly become worn-looking and the colors of the leather upper fade. Even out of the box, the navy colored shoes look faded. However, this issue is easily resolved with a little shoe polish every now and then (I even polish my black flats on occasion to keep them looking good). Meltonian makes a really good shoe polish and it comes in just about every color imaginable, and the results are spectacular–just avoid getting the polish on the elastic band around the opening of the shoe. Also, Born was smart to include a small patch of leather on the bottom of the sole of this shoe that you can use to test any polish you might want to try on the shoe. You can see that the polish on my navy shoes below is noticeably darker than the original shoes out of the box (this may over-state the difference a bit as I don’t know what lighting was used in the unpolished picture, but there was a noticeable difference).
2. The midsole of the Julianne appears to be its critical weak spot. It appears to be made of a cardboard-like substance that appears to be a common material used in China according to this site. I have noticed this same construction with just about every shoe I have had that was made in China. From what I can tell, the Chinese companies use this instead of cork or EVA for their midsoles. Over time the sweat begins to break down this substance so that it cracks, breaks apart and loses its integrity and ability to provide stability in the shoe. I was able to get about 3 years of fairly regular wear out of my first pair of these flats before this weakness became a problem. The sad part is that the sole, insole and leather upper are still in excellent condition. You can see the midsole problem in the picture below:
The Born Julianne is a great looking shoe. It has simple but classic lines that look good in both casual and dressier situations. The 1/4 inch heel also gives it a more refined look. This basic, yet classy, simplicity makes it a great unisex shoe for men or women.
Despite the few shortcomings mentioned above, this is a great ballet flat. The midsole problem doesn’t appear until about 3 years of regular wear, so you can get substantial wear out of this shoe before it begins to fail. If they only used a different material, this shoe could easily last 5-6 years. I wear mine all the time and in many situations. The Born Julianne retails for around $85-$90 and is worth every penny. Highly recommended!