1) ALWAYS check the sizing information for EVERY brand you pull up. The fit of dance shoes varies drastically depending on manufacturing country, brand, material, shank, sole type, etc. Some match street shoe size; some must be ordered .5-2 sizes bigger or smaller that street shoe size, depending on dancer’s gender, preferred fit, and other factors.
2) Ask other dance parents if you can make a trade or purchase their children’s shoes when they no longer fit. NOTE: This is appropriate for young children only because intermediate and advanced dancers use their shoes in ways that cause wear-out spots much more quickly. Advanced dancers may go through one or two practice shoes per dance style each semester, more if they are competitive performers. Also, most studios have a “Lost and Found/Donations” Box of used shoes. This bin is fondly known as the: “Fair Game” or “Finders-Keepers” box, or the “Dangit! I Forgot My Shoes Again” box.
3) DON’T allow too much “growing room.” Shoes need to fit well now, not next semester. Discount Dance offers several affordable models of many popular styles. When you buy dancewear, think of think of them as tools for the present job.
a. Ballet shoes are usually preferred by dancers to be more on the snug side, but they cannot be constricting. Toes should be able to stretch out completely in order to lay flat enough to support balance. However, when a ballet shoe is too loose, the dance has more difficulty displaying a correct point, and the extra materials can bunch under the ball of the foot and even trip the dancer as he rotates on top of the shoe fabric. Instead, a ballet shoe should feel like another layer of the dancer’s skin. Although canvas ballet shoes are on trend right now, I still recommend parents buy their dancers (and themselves) leather shoes. Leather stretches slightly for a more custom fit after just a couple lessons. Canvas also get dirty very quickly and tend to fall apart in the wash, whereas leather shoes can easily be wiped down with a damp cloth (or Magic Eraser.) For men, young and old, black is the required color for performance. For ladies of all ages, light pink is required for all events. HOWEVER, all dancers are welcome to train in any color of standard ballet shoes. Split-soles are recommended. No point shoes are allowed without the prior invitation and consultation with the teacher.
b. Tap shoes can have a little bit of growing room at the toe, but they should be snug throughout the sides and supportive of the arch. A loose foot is what makes the best sounds. A tight foot cannot make proper contact between all the surfaces of the taps and the floor. For intermediate and advanced dancers, stronger, wider toe boxes are also desired for toe stands. Also, make sure standard taps are attached or included. Oxfords are used in other styles of dance, so read the description; you may have to purchase taps separately. In that event, it usually takes 2-3 days to have them properly attached at a shoe repair store. Black is the standard color for our school for both genders. If you have a pair that is a different color or is a heeled character shoe, you are welcome to train in that. However, for performances, you may be required to purchase black flats.
c. Asking a jazz dancer which shoe type to buy is likely to yield you a different answer for every person queried. First and foremost, get what your teacher requires. At TDF, shoes may be performance-specific, but we usually train in split-sole leather lace-ups. (I like the E-series.) Jazz sneakers are ok, but I don’t recommend them because their construction makes it difficult to develop or show off a great point. Also, they have sole padding that can make performing barefoot feel differently that practice did, whereas jazz shoes don’t have cushioned soles, so dancers can train in a way that is most similar to the conditions of future performances and competitions. Some dancers also believe the lack of cushioned soles helps them feel the floor better. That is also the reason many dancers do not wear socks with tap or jazz shoes. Better contact between the foot and the shoe means more connection between the dancer and the floor. Black is the standard color for jazz shoes -- for both male and female dancers – while taupe is the standard for other lyrical shoe styles (Footundeez-type half-soles.) Last, I don’t recommend slip-on, gored shoes. Dancers need to be able to customize with laces the tightness of the different parts of their feet covered by the uppers. No dancer has a left and a right foot that are exactly identical. Lace-ups allow them to accommodate subtle differences in their anatomy.
d. Shoes for hip hop are generally personal choice, although teachers may have different requirements for performances and competitions. Trinity Dance & Fitness Studios policy disallows shoes on the dance floor that have been worn outside the studio because pebbles, cement dust, dirt, mud, water, etc., can ruin the floor and cause hazards for other dancers. Therefore, make sure your dancer has an extra set of street shoes. The same rule applies to adult fitness classes. The one recommendation I would make for hip hop shoes is this: make sure the soles are relatively slick. Thick tread can impede turns and slides. (We also appreciate shoes that are non-marking.) An inexpensive pair of Converse-knock-offs make great hip hop shoes – even better than an expensive tennie (even if it has a spin spot, a circle under the ball to aid in turns and pivots.)
e. On Date Night, couples may wear ballroom shoes (that’s: oxfords for gentlemen, heeled, t-strap character shoes for ladies) or cowboy boots or flats or…whatever you would wear to a club or honkeytonk where you intend to dance. Please don’t wear work boots or shoes that are normally worn outside. Also, “NO! You may not wear UGGs to dance class.” [You know who you are.] Whatever shoes you choose to dance in should be comfortable, supportive, and clean – just like your partner.
f. Soft Shoe class participants may choose whether or not they want to put taps on their oxfords.
g. Fitness class participants should look for sneakers that are snug on the sides and have enough room for the toes to spread out. The tread should not be thick as this will make pivoting transitions more difficult. Also, many people prefer not to choose a shoe that is designated for running because those tend to have a higher heel, which makes for an imbalanced foot placement during studio dance fitness sessions. Also, make sure there is ample arch support.
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