Like most other physical activities, dancing is made much easier when you are wearing the right shoe made for it. In fact, dance shoes are one of the oldest specific types of shoes in existence.
While dancing shoes have been around for years, many people aren’t aware of how they are used, or what genres of dancing they are used for. This likely compounded by the fact that there are so many specific types in the first place.
The world of dance shoes is actually a vast and complicated one, so if you’re looking to purchase some for yourself, it’s good to not only know which types to get, but also what some of the best ones are that are currently available.
With that said, we’ve narrowed down a few choices for both men and women who may be looking for the best pair of dance shoes for their money. Before we get to that however, let’s first go over the many different types of dance shoes, and what to look for when shopping.
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The Best Women’s Dance Shoes
The Best Men’s Dance Shoe
This is actually a fairly broad question. Dance shoes, at their core, are any shoes that are designed to accommodate a certain style of dancing. Depending on what the dancing style is, the shoes will have a certain level of support, traction, and flexibility that is conducive to the movements most used with that dancing style.
As you may imagine, there are numerous types of dancing shoes made for the many different types of dancing. So, dancing shoes can vary greatly from one another, and there is definitely not one type of dance shoes that can be used in general.
Dancing shoes come in many forms, types, and styles. Listed below are the most commonly used. This doesn’t cover all the various types of dance shoes out there, but you’ll encounter these the most often.
Perhaps one of the first types of shoes people think of when they hear “dancing shoes,” ballet shoes are a very distinct dancing shoe that is catered towards the needs of ballet dancers, who rely on the pointing of their toes and feet for much of the dancing.
Ballet shoes are always lightweight, and usually made from either leather or canvas.
Leather ballet shoes often end up lasting longer, but are not as preferred by intermediate and advanced dancers who need more out of their shoes.
Ballet shoes utilize a thin leather sole that covers the either the entire bottom of the shoe, or just the heel and forefoot areas.
Elastic is used along the top of the foot to keep the shoe snug and in place. Ballet shoes should be as snug on the foot as possible, helping to articulate the movements and shape of the foot for this style of dancing.
Jazz shoes resemble ballet shoes, but have some different sole features, and usually a more pronounced heel as well. These shoes are almost always leather, and have a rubber split sole.
While there are some different spins on jazz shoes, they tend to have a thick rubber heel that provides better traction, along with improved shock absorption as well. Jazz shoes are made in both slip-on and laced versions, and usually only come in black or nude colors.
Character shoes are a very common form of dance shoes that can be used for numerous kinds of stage productions, along with some other types of performance as well. The offer a more formal and versatile appearance, while also displaying many features that make them great for several styles of dancing.
“Character” refers to a style of dance is inspired by the folk dances of many European countries. Aside from large stage productions, character dancing can also be found in many town/village scenes in numerous classic story ballets.
Character shoes are typically a MaryJane style leather shoe that has a small, flat heel. The heel’s size falls somewhere in between 1.5 to 3 inches, and allows the wearer to perform heel-clicks, stomps and several other types of dance steps that are used in Broadway-style performances.
Although character shoes have the appearance of a standard heel-style formal shoe, they are not to be worn off of the stage, as the soles are usually made from material that will not do well during daily and casual wear. There are some exceptions, however.
Tap shoes are used for tap dancing, which is a stage-production style of dancing where dancers make percussive sounds using their feet to accompany the music.
Tap shoes are put together much like jazz shoes, although they have a much different bottom with a firm sole and a very thick heel.
The “taps” which are often metal plates, are screwed into the bottom of the shoe by way of a thin fiberboard that’s part of the sole. The taps can be attached to both the heel and toe areas.
If desired, some character shoes can actually be used as tap dancing shoes as well, as various models will include the fiberboard on the sole for that very purpose.
Hip hop dancing is an ambiguous style of dancing that can often be found with pop performers who use an array of background dancers during their shows. This dancing is often very physically demanding, and relies on sudden jumps, turns, and other moves that require a large amount of strength and quickness.
Because of this, most hip hop dancing shoes are athletic shoes that provide the padding, traction, and stability needed for these dance moves. They tend to have the same features and fit of shoes used for athletics, including running and basketball shoes. Although there are some shoes specifically made for hip hop dancing, many performers usually rely on their favorite athletic shoes instead.
Ballroom dance shoes are often the hardest to spot from a looks standpoint, but closer examination reveals an array of features that are designed to support the various movements and need for ballroom dancing.
Ballroom dance shoes for men often resemble a standard dress shoe, and may have a slight heel that gives them a bit of lift. “Latin” dance shoes for men will have a higher arch in the center, and a much more pronounced heel that emphasizes heel movements. These are sometimes called Salsa shoes as well.
For the ladies, the differences are mostly the same. Women’s ballroom shoes are available in numerous styles, and can include any number of shoe types. As with the men’s, women’s Latin dance shoes will have a much higher heel and pronounced arch support, as well as an open toe look and a higher number of straps.
With men’s ballroom shoes, the uppers are almost always leather, while women’s' ballroom dance shoes are often leather, satin or sometimes suede.
The soles of dancing shoes are often different from one another, but you will rarely find a rubber sole, if ever.
Instead of rubber, ballroom dance shoes use leather, suede, lambskin, and other soft materials for the sole. This gives the shoes more flex, along with proper traction that can allows for some sliding when needed.
With dance shoes, comfort isn’t the number one priority like you’d find with more casual types of shoes. Although dance shoes vary greatly depending on the type, there are some common characteristics to look for.
First and foremost, a proper fit is the main goal. This gives the dancer the right amount of movement and traction needed, while also protecting the foot from injury. The shoes need to be very snug, and are sometimes even sized down a bit to ensure this.
Support is paramount as well. Heel and ankle support provides the dancer with better lateral movement, and also jumping when needed.
While not the most important factor, comfort is desired if possible. Ballroom dance shoes can sometimes be fitted with extra insoles to increase the padding, although some may prefer the shoe the way it is, even if it’s not the most comfortable.
The following two models of shoes are our current favorites for both jazz and character shoes for women. Each of them has the best aspects that go into creating an ideal dance shoe.
Capezio is one of the most popular dance shoe manufacturers in existence, known for their accessible and versatile shoes for a variety of budgets. The 550 Jr. Footlight Character Dance Shoes are a great example of this, as they are very comfortable, stylish, and high-performing, and cost just under $50.
The 550’s have a simple and clean look that makes them compatible with numerous wardrobe styles.
The shoe’s design includes a 1.5” heel and a single strap, and they can also accommodate Tele Tone toe, Duo Tone heel, or Selva Staccato taps if needed.
A padded insole offers an added measure of comfort, which also includes an “arch cookie” that increased arch support, something that is definitely noticeable with sharper dance movements. A non-slip heel counter comes with an Achilles notch, helping relieve pressure and offering a little more added comfort to the heel.
The 550’s use a 1 mm PU upper with smooth folded edges to help keep the shoe secured, but without rubbing on the top of the foot. The inner of the shoes are lined with brushed microfiber for some added moisture control.
The 550’s use a leather sole along the entire bottom of the shoe, and have a unique scoring pattern that gives the soles flexibility in the most crucial areas.
Capezio put a lot of thought into such a simple shoe, and it’s certainly noticeable from the moment you put them on. For under $50, this is as good as dancing shoes get.
Bloch’s Super Jazz Shoe provides just enough flexibility, and combines it with added traction and some smart comfort features that go into making this one of the most well-rounded jazz shoes available for an affordable price.
The body of the Super Jazz Shoes is constructed from quality leather that is soft and very form-fitting to the foot.
An elasticized instep panel makes the shoe easy to put on, and easy to keep in place in a snug and secure fashion.
Cotton lining is found under the leather upper, which really ups the comfort level of the shoes. The upper’s construction allows the shoes to remain tightly-fitted, but without adding too much pressure, or rubbing constantly across the foot.
The shoe’s insole features a subtle padded lining that is in place to help protect your heels from chaffing and rubbing during long performances. An EVA outsole provides some added durability, while also keeping the shoes light and flexible. Rubber split ensure the right amount of grip on the stage, while also allowing for a little bit of sliding too.
Overall, the Bloch Super Jazz Shoes are great for beginners and advanced dancers alike. The added comfort and flexibility features result in a fast, light shoe that won't have your feet hurting too much after long rehearsals and performances.
The Capezio men’s SD103’s are standard style dance shoes that offer a high-quality look and feel, along with versatility and a surprising amount of comfort. They feature a low-key design that focuses on performance more than anything else.
The body of these shoes has a formal look and shape, and some subtle stitching that reinforces the minimal aesthetic they offer. The synthetic leather has a classy look, and is easy to keep clean as well.
A one-inch, EVA-wrapped heel makes the shoes perfect for Latin style dancing, and the heel also has a suede top lift that’s stitched to prevent delamination. Additional padding is found within the insole above the heel for better shock absorption.
A heel counter keeps the foot in an optimal position, while giving the ankle extra support.
The shoes’ sponge-like insole adds some extra cushioning, along with a high amount of shock absorption that alleviates the impact from the floor.
The shoes’ polyurethane upper has full padding underneath, providing a secure fit that keeps the top of the foot comfortable and protected the upper rubbing against it while in use.
If you’re a man who needs a versatile dance shoe that can easily handle all forms of ballroom dancing, the Capezio SD103 Social Dance Shoes should definitely be your first choice.
By now you should have a better idea of what dance shoes are required for specific styles. The three shoes listed above are our picks for the best within their genres, and we highly recommend them for anyone trying to get the most shoe for the money.
Always be sure to check the shoes’ size and comfort level before committing to them -- you’re always able to exchange them for a different size if needed. Do you have any suggestions for your favorite dance shoes? Let us know in the comments below if so.