How to Choose Ballet Shoes

Ballet shoes, or technique shoes, are the basic, light-weight shoes worn by all ballet dancers. Proper technique shoes are essential to your performance and safety. Popular brands include Capezio, Bloch, and Grishko. By following these guidelines, you can find the best pair for your feet.

1. Know what are NOT ballet shoes. Ballet shoes are not shiny polyester bedroom slippers. They are not pointe shoes; they don’t allow you to stand on the tips of your toes. They do not have ribbons. Contrary to fashion trends, “ballet flats” are chic street shoes, and not actual dance wear.

2. Get professionally fitted. If it’s your first time buying technique shoes you should always get fitted by a qualified professional at a dance store. If it isn’t your first time and you want to try a different pair, you still need to be fitted since not every product is the same. Trying a new brand or style will require an adjustment. Improper fitting of shoes can lead to injury. You will be asked to stand on a platform or another flat surface as they measure your feet. Since you might be wearing your technique shoes with tights, they will give you disposable foot socks to wear as you try on the shoes. If the shoes fit properly, it should feel snug but not too tight. Walk around briefly. If your big toe feels bent or crushed, you may need a larger size. You will then be instructed on how to sew elastic onto the shoes so they stay on your feet. Some shoes will already have elastic partially sewn on them. A pair of technique shoes are typically $20-30. Tip: Keep track of the brand and model of your shoes. You can always order online from a wholesale vendor i.e. Discount Dance.

3. Canvas vs. Leather Technique shoes come in two materials: canvas and leather. Both are acceptable. Children traditionally wear leather. Older dancers tend to prefer canvas because it absorbs moisture and molds to their foot. They claim they can “feel the floor” better. Others prefer leather because it’s durable and offers more traction.

4. Full-sole vs. Split-Sole The sole of the shoe is very important. It provides a protective layer of cushioning, helping to reduce the risk of plantar fasciitis. The most popular preference is split-sole because it allows the dancer to better articulate their feet. They find it is easier to arch their foot and point their toes. Children almost always wear full-sole because it helps them with balance and stability, where adults appreciate it for the same reasons.

5. Just dance. Once you choose a pair, you just have to dance in them to see if they’re right for you. You should be able to comfortably rise to the balls of your feet and point your toes without any excessive pinching, and the shoe should definitely not come off your foot. Tip: If the floor is slippery, wet a paper towel or washrag and step on it. The moisture will promote traction. Just make sure you don’t use too much water and make a mess, or worse, make the floor more slippery! This is a basic guide to choosing the pair of technique shoes that’s best for you. You may find the perfect pair on your first try, or it might take some trial and error. Be careful to wear your shoes only in the classroom. Wearing them outside, or in other parts of the house may cause unnecessary defects. If you want to clean them, toss them in the washing machine! Be good to your technique shoes and they will give you the foundation you need.


(Feature) image credit: M.A. Cabrera Luengo Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


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