Having studied ballet for a while, I’ve tried all types of ballet shoes. Choosing the right soft ballet shoe – not a hard pointe shoe – is important for your comfort and concentration in class. You want to be able to focus on technique and choreography without fussing over footwear.
Ballet shoes are de rigueur for learning and practicing technique in class. Even advanced students and professionals take classes and/or warm up in soft ballet shoes before changing into pointe shoes. There are a myriad of ballet shoe types, so consider these factors when choosing a pair that best suits your needs:
- Material – leather or canvas: Often required by teachers for kids but also worn by many adults, leather shoes provide resistance to strengthen the foot, ankle, and calf muscles. Although a little pricier than canvas, leather is more durable. Many older students (teens and up) prefer canvas because it’s more flexible, sleeker, and less likely to bunch up when you point your foot. Although easier to clean, canvas shoes wear out more quickly if you dance seriously several times per week. Some professional dancers wear leather during class for conditioning and canvas for performance.
- Sole – full or split: Young children usually must wear shoes with full soles (one piece that extends from heel to toes), but some adults like full-soled shoes for resistance. Most teens and adults, however, prefer shoes with split soles because they allow you to point your foot more easily, resulting in a more flattering look.
- Top opening – drawstring or elastic: Although conveniently adjustable, a drawstring tie can accidentally be pulled all the way out of the casing. Also, you need to trim excess and tuck ends into the top of the shoe, which some people find uncomfortable. Elastic is smooth and requires no trimming, but isn’t adjustable.
- Ankle elastics: These come pre-sewn and ready for class right away, or not. When they’re not pre-sewn, you need to sew them on but at least you can adjust their placement and tightness. You can choose a single straight piece or two crisscrossing pieces.
- Color: Traditional pink may be the go-to color many girls, but many male and female dancers prefer black, white, or nude.
Also pay attention to each shoe’s fit and feel. Well-fit ballet shoes hug your feet comfortably with your toes straight, not bent. They aren’t supposed to be tight or too large with room to grow. Leather shoes stretch with use but shouldn’t be uncomfortably tight when new. Canvas shoes don’t stretch much with use.
Good fit is important for not only your comfort but also proper technique. You want to be able to point, extend, and flex your foot easily. Also, you want to avoid any gaping or excess bulkiness in order to feel the floor and allow your teacher to see your feet and toes during steps.
Ballet shoes are sized differently than regular street shoes, and manufacturers usually indicate the difference in sizing. Read the manufacturers’ suggestions as well as other buyers’ feedback on sizing to help you decide what size to order. The same shoe can be true to size for some yet too small or too large for others. The best way to know if a ballet shoe fits well is to try on a pair, take a few steps, and point your feet and toes. Just be sure to keep the shoes clean and not sew anything in case you want to exchange them.
For research, I polled many ballet friends (some recreational like me, others professional) about their favorite ballet shoes and checked ballet-specific publications and sites for additional reviews and feedback.
Here are the best ballet shoes you can buy in 2019:
- 1 Here are the best ballet shoes you can buy in 2019:
- Best canvas ballet shoe: So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16)
- Best leather ballet shoe: Bloch Adult Prolite II Hybrid
- Best form-fitting ballet shoe: Capezio Hanami
- Best ballet shoe for men: Sansha Pro 1 Canvas
- Best ballet shoe for kids: Capezio Daisy 205
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
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