Ballet shoes are an important purchase for the beginning ballet student and many elements will affect your purchase decision. To make the correct choice, you will need to listen carefully to your instructor and follow their advice about which shoes to buy. If you are not taking ballet lessons, and can’t seek advice from an instructor or a more advanced ballet dancer, then you will benefit from reading up on the types of ballet shoes available and appropriate for a beginning ballet dancer.
Your ballet class instructor may have requested you purchase a certain type of ballet shoe. Several instructors will provide very clear instructions on which shoe to buy – including the brand, color and style. Fortunately, instructors will mainly also advise where the best locations are for finding and purchasing your ballet shoes. If your instructor makes specific requests about the type of ballet shoes they prefer you buy, then by all means, follow their directions.
Your choices of ballet shoes is virtually unlimited, if your instructor has made no particular requests, and you will need to take your status as a beginning ballet dancer into consideration. This means you should only consider purchasing basic ballet shoes, not pointe shoes. Your instructor will advise students when they can advance to pointe ballet shoes.
You need to be mindful of two things as you make your ballet shoe choice: the shoe’s sole and how the shoe is held on the foot.
Genuine leather soles are preferable for ballet shoes. Imitation leather will not hold up well to dancing and will cause you to need replacement shoes sooner. One thing to be aware of with leather soles is that they can stick to the floor, especially when used by heavier dancers. Sticking to the floor means your shoes can wear out more quickly, and can mean the chance for injury. If you notice this problem, consider purchasing canvas shoes, which do not stick to the floor.
Ballet shoes are kept on the foot either by an elastic strap sewn to the top opposite sides of the shoe, or by ribbons wound around the ankle and lower leg and tied in place. Check with your instructor to see if they’ve a preference of elastic straps or ribbons. Normally, practice shoes, and shoes for children, have elastic straps. Shoes with ribbons are mostly reserved for recitals.
Therefore, when you have chosen your ballet shoes — try them on! They should be comfortable to walk in, of course, but to be certain they’re best for you and dancing, try several ballet steps in them as well. If you feel any discomfort at all, try another pair of shoes in a different size or brand. Ballet shoes are essentially slippers, they should be completely comfortable when you are walking or dancing. The idea of ‘breaking in’ does not apply with ballet shoes, so do not purchase shoes thinking this will happen. You need ballet shoes that fit correctly without abrading your feet anywhere.