Parents’ Guide to Tap Shoes
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
Is your child just beginning tap dance classes and you’re lost as to which shoes to buy? Here, Capezio Athlete and phenomenal professional tap artist Michelle Dorrance helps sort out what a young tap dancer needs and how to find the right pair of shoes.
ASK YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER
First things first, ask your child’s tap teacher for advice and recommendations. He/she has lots of experience and has seen many different types of feet that require different needs in tap shoes.
For instance, Dorrance, a tap dancer, teacher, choreographer and artistic director of Dorrance Dance, says that for many years she worked with a young dancer who had flat feet and needed to wear orthotics inside her shoes in order for her to not be faced with a knee injury. “In this case, she needed to buy a slightly longer and wider shoe than normal to accommodate the orthotics,” she says.
SIZE: BIGGER IS BETTER
Young tap students need to experience being in the tap shoes to create the sounds. It’s completely different than tapping in barefoot or in sneakers. So, because children’s feet grow quickly, and to ensure you don’t have to run out and buy another new pair just a month later, it’s best to have a pair slightly larger than their normal street shoe size (but don’t go overboard and get them too big as they will then be hard to tap in.)
“Err on the big side and add socks rather than the small side and risk the child out-growing the shoe too quickly,” Dorrance advises. “I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve taught who end up dancing in their socks or bare feet because their shoes are too small and hurt too much!”
FEEL THE FIT
Especially for that first pair of tap shoes, or if you’re switching styles or size, it’s best to try on the shoes in person before purchasing. Once you are set on the exact style and size your child needs, or once your child has tried them on in a store, then they can be purchased online or in store.
“Tap shoes do not necessarily need to hug the foot too tightly or fit like a glove,” Dorrance says. “Parents should trust their eye and trust the way the student’s foot and toes feel inside the toe of the shoe when feeling it by hand.”
Also, ask your child how the shoe feels. “Definitely have them dance a bit in the shoe when trying it on,” Dorrance adds. “Ask them to create separate heel and toe sounds. Jump and flap on the balls of the feet to see if the back of the shoe slips off the dancer’s heel. This was always a huge problem for me, as I have narrow heels.”
BREAK THEM IN – DANCE!
The best way to break in the tap shoes is to simply have your child dance in them. They may be a bit stiff at first, so if blisters develop, treat and tape them properly.
“Be sure to take notice if blisters become chronic,” Dorrance warns. “Then the dancer might need a wider, longer or maybe even a smaller shoe.”
Just as you wouldn’t wear ice skates on a kitchen floor, it’s important to use tap shoes only on the appropriate surface. Tap is generally done on a wood floor, as this surface is best for the sound and is safest for the taps, the floor and the dancer.
“Surfaces like linoleum are incredibly slippery, and an unexpected fall can cause serious injuries,” Dorrance says. “Surfaces like concrete or asphalt can damage and scratch the taps. This is not only bad for sound quality, but if the aluminum taps are scratched, they can scratch and damage other floors!”
AIR THEM OUT
Your young dancer will sweat in his/her tap shoes, so it’s best to let the shoes breathe after every use. Transport the tap shoes in a cloth bag, but air them out after each class.
TIME FOR A NEW PAIR?
Tap shoes that are too small for a young dancer can result in pain and a lesser quality tap sound. Look out for signs that it’s time for a new pair.
“The body of the shoe will often start ripping or pulling away from the sole of the shoe itself when it’s been worn a significant amount,” Dorrance says. “Ripped stitches and any actual tears in the sole of the shoe are a good way to know you might need a new pair of shoes. Every once in a while, the material on the inside of the shoe can rip, harden from sweat and start hurting the foot.”
“Another sign is when the sole of the shoe will no longer hold the screws,” Dorrance adds. “The holes have become stripped and the shoe either needs to be re-soled or retired. Every dancer can tell when shoes are too small, tap shoes or otherwise. They hurt. You will develop blisters in places that once felt comfortable. Trust the feel of the shoe. If the dancer feels inhibited by the shoe, or if the quality of the sound is compromised, it’s time for a new pair.”
Capezio’s Children's Mary Jane is the perfect tap shoe for the young beginner. Dorrance says she wore Capezio Mary Janes for years as a kid and loved them. Another great children’s option that is suitable for both girls and boys is Capezio’s Children's Tapster.
Be sure to follow and “like” Michelle Dorrance / Dorrance Dance on Facebook for more tap-related news.
To find out more about Michelle Dorrance visit her Athlete page at dancenews.capezio.com/athletes/michelle-dorrance.