How to choose the right ballet slippers for dance class
By Adrienne Warber
Choosing the right ballet slippers for class is important to prevent injury and learning proper technique. Many dance studios only specify that a ballet slipper should be made of leather or canvas. There are a variety of ballet slipper styles available from many different brands, but not all are created equal and some are not a good choice for a beginner. You want to find the ballet slipper that meets the needs of your dance level and fit you well.
Leather or Canvas
If you are a beginner ballet student, you will want leather ballet slippers. Leather provides better support than canvas as you build foot strength. The material is thin enough to feel the floor as you dance, and hugs the foot so your teacher can see how your foot moves. Leather is also the classic ballet slipper choice. The material is sturdy and can be wiped clean relatively easily.
Canvas allows for more flexibility in the foot. As you get more experienced in dancing, you may want canvas slippers because it feels more like dancing barefoot. Canvas is growing in popularity, and many shoe options are available. Many dancers like that canvas shoes are machine washable. However, canvas shoes also tend to look dirty faster than leather and need frequent cleaning.
Full sole or Split Sole
Ballet slippers come with either a full sole or a split sole. Many dance teachers recommend a full sole ballet slipper for beginners because it helps build foot strength by providing more resistance when you point your toes. Split sole ballet slippers may be more comfortable to an experienced dancer because it allows more flexibility than a full sole. You can feel the floor better with a split sole slipper when you dance.
The type of dance shoe you select is ultimately up to your shoe preference. Split soles are rather popular these days. Full soles are still a better tool for beginners. However, you can still dance from beginner to advanced levels in either a full sole or split sole ballet slipper since it is possible to build foot strength and learn correct technique in both types of shoes.
Ballet Slipper Sizing
Ballet slipper sizing for children and adults are very different. Children’s ballet slippers are the same as street shoe size in many popular brands up to size 13 in toddler/little kid sizes. Children who wear big kid sizes one to four also will usually wear their street shoe size in adult ballet slippers. Adult ballet students should buy ballet slippers that are two to three sizes smaller than their street shoe size in many dance shoe brands. If this is your first time buying ballet slippers, it is a good idea to get professionally fitted for ballet slippers at a dance supply store to make sure you buy the correct size.
Importance of Ballet Slipper Fit
Proper ballet slipper fit is important to both your foot health and progress. Your ballet slipper should hug your foot like a second skin so that the teacher can see how you move your foot and toes during dance moves. The shoe should be snug, but still be comfortable and not tight. You do not want too much grow room in children’s ballet slippers. Loose ballet slippers could lead to injury or improper body alignment during dance moves. Some adult dancers may also need more arch support in their shoes.
Tips for Choosing a Ballet Slipper
Here are some tips for choosing the right ballet slipper:
- Talk to the teacher: Before you go out and buy ballet slippers, you may want to ask your dance teacher for shoe recommendations. Some studios have ballet shoe requirements for specific classes.
- Try on the slipper before buying: Shop locally when possible so that you can get fitted for ballet slippers and try them on before a purchase. After trying on the slippers, walk around, and flex and point your toes to see how the shoes feel on your feet. The ballet slippers should allow you to dance comfortably with support, but not feel stiff and unyielding.
- Make sure the slipper conforms to the shape of your foot: A good ballet slipper will hug your foot so that you see the shape of your foot clearly. If the slipper is too loose, it will be harder to feel the floor.
Ultimately, you want to choose a ballet slipper that is comfortable and enhances your dance moves.