Introducing The Great Tap Shoeganza!

The tap shoe has evolved into a precision instrument that, in the hands of a capable dancer, becomes the ultimate tool for self-expression in contemporary percussive dance.  Joining Tristan as a consultant for this series, is Matthew A. Schroepfer, Certified Pedorthist and owner of Dancing Fair Inc., a manufacturer and wholesale distributor of quality dance footwear, bodywear, legwear and dance accessories.

IMAGE A well-worn but unique ladies tap shoe. IMAGEA Tap Shoe Is A Tap Shoe Is A…

No, not all tap shoes are created equal, and choosing the right pair is an important step in developing your style as an artist.  The proper tap shoe should be matched to a dancer based on the dancer’s physicality and musicality.

In other words, dancers should choose their tap shoes based on how hard or how much they dance and what notes they wish to incorporate into their musical palate.  Special attention should be paid to the quality of the materials used to build the shoe, the actual construction of the shoe, and the durability of the shoe.

Of course, it never hurts to exercise frugality.  Thanks in part to the tap dance festival circuit, the Internet, and an outcropping of young talent, there is an informed and active consumer base for all things tap dance, from the shoes to the floors to the type of microphone best suited to capture the warm, organic sounds of tap.  With a larger consumer base and a more competitive market, the modern tap shoe is not only constructed better than ever before, but is on the verge of a major break in price.

Talent is talent, there are no two ways about it, and there is no magic shoe that transforms poor technique into artistry.  However, the right tool is necessary for optimal self-expression. Would John Marin’s watercolors be as captivating if he had a crummy paintbrush that left molted bristles from its tuft?

As your interest in tap grows, your body and skill level will demand new and better constructed tap shoes.
Warning: After you’ve found the perfect pair, be wary of the most neglected aspect of tap shoe ownership: knowing when it is time to get a new pair.

The Great Shoeganza

In this series, I will deconstruct the modern tap shoe to provide you with enough information to confidently evaluate and buy the ideal pair, let you know when it’s time to buy a new pair of tap shoes, and give hands on reviews of the top shoes in the industry. Bloch, SoDanca, Capezio, Leo’s…whose shoe will come out on top?

I: Deconstructing A Tap Shoe (be a more informed buyer)
II: When To Buy New Tap Shoes
III: Customizing Your Tap Shoes:
IV: Shoe Reviews:

Help us expand this series!

We’ve got plenty in store for you in the coming posts but…

What are your tap shoe questions? Put your burning questions and top concerns in the comments below.

Tristan Bruns
Tristan Bruns has studied the art form of tap dance with Donna Johnson, Ted Levy, Lane Alexander and Martin "Tre" Dumas and has a BA in Music from Columbia College Chicago. Tristan has been an ensemble member of such Chicago tap companies as BAM!, The Cartier Collective and MADD Rhythms. Tristan currently produces his own work through his company, TapMan Productions, LLC, which includes the performance ensemble The Tapmen and the tap and guitar "band" of The Condescending Heroes.
Tristan Bruns

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  1. I use different shoes for different jobs – some for teaching, some for performing and some for practicing and rehearsing. The major down-side is that you can’t take them for a test drive and then give them back. I have a lot of students who are simply not happy with the sound quality of their ‘first pair of shoes’ but at least they haven’t spent a lot of money that was then wasted if they didn’t like it!

    • You are 100% correct! I’ve actually bought a number of shoes to review, so be sure to check back. The whole point of this event is to make each reader an intermediate expert on tap shoes so that no one has to buy a disappointing pair again.

  2. Heather says:

    I am so excited to read about this article. I know nothing about the construction of a tap shoe and am interested in learning the mechanics of what makes a great tap shoe great! I would love to know what to look for the next time I go out and get a new pair!

    • And that is exactly the goal of this article. Tap shoes are pricey and there isn’t a lot of outside party information available to the consumer. Until now…

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Suzanne Perdue says:

    I bought a pair of tap shoes that left me with Haglund’s deformity on the back of my right heel. If you look up the cause of this you’ll see ill-fitting shoes. Very painful and limiting and I now need surgery to fix it. I kept telling the “constructor” that the shoe was not correctly sized and they did nothing but say have a student break the shoe in. I kept trying to wear them to break them in and developed this problem. I could barely get the shoe on and lasted about 15 min. tops. After a year they weren’t broken in! No matter what they didn’t understand that although the measurements were correct the error was in the construction. In addition to paying a lot of money, I was greatly disappointed. All I wanted was a shoe that fit right. Customer service from this leading company was terrible.

    What are our rights when we buy a shoe that truly doesn’t fit? I know it was a problem with the construction, brought the shoe in to my sports medicine specialist and he agreed. Yet, nothing was done. I notified the company about developing Haglund’s from their shoe and they didn’t even respond!

  4. Suzanne,

    I am very sorry to hear about your bad shoe experience. Haglund’s deformity is hereditary in that the back of the heel bone (calcaneous bone), but is easily prevented from becoming inflamed and painful by the use of certain orthotic devices and/or modifications of the shoe.

    The fact that nobody suggested either of those options concerns me and the right modification or non-friction padding may have even made the shoes wearable.

    The third section of the Shoeganza will focus on customization and I will be sure to address Haglund’s deformity specifically, as shoe modification can prevent and treat not only that, but several dozens of others problems as well.

    Thanks for reading and please stay tuned…


  5. Lance Evan Love says:

    I took a dance class one time in preschool and stopped about five seconds into it. I skateboarded for about 12 years and enjoyed it like i was a karate-kid ballet dancer on a flying carpet….then i stopped all that and late one night at my grandparents house found myself mimic a dance i like to call(which is also the name of one of this wonderfully wierd bands songs) “Willie the pimp” made notoriously famous by a member of Captain Beefhearts Magic Band in the video for the song “I’m gonna boogler-ize You Baby.” while in cowboy boots. Since looking and looking for something entertaining to do while i am disabled and have a little bit of cash…i looked back into dancing and then into tap. I found Miller & Ben tap shoe company which makes wonderful shoes…they do not however have taps that i can find on thier site. I am really considering taking up this little big mans hobby considering my musical past and physical prowess with “dance like and floating movements” and my interest in “martial arts” and dislike of the physical contact and violence aspect of all of these forms as a whole. I also have two different size feet and i think this may be an opportunity to completely show that off musically…..i don’t want to get the wrong taps or tap sizes and i want them to be flexible to catch all of my movements as i can balance and walk on my curled toes and the kicking strength of a well driven row boat! I have no assistance in choosing(i just accidentally typed shoosing!) the correct taps but i know i want the Miller & Ben shoes because they are quality. Can someone email me with some info on this tap toning technology!? Thanks!

  6. I’m due for new tap shoes, and I’m wondering about single sole vs. split sole shoes. I’m in a tap group in college, with practice 1-2 times per week and two shows, and some people have split soles and some people have single soles. I currently have split soles, and, maybe it’s because they’re old, I have to go very far over my toes to do a toe stand. I can’t really find any good information, hoping you can help me!

  7. Hi Tristan!
    Thanks so much for your article! I am a professional dancer, and I’m desperate for new tap shoes. The problem is, I haven’t ever really had to buy any because I’ve been using the same k360s for almost a decade(!) Horrible, I know. I’ve wanted custom color pair for a while, but I was too embarrassed to ask my friends what brand they had. LOL It’s just one of those things that I feel like I should know already! Your article totally helped me out with this! Purple k360s, here I come!!!!! 😉

  8. Brittane,

    YES!!!!!!!!! Email a pic to when they come in. I would love to see them.