Best Tap Shoes Reviewed & Rated
Since its invention in the 1800s, tap dance has represented an impressive fusion of various cultural dance styles, proof that people from diverse backgrounds can use their differences to create something not only wonderful, but also entertaining. Although its popularity has waned in the last few decades, tap dancing is still a fantastic activity for children and adults who love moving to catchy rhythms. Additionally, tap dancing has been proven to be excellent exercise–not only for the body but for the mind. Improving your strength, flexibility and cognitive abilities while having fun? That’s the way to live!
- Bloch Tap-Flex
- Leather Split Sole
- Shockwave Tap Plates
- Bloch Jason Samuels Smith
- Ultimate Comfort & Style
- Leather Sole
- Capezio CG17 Fluid
- Perfomance & Comfort
- Leather & Synthetic Sole
Dance is one of the most expressive forms of movement the human body can perform. Showcasing specific movement and lines to different music creates a feeling and beauty that describes what it means to be human. Tap dance is no exception to this, with fancy footwork that is systematically timed to create music all on its own.
But having an instrument on your feet is a big responsibility. The entire production, from music to dance, depends on you. Precision, comfort and style all come into play with tap shoes. Several styles of tap shoe are available for beginners anywhere up to professional tap dancer.
10 Best Tap Shoes
1. Bloch Tap-Flex
Coming in two color options, the Tap-Flex shoe is available in full grain black or tan leather, depending on what your needs are. Suitable for studio or stage, the shockwave plates allow for maximal contact with the floor, and strong percussion sound. With an inner lining to help wick away dampness, you’ll be able to maximize studio time without being uncomfortable.
For performance, Bloch brand shoes have designed an upper that allows the shoe to flex one way while giving resistance in the other direction. Lace-up design has your foot staying snug and in place when performing. A heel notch helps the Achilles tendon by alleviating pressure.
Cost and Value
A tab more pricey, but well within a beginner tap budget, the Bloch Tap-Flex shoe is a brilliantly designed shoe for the spend. The optional colors make it suitable for any style of dress on the stage or off, and durable leather quality allows the foot to be comfortable while the shoe longevity remains intact.
- Heel notch
- Shockwave Plates
- Moisture wicking
2. Bloch Jason Samuels Smith
Without a doubt made for professional dancers, this shoe impresses with a triple stacked heel for durability, and an outsole constructed of hard leather to keep durability through the life of the shoe’s use. A steel resonance plate lies between the outsole and tap, creating an amazing sound. With hard tapping, screws may come undone in other brands, but with a special procedure that bonds the metal, the taps won’t become loosened unless it’s by the wearer’s hand.
Soft leather wraps the foot and allows flexibility of the foot while still creating a level of support. Additional lining helps to wick away moisture leaving the foot dry for those long practice session. In addition to comfort, non-slip sole patches for safety come separately.
Cost and Value
More expensive than entry level shoes, but definitely affordable compared to other professional and impeccably designed tap shoes, the Bloch Jason Samuels Smith is a budget-friendly option for professional dancers. Made with quality and functionality, an investment well worth your money!
- Flexible leather
- Adjustable sounding
3. Capezio CG17 Fluid
A board shank in the sole is the secret to the shoe’s ability to balance flexibility with sturdiness. While it provides the firmness that your foot needs, it doesn’t keep you from moving the way you want. Known for its absorption capabilities, the microfiber in the sole ensures that your foot stays dry--so don’t be afraid to work up a sweat.
The CG17 Fluid is available in basic colors of black and tan, with synthetic upper designing. Lace closures allow you to strap the shoe on as tight or relaxed as you need. Attached taps are designed with the beginner in mind, but still, give a quality sound that will echo throughout the studio.
Cost and Value
Coming in a variety of sizes and widths, the shoe is suitable for any tapper, and moderately priced for shoes of similar style and design. For those just starting out, it’s a quality purchase, even if a little higher on the price range than other beginner tap shoes.
- Lace up
- Moisture absorbing
- Designer brand
4. So Danca TA05
The TA05 has lace-up styling to firmly hold the shoe in place, and a PU upper which give a stiffness to the shoe, perfect for those starting with tap technique who are becoming acquainted with their levels of ankle and foot range of motion. Cushioned insoles and uppers give the foot padding for long days and evenings in the studio and at home practices.
Designed with the beginner tapper in mind, the TA05 considers durability and safety while learning tap technique as opposed to a shoe that allows significant flexibility for the complexities of advanced tap dance. A semi-flexible shank allows for an individual style of movements, allowing the dancer to slightly bend the shoe, as opposed to pushing against a stiffer shank design.
Cost and Value
At an average price for beginner tap shoes, adults will love learning in the So Danca TA05. It has great styling, and the durability a beginner may need while getting accustomed to tapping techniques and movements. True to fit, the TA05 is a great starter shoe!
5. Dance Class Mary Jane
Designed for those early beginners just starting out in tap, this shoe gives the needed beginner support and comfort when just getting into any sort of dance, especially tap. When beginners are still growing, shoes that have a bit of giving in the uppers, and are flexible on a budget are a necessity. Dance Class succeeds in making a functional shoe that delivers on those qualities.
Consisting of a faux leather upper and synthetic sole, this type of material in the design will allow for some stability when learning new moves. The velcro strap indicative of typical Mary Jane designed shoes allows easy access in and out of the shoe. With cushioning in the footbed for comfort, and support in the arch for stability, it’s perfect for those starting out.
Cost and Value
On the lower end of the budget, this shoe is well worth the buy, especially when compared to non-dance shoes of a similar kind. The functional though presented in the design of the shoe will help support growing tastes in dance but still, allow for support and comfort.
- Arch support
- Velcro strap
- Run narrow
- Restrictive Toe
6. Bloch Dance Tyette
You get all the functionality of a quality tap shoe, especially great taps and strong structure, without sacrificing aesthetic. The bow-tied ribbon hides an elastic snap closure which brings the uppers together and holds the foot to the shoe. Shiny synthetic uppers gloss up the performance look and come in two colors, black and white.
Stepping up the shoe construction, Bloch has given this Tyette tap shoe a cashmere lining to help cushion and pad the foot, and a padded insole gives additional comfort. With no seam lines in the shoe heel or back lining, and extra leather securing the heel, rubbing and blistering from movement is minimized. A balance pad has been added to the outsole resin to help with weight transference during steps and movements.
Cost and Value
Great price for the value, the Bloch Tyette comes in average to slightly higher than average for a shoe of similar styling and design. For those who started at an early age, this is a great progressive shoe into the next round of tap dance, and a good next investment.
- Balance pad
- Bow Tie
- Synthetic uppers
7. Theatricals Lace Up T9500
Made to endure through all the physical stress required to tap capably, the leather used to create this shoe is tough and yet flexible enough for you to perform all kinds of tricks without wearing down easily. Depending on the strain of your activity (and your personal preferences, of course), you can keep your shoes as tight or as loose as you want with the laces.
Adjustable sounding is possible to create the tone of your liking, with soundboard and screw on taps. Keeping you balanced is the heel counter, and you can safely try your more advanced tap skills with a rubber patch to prevent skidding. The sock lining is cushioned for extra comfort, to keep you going long after the studio closes!
Cost and Value
Compared to many other kinds of tap shoes you could buy, these are priced quite reasonably--another reason why beginners might find them especially appealing because you can start learning the art without breaking the bank.
- Lace up
- Adjustable sounding
- Ankle Digs In
8. Capezio 3800
Like many beginner tap shoes, these come with taps attached, and fiberboard mounted. A rubber non-skid pad helps increase safety when learning new footwork and moves, and the micro-rubber designed outsole helps support the foot while allowing moderate flexibility to move in the shoe.
The Capezio 3800 is designed with a velcro buckle and has a removable clip-on bow. The bow is an adorable feature, as you can place it anywhere on the shoe to add a little flair if needed. High gloss black patent or a subtle tan makes this shoe versatile for any dancewear needed for recitals or practice.
Cost and Value
For similar shoe styles, this one runs a little on the high side price wise. However, with the adorable styling option the removable bow provides, along with solid shoe construction for early beginners in tap dance, it’s worth the investment.
- Removable Bow
- Velcro Closure
- Brand name
9. Bloch Dance Now Economy
With elastic tap ties to add style and convenience, these are great for quick tying between routines. Riveted taps increase durability for longer-term use, but also give a better sound quality. Balance is maintained with a simple half inch heel, keeping you sturdy and confident in your footwork, and a non-slip pad to prevent any sliding.
The taps on this shoe are nailed into the sole. So whereas in other models, you can adjusting the sound by loosening screws, these are more suited to beginner tappers learning their craft. The Dance Now Economy also comes with elastic tap ties and ribbon for ease of use or additional flair.
Cost and Value
As the name states, the Dance Now Economy is available at an average price and made for beginner tap dancers. With additional features such as elastic tap ties and ribbon, the style can be adjusted to suit your needs and taste. It’s a great starter shoe for those just getting into tap.
- Blended upper
- Elastic Tap Ties
- Classic styling
- Starter Shoe
- Nailed Taps
10. Miller & Ben Jazz-Tap Master
Wrapped in a leather of high gloss, with wooden heel and a rigid sole, this shoe is all about performance. The Jazz-Tap Master comes with a Low and Wide ‘Jazz-Tap’ heel, with taps installed. The shoe comes with tap wraps as an added bonus. Leather uppers and a double leather sole help support and mold to the foot. A counter free toe allows the foot to naturally to mold the shoe over time.
Miller & Ben have been renowned tap shoes, due to their history of crafting tap specific shoes for students, and experimenting with shoe design, comfort, quality, and materials. Made for the more advanced tapper, these unisex professional shoes are the next step for those serious about tap. Once these shoes are worn, they may be the last pair you’ll ever want or need!
Cost and Value
Quality here does come at a premium, and the Jazz-Tap Master comes in on the pricier spectrum of a budget. Only for those committed to tap as either a hobby or a profession, this shoe is absolutely one of the highest quality tap shoes around, and well worth the investment.
- Wooden Heel
- Rigid Sole
- Counter free toe
- Not for beginners
Generally, there are some differences in the quality of fit and sound depending on shoe design and quality. If just starting out as a beginner tapper, there are several shoes in a comfortable budget range that will allow you to tap away without any of the purchase guilt if you decide tap is not for you. For the more advanced tapper, many invest in a higher quality pair of shoes, designed for more advanced footwork, durability, and sound effect.
Shoe selection for tap dancers can be an important decision-making process, but keep in mind that beginner shoes are the best bang for your buck when starting out. If you decide tap is for you, upgrading to a more well-constructed shoe with durable materials and special percussion features is always an option. Starting out, the taps on the shoe should really be able to withstand the wear and tear you’ll be placing on them when practicing. Different tap materials and the way the taps are placed on the shoe can create varying percussion sounds and feels.
Criteria for Evaluating the Best Tap Shoes
The Overall Build and Design
You’re more likely to find Oxfords when looking for tap shoes. The Oxford design is the most common, but you can find other styles as well, including Mary Janes, or shoes with a heel. More importantly, look at the specific components of the design.
- Construction and Stitching: The stitches on the leather upper will indicate whether the shoe will have more flex or more durability. More stitches will give a stronger hold but cut back on the flexibility of the upper. This is known to be a point of concern to tap dancers. Those dancers just starting out may need a stiffer shoe for support, but more advanced dancers can sometimes require more flexibility in the foot for quick moves back and forth, or combinations that require dexterity of the foot to create the desired percussion.
- Material-The heel on tap shoes historically was made from wood, but modern days it can be made from plastic, synthetic, material blends, or leather. Many entry-level shoes have a plastic or synthetic heel, usually half an inch to an inch in height. Plastic heels don’t create the same rich, quality sound that a stacked leather heel can make, but they are inexpensive and more affordable.
- Height-Higher heel height can also affect dance style in tap, and if too high, can cause discomfort by place weight more so on the toes than evenly distributed across the foot.
- Support– The toe box design of a tap shoe can allow for a snug fit without pinching the foot, so it’s important to understand your fit and foot width, for individual needs. A toe box that has a “cage-like” build can act to decrease flexibility, especially if the upper is designed with synthetic materials that tend to be less flexible than leather. A toe cage can be beneficial for beginners, as it helps prevent strain caused by the constant tapping of the toes on the ground as needed in tap dancing.
- Comfort– Selecting a tap shoe with a comfortable toe box is crucial. Narrow or rounded toe shapes can cause discomfort for those with a wider foot or can cause pinching in those with normal width feet. Having a shoe made of leather or a leather blend can help with toe box fit while maintaining functionality, as leather tends to mold to the shape of the foot.
- Topline: The last component that makes up the upper build is what’s known as the topline. This portion is the rim line of the shoe. Some will have a lower topline, while others an elevated line. A lower line enables greater flexibility in the ankle region while an elevated line means much better ankle stability. You may also see the back of the topline cut out slightly to compensate for the Achilles tendon. Also included occasionally in tap shoes is top line padding, which cuts down on discomfort or blistering.
Versatility in Materials
- Leather: Despite several materials being used regularly in tap shoes, leather has to be the most practical to be the build of your tap shoe. Leather caught on specifically because it is strong and fold up to a lot of use-and-abuse. Typically, the leather will be cow skin, which is also naturally water resistant. Another leather type commonly used is goat skin which performs close to cowhide. Some of the highest grade tap shoes can be found in goatskin leather.
It is advised to go with the hardest material you can get your tap shoe in. The stiff leather will take longer to break in but will last much longer than soft leather. Patent leather is also widely used as it creates a shine like no other type of leather that is appealing to some tap dancers.
- Synthetics: Synthetic, synthetic blends or other fabric textiles can sometimes be used to design the uppers of a tap shoe. Though not quite as diverse as leather, each has it’s benefit when it comes to function and style.
- Synthetic or synthetic blends: For those conscious of animal welfare, this can be a lovely option as PU or PVC don’t contain any animal product. Be more careful with synthetic blends, as many incorporate some leather for aesthetic purposes. Synthetics can be more cost-effective, and usually, are found in beginner styled shoes. They provide a stiffer feel to the shoe at a reasonable cost, similar to more expensive leather designed shoes. However, the fit is less pliable and can cause soreness if not fitted properly.
- Fabric or Textile : There are a few shoes out there that have a fabric or cloth-like feel and look for a tap shoe. These usually are designed for beginners or those who may not enjoy the stiffness of other tap shoes. Note that good tap work is usually done because the shoe has a stiffness to it, allowing for precise toe and heel strikes. So although footwork may not be the best, for those who simply enjoy dance or want to try tap, this is a less expensive option in shoe material to consider.
If these are your first tap shoes, and you aren’t yet familiar with taps, they are the component of a tap-dancing shoe that sits under the forefoot and heel. Making contact with the ground and is what’s responsible for the pronounced tap you get with these shoes.
- Tap Material: Wooden soles were first responsible for tap, and leather soles incorporated later. Nowadays, metal taps are used, but this varies in quality based on the type of metal. Most modern tap shoes have an aluminum base or combine various composites to create lighter or heavier taps, depending on the dancer’s preference. The best metal will be lightweight aluminum. Make sure to not get cheap steel knockoffs as they will be much heavier and typically flimsy.
- Tap Shape: The actual tap shape can vary to create different pitches and tones, and when combined with soundboards, adhesives, or specific sole materials, further adjust the sound that resonates from the contact of the tap with the dance surface.
- Concave vs. Convex: Taps can be designed to have a concave or convex design, which can create vastly different percussion sounds.
- Tap Build: Taps can also be designed to be smaller in relation to the shoe, or larger, based on the preference of the dancer. Larger taps can create a deeper tone, and smaller taps create a slightly higher pitched or snare drum-like sound.
- Tap Fixation to the Sole:Taps can be fixed to the sole in several manners. Many brands now manufacture tap shoes with taps already attached.
- Screws vs Nail: Taps that are nailed to the sole are permanently fixed and create one sound and tone. These usually are found in beginner style shoes for those whose preferences to how the shoe sound has not yet been considered. Taps that are screwed into the shoe allow for how tight or loose the tap is affixed to the sole and can create varying tap sounds and tones.
- Adhesive: Some taps may also use an adhesive instead of screws. There is some debate on how different adhesives may affect the sound quality, but those taps affixed with adhesive will have a fixed tone.
- Soundboards: Many of the modern style tap shoes will have a soundboard to which the screws insert to keep the tap on the sole of the shoe. The material from which the soundboard is made is usually a fibreboard, but other materials can be used and can affect the weight of the shoe, or sound of the tap.
Because tap dancing takes its toll on the feet, having a supportive and comfortable sole will do wonders for keeping your feet from injury. Because the soles are generally thick and supportive in tap shoes, a solution needed to be made for their lack of flexibility. Double-soled tap shoes tap much louder because of the added weight. With twice the thickness, the sole is also much more durable. You can go with leather or plastic soles, or if you know what you’re doing, adding layers to the sole can be done by yourself, to get the perfect thickness and weight. Screws have even been known to be used to fix the tap onto shoes with very thick soles to prevent constant loosening.
- Split soles- Split soles are now incorporated to allow flex in the area between the spit, giving the best of both worlds. The split sole allows the toe to point and flex, while still providing support to the ball of the foot for comfort and grip.
- Insoles- Insoles can play a large part in overall structural comfort. A firmly structured shoe will be stable but lack the cushioning needed to be on your feet for extended periods of time. Most brands try to incorporate a cushioned or padded insole, but if on your feet for hours at a time, this may not be enough. Custom orthotics can also be utilized for specialized or additional comfort.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can orthotics and custom inserts be used for tap shoes?
A: Absolutely. Orthotics are encouraged for those who regularly deal with foot aches. Sometimes the original insert is padded enough, but if extra cushioning is needed we do recommend looking into custom inserts. Superfeet makes very good and effective insoles. Check them out (here).
Q: What tap shoes do professionals wear?
A: There isn’t a type of tap shoe made specifically for professionals but there are a few brands that scream professional. These brands are Blotch, Capezio, Miller & Ben, and So Danca. Wear any of these brands and you can be confident you are among the professionals, as far as your footwear is concerned.
Q: What tap shoes are best for beginners?
A: For beginners, it would be a wise choice to not go with something super expensive. The highest quality shoes aren’t a priority. Because you will not need any professional aspects some of the more expensive shoes offer, purchasing a low-end pair to use for practicing purposes would be smart. On cheaper shoes, the materials used would be PVC and PU plastics. Remember, young feet will grow fast. If the shoes are for a young kid, consider how much money would be spent on replacements every time they outgrow a shoe.
Q: What are oxford tap shoes?
A: Oxford is a style of shoe that has a particular lace structure and an upper made of leather, generally used for dress or formal wear. Oxford tap shoes are just tap shoes made to resemble the design of the usual oxford. The look is valid as the style pairs well with the elegance of modern tap dancing.
Q: Will tap shoes stretch over time?
A: Leather will in fact stretch, so if your tap shoes are made of a thin leather upper, you may experience a small amount of stretching. Don’t expect to see anything major regarding size. The leather will stretch but only to a small degree.