The beauty of tap shoes lies in their simplicity. While shoes specially designed for most other sports involve a great deal of complex technological development, tap dancing shoes, as the expression goes, do exactly what it says on the tin: they are normal-looking shoes with custom-made metal taps attached to the heel and toe, enabling the dancer to tap as she or he moves.
Tap dancing as a sport has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity, on the back of films and plays like Billy Elliot, and children in particular are keen to get in involved. This type of dancing is an especially good form of aerobic exercise, and is great for losing weight at the same time as building up muscle, and can also be great fun for people of all ages.
Because tap shoes tend to be worn for very nimble and elegant dance routines, they must by necessity be as light as possible, and comfortable to wear. For this reason, a great number of tap shoes are made to resemble ordinary outdoor footwear, such as Mary-Janes or Oxfords. To alleviate the somewhat austere nature of tap shoes, any strap they have often is made of ribbon tied in a central bow, and extra features such as a jazzy elasticated slip-on fit are very popular indeed.
The cheapest and simplest style of tap shoe available is the traditional girls’ patent leather variety, which is ideal for children and beginners. These shoes are sold with the taps already attached, and have ribbon straps across the foot for added support and style. This very basic style of tap shoe is extremely cheap indeed, but does the job adequately, training young or inexperienced feet in the moves and techniques of tap dancing. For around the same price, you can buy beginners’ shoes with leather and buckle straps rather than ribbon fastenings.
For more experienced dancers, tap shoes come in an array of styles, depending on the kind of tap dancing you intend to do. An excellent feature for advanced dancers is the screw-on tap, which allows you to adjust the tap attachment in order to achieve a certain sound as you dance. Jazz tap shoes tend to have this feature as standard. Slightly elevated heels also affect the sound quality of each tap, and you can choose between the more modest three-quarter-inch heel or the more flamboyant flamenco heel, which is around two inches in height and comes with extra insole cushioning to protect the foot against heavier footfalls and more precarious dancing.