Learning to dance can be incredibly rewarding. It is enjoyable, sociable, and great for improving your fitness and strength. There are also very few barriers to entry. You don’t need to buy all sorts of dance equipment (although you can) and you can mostly wear just comfortable and practical clothing (except for competitions). The one thing that you probably will need to pick up for dance is a pair of men’s dance shoes. Dance shoes are specifically designed to be danced in, and the type of shoe you will need varies greatly between different styles of dance.
Quick jump to:
- Ballet shoes for men
- Men’s jazz dance shoes (not just for jazz)
- Men’s ballroom dance shoes
- Men’s tap dance shoes
What is the difference between dance shoes and street shoes?
At first glance, it can often seem like dancers, and especially male dancers, are wearing normal shoes to dance in. This almost always isn’t the case, however. Dance shoes are specifically designed to be used in dance and there are some key differences between them and your everyday street shoes.
1) The soles
Take a look at the bottom of your shoes. You will see that the soles are made of rubber (or a rubber-like material) and there is a grip tread. This design is great for the shoes that you wear every day because the rubber and grip prevent you from slipping and falling. What it isn’t great for, however, is dancing.
When you dance you need to be able to glide effortlessly across the floor and perform seamless turns. With a rubber-soled shoe, you won’t be able to do either of these things. And, what’s more, it can leave you open to suffering an injury. If you try to perform a turn and your foot stays rooted in place, you could easily sprain or strain something.
Dance shoes usually have a suede sole that is soft and thin. The suede allows you to glide across the floor but it isn’t slippery enough to cause you to fall. You should never wear your suede-soled dance shoes outside of dance practice. They are designed to be worn on smooth floors only. If you wear them on concrete, the suede will tear, and if you get the sole wet, it will ruin the suede and make it gummy.
Another key feature of dance shoes that makes them different from street shoes is their flexibility. If you try bending your foot in street shoes, you will find that it doesn’t bend very far. This is because the sole is hard and thick. Again, this is great for shoes that you will be walking around outside in, but it doesn’t work for dancing.
When you dance, you need to be able to flex, point, and arch your feet. This is why the suede sole on dance shoes is so thin and flexible. They are designed to move perfectly with your feet so that you can execute all of the foot moves that you need to.
The fit of dance shoes is also very different from street shoes. With street shoes, you would usually aim to have a bit of room between your foot and the shoe to keep them comfortable. But the extra room is the last thing you need in dance shoes. If your foot moves around inside your dance shoe it will make you less stable which can cause you to trip and fall, and it can also lead to rubbing.
Dance shoes have a very snug fit when compared to street shoes, which can feel a little strange at first. But the snugness of the fit will mean that your shoe will move perfectly with your foot, which will keep you stable enough to dance.
What is the difference between men’s dance shoes and women’s dance shoes?
For most dance styles, there isn’t actually a huge difference between men’s dance shoes and women’s dance shoes. The main differences tend to be in the choices of color and the fit (men’s shoes tend to have a wider fit). There are some differences for specific dance styles, which will delve into later.
Ballet shoes for men
For ballet, men tend to wear what is known as ballet slippers. These are fabric shoes with a leather sole that doesn’t quite meet the edges of the shoe. They are held in place by a drawstring and elastic. They can be made of satin, canvas, or leather. Satin ballet shoes tend to be worn for performances only, canvas shoes are a cheaper option but are great for practice. They are also completely machine-washable which can definitely make life a lot easier!
The main difference between men’s and women’s ballet slippers is that women’s shoes tend to be in ballet pink, whereas men’s ballet shoes are usually white or black. Tan ballet shoes are unisex and are most often used for modern performances to give the illusion that the dancers are dancing in bare feet.
Another choice to consider is whether to go for a full sole or a split sole. A full sole ballet shoe has leather that runs the length of the shoe. A split sole has two pieces of leather, one on the ball of the foot and one on the heel. The benefits of a split-sole shoe are that it gives your foot much more flexibility and can allow you to perform cleaner footwork. They can be more difficult to use, however, so beginners tend to wear a full-sole.
Capezio Canvas Romeo
These men’s ballet shoes from Capezio come in either black or white and are made of brushed canvas. They have a leather split sole and a sculpted arch to help you achieve the perfect point. The elastic is pre-attached at the heel on one end. The other ends of the elastic straps are free, which allows you to attach them to the place that helps the shoe best fit your feet.
These ballet shoes are true to your street shoe size, so just order the size that you normally would.
Bloch Dance Men’s Performa
These ballet shoes for men are made of stretch canvas with a leather split sole. They come in black, sand, cocoa, or white and with a regular or slim fit. They have a generous arch and are designed to be contoured to your feet and a toe shape that helps with balance. The elastics are pre-sewn at both ends and crisscrossed. There is shock-absorbing cushioning in the heel to help keep your feet protected.
You should order these shoes two sizes down from your street size, but there is also a measuring chart that can help you find the right fit for you.
Bloch Dance Men’s Canvas Ballet Pumps
These ballet shoes are also from Bloch but they are in a pump design. This design means that the canvas can more closely hug the arch and it prevents any material from bunching under your foot when you are pointing it. This, along with the heel seam cushion, is specifically designed to give you the most pleasing lines possible.
What also helps with this are the two leather pads in the split sole (one at the toe and one at the heel). They are in a teardrop shape which allows for greater flexibility in the foot. The toe of the shoe is squared.
These shoes come in a variety of colors, some of which are designed to match your skin tone: cocoa, white, black, light sand, and flesh. It is suggested that you start by choosing a shoe that is two sizes smaller than your street shoe but, again, you can measure your foot and use the measuring chart to be sure of a perfect fit.
The elastic does not come pre-attached so you will need to place and sew it on yourself. This can be a better option if you want to make sure that they fit exactly as they should.
Bloch Dance Men’s Synchrony Split-Sole Canvas
These ballet shoes come in black or white and have a leather split sole. Their main feature is that they are designed to have the “ultimate stretch”. They are made of canvas mixed with other materials so that they stretch and recover perfectly every time. They also have a wider toe and a wider outsole around the top line. This allows you to spread your toes more which can help with both balance and turning.
They have extra padding and a longer and softer around the top line to make them extremely comfortable. And their design is sleek and streamlined which will help to accentuate your arches.
As with the other Bosch ballet shoes, you should try a size that is two sizes down from your normal street shoes.
Nexete Split-Sole Canvas Ballet Slippers
These are an affordable option that holds up really well when dancing. They have a suede split sole that is non-slip and a lightweight soft canvas upper. They also have a suede sock lining and an adjustable elastic drawstring, which makes them comfortable and well-fitting.
These shoes come in either white or black and the elastic is pre-sewn in a crisscross design. They do run a little small, so you may need to get a size up from your usual street shoe size.
Capezio Men’s Mr. James Whiteside Ballet Shoes
These men’s ballet shoes are a little different. They were designed in a collaboration between Capezio and James Whiteside, the American Ballet Theatre School Principal Dancer. They are made to stay comfortable for long days dancing. They have shock-absorbing pads on the balls of the feet and the heel to keep your feet comfortable for longer.
These shoes have a suede split-sole design and a 4-way stretch canvas for the upper sole. They also have a seamless arch construction, soft binding, and an elastic drawstring to make clean lines and for a better fit.
Another unusual feature of these ballet shoes is that they are asymmetrical. Most ballet slippers do not have a left and a right shoe. Instead, they mold to each of your feet as you dance in them. These shoes, however, are created in a true left and right. They are true to your street shoe size.
Sansha Pro 1 Canvas Split Sole Ballet Slipper
These are unisex ballet shoes that are made from two layers of lightweight and durable canvas for their upper layers and with a leather split sole. They have a pre-curved front and a heel pad with foam protection. They have a double arch to aid with pointing.
The elastic is pre-attached at one end to make the fit more customizable. If you have wide feet, this is a great ballet shoe for you because they come in a range of wide foot sizes.
Danzcue Adult Split Sole
These ballet shoes come in white pink and black and have a suede sole and sweat-resistant cotton lining on the inner part of the shoe. The outer is made from non-stretch thick canvas and they have a round head.
They have pre-stitched elastic in a cross design across the instep. They are a size smaller than your normal street size, so you should try half a size or one size larger than you would usually wear.
Do men wear pointe shoes?
Traditionally, pointe shoes were always reserved for women, with men only wearing them for comedic effect. Most male ballet dancers train and perform in ballet slippers only but this is beginning to change. More and more male ballet dancers are throwing gender convention to the wind and are training and performing en pointe.
Dancing en pointe can strengthen your legs and feet and it gives you a much wider scope for artistic expression. But it isn’t so easy to find ballet pointe shoes for men. Pointe shoes have a very specific technical design to make them able to support the feet and ankle when dancing en pointe and men’s foot anatomy differs from women’s enough to make larger women’s pointe shoes difficult to use.
For example, men’s feet are longer and wider but their ankle bones, instep, and toes tend to be shorter. They are also less flexible and have to carry more weight than women’s feet.
A Russian company called Siberian Swan have designed a pointe shoe specifically for male feet, taking into account their anatomical differences. So now, it is easier than ever for male ballet dancers to transition over to en pointe.
Men’s jazz dance shoes
Despite the name, jazz dance shoes aren’t just for jazz dancing. You can wear jazz shoes for a wide range of dance styles, including hip hop, acro dance, and musical theatre. They are similar to ballet shoes in the sense that they are designed to mold to your feet and be completely flexible. And, like ballet shoes, they come in a full sole or split sole.
There are some key differences between jazz shoes and ballet shoes, however. Rather than having a very thin suede sole, jazz shoes have a slightly thick rubber heel to help with shock absorption. They also don’t tend to be in a slipper style. Instead, they come in a range of different styles, such as slip-on, lace-up, boots, sneakers, and even Oxfords.
They are usually in tan or black and some have a suede patch on the ball of the foot to help with turning. As with other types of dance shoes, the fit is tighter than it would be for a street shoe.
Linodes Tent Leather Upper Slip-on
These jazz shoes are in a slip-on design, which can make quick changes much easier. They come in a black or tan color and they have a leather upper and an arch insert to help with flexing of the foot. They have a breathable fabric lining to help keep your foot comfortable and a flat heel that is 0.4 inches high. The sole patches are made from EVA rubber, which helps to strike a balance between gripping and sliding.
In terms of sizing, Linodes provide a helpful sizing chart and instructions for how to measure your feet. If you use this, you should be able to get the perfect fit.
Bloch Super Jazz Leather and Elastic Slip-on
These jazz shoes are also slip-on but in a slightly different design. There is a strong wide piece of elastic at the top that helps the shoe to stay in place. They come in black or tan and they are made of 100% full-grain leather. They also have a 100% cotton lining which will help your foot to breathe. The sole patches are EVA rubber and the sole is split.
For sizing, you should try a full size down from your normal street shoe size in order to get the correct fit.
Linodes Leather Lace-Up Unisex Jazz Shoe
These are a lace-up design, rather than a slip-on. The advantage of a lace-up shoe is that it makes it easier to adjust the fit although, of course, it does mean that it will take slightly longer to put on the shoe. They are made of 100% leather with a breathable fabric liner and they have a split sole. The patches at the ball and heel are made from EVA rubber and the heel is flat and 0.4 inches high.
As with their other shoes, Linodes provide sizing chart and measurement instructions to help you find the right fit for you.
Sansha Soho Lace-up Jazz Shoe
These jazz shoes are in a boot design that comes over your ankle, with laces all the way up. The upper is made of canvas so is soft and breathable and they have a synthetic split sole. The shaft is 5.5 inches from the arch and the heel is flat and 0.5 inches high.
They have a suede patch to cover the pleats for extra protection and to stop them from splitting. They come in black, red, flesh, or white and the white shoe is able to be dyed if you need a specific color shoe for a performance.
For sizing, men can try their normal street shoe size (women should get a size up from their normal size).
Dynadans Unisex Leather Upper Slip-On Jazz Shoes
These are a slip-on design with a comfortable and soft leather upper and a synthetic split sole. They have neoprene elastic inserts in the side to help with taking them on and off and they have a breathable fabric lining. The heel is flat and 0.4 inches high. They come in black or tan.
For sizing, Dynadans provide a measurement chart and instructions for how to measure your feet so that you can find the perfect size.
Bloch Dance Men’s Ultraflex Leather Jazz Shoes (rubber sole)
These are the original split-sole jazz shoe, designed by Bloch. They have a 100% leather upper and breathable cotton lining with a suede leather insole for comfort. They have a lace-up design to help with achieving a secure fit, and you should order one full size down from your normal street shoe size.
These shoes have EVA rubber heel and forefront pads, but you can also get them with a suede heel and forefront pads if you want a better ability to turn: Mens Ultraflex Suede Jazz Shoes
Mrs. Dress Shop Unisex Leather Jazz Shoes
These are slip-on-style jazz shoes. They have a leather upper and a non-slip synthetic sole with a 0.4-inch flat heel. They have a soft and breathable cotton lining and a neoprene insole for added comfort and a better fit.
There is a sizing chart provided to help you get the right size and they are usually true to your usual size.
Bloch Dance Men’s Jazz Oxford Leather Sole Character Shoe
These are very different from the other shoes in this section. Character shoes are worn for musical performances and auditions, and not usually for practice. They don’t have the flexibility of the split-sole jazz shoes but they are made to suit the character that you will be performing as.
They are made of 100% leather with a leather sole and they have a cushioned insock for better shock absorption as well as reinforced eyelets. They are comfortable and durable so will keep your feet protected throughout your performance.
Men’s ballroom dance shoes
Ballroom is one dance style where the men’s shoes are very different from the women’s. For both jazz and ballet (except for pointe shoes) the differences really only come down to color and sizing. But for ballroom dancing, the men’s and women’s shoes are designed and constructed very differently.
Women’s ballroom dance shoes tend to resemble normal high-heeled shoes at first glance and come in a variety of colors and styles. But they are specifically designed for dancing only and usually feature a suede sole that can’t be worn outside, and sometimes a split sole to aid in foot flexibility.
Men’s standard ballroom shoes, on the other hand, usually resemble men’s dress shoes. They also usually have a suede sole and a small heel of 0.5 inches or more. For Latin dancing, men will usually wear a Cuban heel to help emphasize the hip movements of that style of dance. The heel is usually around 1.5 inches high.
Capezio Men’s SD103 Social Dance Shoes
These are standard ballroom shoes with a faux leather upper and a full suede sole for better traction and gliding. They have a one-inch heel and are lace-up for a good fit. They have a shock-absorbing sponge on the instep, a flexible outsole, and a padded Achilles notch for better comfort and flexibility. The lining is cotton and moisture-absorbant.
Gogodance Men’s Breathable Dance Shoes
These are made of premium leather for the upper and have an anti-slip suede sole which is ideal for turns and smooth-stepping. They also have lots of air holes in the side and front of the shoe to stop your foot from getting sweaty. They have a cushioned heel to help protect your feet.
They run slightly narrow so you may need to go half a size up if your feet are wide.
Diamant Men’s Dance Shoes (wide)
If you do have wide feet, these are a good option as they allow extra room. They have a suede leather sole to help you glide across the dance floor and they have a breathable microfiber lining that helps to absorb moisture. They also have a one-inch heel with shock-absorbant cushioning and are fastened with laces.
Hipposeus Men’s Ballroom and Latin Dance Shoes
These are premium leather ballroom dance shoes with a suede leather sole and a padded insole. They are lace-up to help you get the right fit and they usually fit true-to-size.
There is a variety of heel styles with these shoes, and if you are going to be doing Latin dancing choosing the 1.18-inch heel can be a great option.
DKZSYIM Men’s Leather Professional Latin Dance Shoes
And if you are looking for a choice of color and heel size, this is also a great option. They come in a wide range of colors and finishes (including shiny patent crocodile!) and they have heel heights ranging from 0.79 inches to 1.12 inches, and all the way up to 2 inches.
They are made of different materials depending on what you choose, including synthetic materials and leather, for the outsole. They have a rubber sole to help with grip and a suede insole to add extra comfort.
Capezio Men’s BR116 Ben One-Inch Standard Ballroom Shoe
This is a great quality shoe with a 100% full-grain leather upper and a suede sole to help with turns and gliding. They are a lace-up dress shoe with an apron toe, folded edges, a padded collar, and an Achilles notch to help keep the shoes comfortable.
They have a moisture-absorbent cotton lining and a square toe box and a one-inch cushioned heel with a suede top lift. The shank is 3/4 length to help with stability and flexibility.
You should buy one size down from your usual street shoe size to make sure that they fit well.
Very Fine Men’s Wide Adrian Dance Shoe
Very Fine are a USA-based company that specializes in quality dance shoes. These men’s ballroom dance shoes are specifically designed for wider feet. They have extra width around the midfoot, ball, and toe box areas, so if you have struggled with finding dance shoes that fit your feet (as they tend to run narrow), these could be a really good option for you.
They have a suede sole and a genuine leather upper, as well as whole-foot cushioning to keep your feet protected. They also have a high-carbon steel arch support.
Very Fine Men’s Perseus Dance Shoe
These dance shoes are also from Very Fine and they have a suede dance sole. They are made of genuine leather with microfiber to help the shoes mold to your feet and avoid blistering. They also have a hand-stitched cushioned ankle rim to further avoid irritation. You really can dance the night away in these shoes!
They have a cushioned heel with a high-density EVA insert underneath the one-inch heel for better shock absorption. And they have a high-carbon steel arch support to help keep your foot supported.
Capezio Men’s 2 Inch Latin Social Dance Oxford
These shoes from Capezio are designed for Latin dancing and, as such, they have a higher two-inch heel. The heel is EVA-wrapped and cushioned with a suede top lift. The outer is made from polyurethane and is soft, supple, and durable.
The insole is cushioned as well as the heel to help with shock absorption and they have no shank, so you can have the most flexibility possible. They have suede sole patches on the heel and the forefoot that have been stitched on to help prevent lifting.
If you have a wide foot, you should buy half a size bigger than your usual street shoe size.
Very Fine Men’s Valerian Dance Shoes
These shoes are also designed for Latin dancing and have a two-inch Cuban heel that is lightweight and durable. They have suede sole patches at the heel and forefoot that have been securely stitched on. The outer is made of genuine hand-crafted Napa leather, which is a softer and more flexible type of leather, to help give you the flexibility you need in your foot for this style of dancing.
They have cushioning throughout and contour to your foot for extra comfort.
Very Dine Zephyr Dance Shoes
These are classic black and white Oxford-style ballroom shoes, which will really make you stand out on the dancefloor. As with the other Very Fine shoes, they have a suede sole to help with gripping and sliding, are made of genuine leather, have built-in arch support and cushioning, and a performance heel.
Men’s tap dance shoes
Tap is a unique form of dance that merges dancing with music. When you perform the dance steps in tap, you are also adding percussion to the accompanying music. And to make the tap sounds, you will need to get tap dancing shoes.
These are shoes that have metal plates attached with screws to the heel and near the toes. When the plates hit a solid floor, they create the tap sound that you would associate with tap dancing. The screws that hold the plates in place can be tightened or loosened, which alters the sound of the tap.
Some people prefer to source and attach their own metal plates to their shoes, but you can also get tap shoes with the plates already attached. For men, tap shoes tend to be in the style of a dress shoe, but are specifically designed for dancing.
Bloch Dance Men’s Leather Tap Shoe
These tap shoes from Bloch are in a Jazz Oxford-style lace-up design. They are made of 100% leather with a leather sole, so are both strong and soft. They also have a cushioned insock to protect your feet and an elastic strap join, which reduces tension on the instep.
They come with plates pre-attached, and these are the Bloch Techno Tap plates. The toe tap is secured to a resonating board, which produces a deeper sound. They also have a non-slip Pro Balance rubber pad underneath the ball of the foot to help prevent slipping.
You should aim to try a size that is one smaller than your usual street shoe size to make sure that they fit snug enough.
Linodes Unisex Slip-On Tap Shoe
These tap shoes have a PU leather upper and synthetic lining. They are a slip-on design, which makes them quick and easy to take on and off, and they have a wide piece of elastic on the side to help with this. They also have a flexible outsole.
The taps are pre-screwed onto soundboards for a deeper tap and there is a non-slip rubber pad on the ball of the foot. The heel is one inch high.
Joocare Men’s Oxford Lace-up Tap Shoe
These are an entry-level tap shoe with a rubber sole to help prevent slipping. The heel is 1.5 inches high and they have a cushioned insole and a notched collar at the ankle to prevent rubbing against the Achilles tendon. The lining is fabric and moisture-absorbant.
They come with pre-screwed heel and toe taps.
Bloch Dance Jason Samuels Smith Tap Shoes
For more experienced tap dancers, these shoes from Bloch are a great choice. They come in a full build-up straight out of the box. The heel is triple-stacked and the leather outsole is double-stacked. They were designed in collaboration with the famous tap dancer, Jason Samuels Smith.
The leather outsole is made of soft-grain leather and they have a canvas and Kashmir lining for extra comfort. The sole is made from hard leather. The taps themselves are Jason Samuels Smith Taps and they are pre-screwed using a special metal bonding procedure which ensures they will not loosen (unless you choose to modify them yourself). They are designed for maximum tap plate contact with the floor. There is a steel resonance plate between the tap plates and the leather to create a deep tap sound.
Bloch Dance Tap-Flex Leather Tap Shoes
These are a split-sole tap shoe, which allows for full flexibility in your foot as you dance. The upper is made from leather and they are lined with Kashmir for better moisture absorbance and comfort. They also have a notched collar at the heel to reduce friction against your Achilles tendon.
The taps are pre-screwed and are the Bloch Shockwave Taps. There is a non-slip pro balance rubber band on the sole next to the toe tap, which helps to prevent slipping and also helps to level out the split sole for better balance. The heel is leather and stacked and there is a strong heel counter.
Miller and Ben Professional Tap Shoes
These are professional-level tap shoes designed by world-renowned tap dancers and teachers, Avi Miller and Ofer Ben. They are made from leather throughout, with high gloss leather for the upper and varnished leather for the sole. The 1.5-inch heel is made from compressed wood, which helps to create a deeper basso sound.
The softness of the leather upper allows for greater foot flexibility and the rigid sole helps to support the foot. The toe box is counter-free to help the shoe mold to your foot and the wing-tip layer prevents your toes from overstretching.
The shoes come with taps that are pre-attached and you also get complimentary Tap Wraps to protect the tap plates when the shoes are being transported.
The bottom line
Finding the right dance shoe for your personal style, ability level, and budget can take quite a while, but when you wear the perfect shoe it can make all the difference. There are specific shoe needs depending on the dance style that you will be doing because they are each designed to help support you to create the movements and footwork that you need. So finding the right shoe for the style you will be dancing really is key.