What You Need to Know Before Buying Tap Shoes

close-up of tap dancers' tap shoes
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Mention Fred Astaire, Gregory Hines or Savion Glover and most folks think of tap dancing. Unlike other performers, tap dancers demonstrate their skill through both their routines and the distinctive sound coming from the taps on their shoes. Adults and kids alike take tap dancing classes for exercise and for fun.

Tap shoes are referred to as "two shoes and four taps," since each shoe has a tapper on the toe and one on the heel.

When buying tap shoes, it's important to consider how they sound as well as how they look and fit.

Tap Shoe Styles and Prices

Tap shoes are made from leather, canvas or plastic. Men usually choose black-tie oxfords. Women's styles include two-tone spectators, oxfords, and Mary Janes in a variety of colors. Black patent leather is a popular choice.

Soles, which are made of leather or suede, can be either split, providing more flexibility, or full.

Heels are usually one or more inches high. Among the new innovations in tap shoe styling is the tap sneaker.

Capezio is one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of tap shoes. Other tap shoes brands include Bloch and Leo's. Expect to pay between $40 and $100 for a pair.

Types of Taps

Taps are affixed with screws. There are three main types of taps -- TeleTone, DuoTone and Supertone -- but TeleTone taps, which are attached with three screws, are the most popular.

You can attach taps to street shoes yourself, take them to a shoe shop to have the work done, or buy specialty shoes with taps already attached to the soles.

Dancers often loosen or tighten screws to adjust the sound.

Where to Buy

If you're new to tap dancing, it's best to buy your first pair of tap shoes in person.

Be sure to wear the same type of socks or stockings that you wear when you are dancing, and bring along any special inserts or insoles you use as well. Look for a comfortable and snug (but not too tight) fit.

If your routine includes "toe stands," ask for sturdy, reinforced toe boxes to support your feet.

When you've narrowed your search to a few pairs, don't just walk around in them; try a dance step or two as well.