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What Are Tap Shoes?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 23, 2024
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Tap shoes are special kinds of shoes made to be worn by tap dancers. The shoes are normally made of leather or a similar material and have metal plates fitted to the areas of the sole beneath the ball of the foot and the heel. Each step, therefore, makes a tap against the floor, hence the name of the shoes.

While dancing, tap dancers make percussive noises that relate directly to their footwork and the speed of their movements. For this reason, tap dancers are often considered to be musicians as well as dancers. In keeping with this logic, tap shoes can be considered both musical instruments and footwear.

Tap shoes are often flat shoes that lace up on the top or have a strap that fits over the top of the foot. Shoes with laces can be worn by male or female dancers. Those with straps are usually designed for women only. Character shoes, which are high-heeled women’s shoes worn on stage, can also be fitted with tap plates. This is done when a female tap dancer needs to wear a particularly feminine costume while dancing.

In order for tap shoes to make their percussive noises, they must be worn while dancing on a hard surface such as wood or linoleum. Tap dancing on concrete is not ideal, as the texture of the surface can leave deep scratches on the metal plates of the shoes. Furthermore, the density of concrete can lead to foot and leg pain for the dancer. For these reasons, tap dancers who perform outside often bring a small, portable platform upon which to dance.

Standard issue tap shoes are normally made of black leather. For various costumes, however, the leather can be stained with color or painted with patterns. In some cases, they are even decorated with sequins, glitter, and metallic paint. The shoes may also be covered with fabric.

It is quite common for dance programs for young people to include a tap dancing component. In order to have a successful learning experience in a tap dancing class, proper footwear is required. Tap shoes for young children and teens can be purchased at most dancewear stores. Some dance schools and programs go a step further to assist their students by selling the necessary footwear on site or offering order forms that can be filled out on the spot.

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Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel , Former Writer
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"

Discussion Comments

By myharley — On May 12, 2012

I have never learned how to tap dance, but enjoy watching those who are very good at it. It looks like it would be more multi-tasking than I could handle. It also looks like it would be a very good workout.

I have never thought of tap shoes as also being musical instruments before. That is an interesting concept and really makes a lot of sense.

I am really amazed at the women who can wear the high-heeled character tap shoes. It looks like it would be hard enough to move around in regular tap shoes, but to add high heels would really make it challenging.

By Mykol — On May 11, 2012
When my daughter took dance lessons, tap was one of her favorites. She was growing so fast that it was hard to keep her dressed in the appropriate attire.

I don't think there is much of a difference in the price of girls' tap shoes and those for adults. I found an online site that sold discount tap shoes.

This was a lifesaver for me since I could find high quality tap shoes for much less than a brand new pair would have been.

By golf07 — On May 10, 2012

@andee - You bring up a good point about using your tap shoes again. Many times these end up sitting in the back of a closet and never get used again.

Some tap shoes can be kind of expensive. If you are looking for some cheap tap shoes, you can often find them in the classifieds.

Many people want to get rid of their clutter and realize they will never use them again. Most of the time, these shoes have hardly been used.

That is how I found a pair of tap shoes. I didn't want to spend the money on a new pair because I had no idea if I would use them again after one class.

By andee — On May 10, 2012

Tap dancing is something I was always interested in, so I signed up for a local class a few months ago.

When I went searching for some tap shoes, I was surprised at the choices in styles. I wanted something that looked a little bit feminine and flattering.

I ended up buying some Capezio tap shoes that had a strap across the ankle. I know the style doesn't make much difference in how they work, but I loved putting on these shoes.

I was a little bit nervous when I went to my first class because I never had any type of tap dance instruction before.

Come to find out, I had nothing to worry about, as all the women in the class were my age or older and were as nervous as I was.

Now I just I need to sign up for another class so my tap shoes get used again.

Diane Goettel

Diane Goettel

Former Writer

"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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