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- Ballet is excellent exercise for anyone at any age — not just kids and swan-like professionals.
- Ballet can help you improve your overall strength, posture, flexibility, balance, and cardio endurance while moving to melodious tunes music.
- Comfortable, flexible, and flattering to the foot, the So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16) shoe is perfect for class and performance.
Having studied ballet for a while, I've tried all types of ballet shoes. Choosing the right soft ballet shoe — not a hard pointe shoe — is important for your comfort and concentration in class. You want to be able to focus on technique and choreography without fussing over footwear.
Ballet shoes are de rigueur for learning and practicing technique in class. Even advanced students and professionals take classes and/or warm up in soft ballet shoes before changing into pointe shoes. There are a myriad of ballet shoe types, so consider these factors when choosing a pair that best suits your needs:
- Material — leather or canvas: Often required by teachers for kids but also worn by many adults, leather shoes provide resistance to strengthen the foot, ankle, and calf muscles. Although a little pricier than canvas, leather is more durable. Many older students (teens and up) prefer canvas because it's more flexible, sleeker, and less likely to bunch up when you point your foot. Although easier to clean, canvas shoes wear out more quickly if you dance seriously several times per week. Some professional dancers wear leather during class for conditioning and canvas for performance.
- Sole — full or split: Young children usually must wear shoes with full soles (one piece that extends from heel to toes), but some adults like full-soled shoes for resistance. Most teens and adults, however, prefer shoes with split soles because they allow you to point your foot more easily, resulting in a more flattering look.
- Top opening — drawstring or elastic: Although conveniently adjustable, a drawstring tie can accidentally be pulled all the way out of the casing. Also, you need to trim excess and tuck ends into the top of the shoe, which some people find uncomfortable. Elastic is smooth and requires no trimming, but isn't adjustable.
- Ankle elastics: These come pre-sewn and ready for class right away, or not. When they're not pre-sewn, you need to sew them on but at least you can adjust their placement and tightness. You can choose a single straight piece or two crisscrossing pieces.
- Color: Traditional pink may be the go-to color many girls, but many male and female dancers prefer black, white, or nude.
Also pay attention to each shoe's fit and feel. Well-fit ballet shoes hug your feet comfortably with your toes straight, not bent. They aren't supposed to be tight or too large with room to grow. Leather shoes stretch with use but shouldn't be uncomfortably tight when new. Canvas shoes don't stretch much with use.
Good fit is important for not only your comfort but also proper technique. You want to be able to point, extend, and flex your foot easily. Also, you want to avoid any gaping or excess bulkiness in order to feel the floor and allow your teacher to see your feet and toes during steps.
Ballet shoes are sized differently than regular street shoes, and manufacturers usually indicate the difference in sizing. Read the manufacturers' suggestions as well as other buyers' feedback on sizing to help you decide what size to order. The same shoe can be true to size for some yet too small or too large for others. The best way to know if a ballet shoe fits well is to try on a pair, take a few steps, and point your feet and toes. Just be sure to keep the shoes clean and not sew anything in case you want to exchange them.
For research, I polled many ballet friends (some recreational like me, others professional) about their favorite ballet shoes and checked ballet-specific publications and sites for additional reviews and feedback.
Here are the best ballet shoes you can buy in 2019:
- Best canvas ballet shoe: So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16)
- Best leather ballet shoe: Bloch Adult Prolite II Hybrid
- Best form-fitting ballet shoe: Capezio Hanami
- Best ballet shoe for men: Sansha Pro 1 Canvas
- Best ballet shoe for kids: Capezio Daisy 205
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best canvas ballet shoe
Why you'll love it: The So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16) is the go-to ballet shoe because it's lightweight, comfortable, and conforms to the foot for carefree movement.
The So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16) is popular and for very good reason. Made of soft stretchy canvas with an elastic top opening, this shoe provides a streamlined appearance. Dancers feel that this shoe creates a nice, clean line for the foot as also shows off the foot's arch well. There are no thick pleats on the bottom to catch on the floor or add extra bulk.
The So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16) is very comfortable. In addition to being lightweight, it conforms well to the shape of your feet — especially if you have narrow ones like mine. Nonetheless, a reviewer on Dance Supplies with wide feet finds this shoe "great for any balances" because she can sufficiently spread all five toes in the shoes.
The shoes' suede toe and heel pads are cushiony for jumps but still let you feel the floor. A reviewer on Discountdance.com describes the pads as "sturdy with quite a bit of springy 'squish' to keep your heels and metatarsals from aching on hard surfaces." Another plus is the pre-sewn crossed elastics, which are perfect for people who can't sew or just want to put on the shoe and jump right into class.
In my experience, the So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16) is pretty durable for a canvas shoe. Although one dancer friend I interviewed finds it prone to wear and tear, she still loves and has remained loyal to this shoe for years. Another friend who dances told me that he normally buys this brand unless he's in a place where it isn't sold. A mom of two teen-aged dancers I spoke with said that her sons prefer this shoe but advises ordering one size bigger than a men's street size.
The So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16) was chosen as one of Pointe Magazine's top six models and one of Dance Magazine's top 10 models. It was rated five out of five stars on both Discountdance.com and Dance Supplies. Around 75% of Amazon reviewers awarded it five out of five stars.
Pros: Comfortable, conforms to the foot, a good deal
Cons: Durability and sizing varies from person to person
Buy the So Danca Stretch Canvas Split Sole (SD16) on Amazon for $15.41 to $30.83 (price varies depending on size)
The best leather ballet shoe
Why you'll love them: Enjoy the resistance and durability of leather as well as the flexibility of canvas with the Bloch Adult Prolite II Hybrid shoes, which smartly combines these two materials in its construction.
Featuring a leather upper with a soft canvas insert in the middle, the Bloch Adult Prolite II Hybrid may be just what you are looking for if you want advantages of both leather and canvas in a single ballet shoe.
The canvas insert hugs your feet and shows off your arch when you point while minimizing wrinkling and gaping. The leather makes it more durable than a canvas shoe, yet is still lightweight, supple, and supportive. Several dancers note that this model is good for narrow feet.
One professional dancer friend likes that that leather makes her feet work harder but that the canvas arch helps "accentuate the shape of the foot." Another friend who dances recreationally has been eyeing the Bloch Adult Prolite II Hybrid when transitioning from canvas to leather ballet shoes.
The Bloch Adult Prolite II Hybrid has a split sole with suede foot pads that make a good surface for turning. It also has a cotton lining, a suede in-sock, and conveniently pre-sewn cross elastic straps for immediate use. Dancers also like the adjustable elastic drawstring for customizing the fit of the shoe's upper.
BestReviews picked this shoe as "Best of the Best" of ballet shoes for 2019. The Bloch Adult Prolite II Hybrid earned four-and-a-half out of five stars on Discountdance.com and four out of five stars on AllAboutDance. Around 82% of 56 Zappos reviewers awarded it five out of five stars and 64% of 134 Amazon customers.
Pros: Leather works foot and lasts longer while canvas insert flatters arch
Cons: A little pricey, durability and sizing vary from person to person
Buy the Bloch Adult "Prolite II Hybrid" Leather Split-Sole Ballet Shoes on Amazon for $19.43 to $33.90 (price varies depending on size)
Buy the Bloch Adult "Prolite II Hybrid" Leather Split-Sole Ballet Shoes on Zappos for $33.90
The best form-fitting ballet shoe
Why you'll love it: For a divinely comfortable fit that molds to your feet for fancy footwork, wear the Capezio Hanami shoe to your next ballet class.
Made of incredibly soft and flexible four-way stretch canvas, the Capezio Hanami gently hugs your foot. Hailed as a "slipper superhero" for ballet shoes by Pointe Magazine, it sports a sleek silhouette, yielding both aesthetic and functional benefits.
Flattering the foot without any bunching or gaping, the Capezio Hanami fits "like a glove" to many users, such as those on Discount Dance Supply where it earned four-and-a-half out of five stars. In my experience, this shoe feels like a second skin and lets you feel the floor. Its snug fit is perfect for people with narrow feet.
The only drawback to the shoe's lightweight, thin, and breathable canvas is that this shoe might wear out faster those constructed with heavier canvas. This model has a smooth interior lining that adds some reinforcement, but be sure to keep your toenails trimmed!
A stretchy diamond-shaped gusset under the arch in the middle connects the shoe's toe and heel pieces, enabling full pointing, and flexing. Flat front pleats under the toe don't add bulk or interfere with fluid movements, like pirouettes. The Capezio Hanami's flat suede split-sole patches support secure balancing and turning.
Capezio Hanami earned four out of five stars on All About Dance and five out of five stars on Dance Supplies. Personally, I love this shoe and enjoy it for all of the reasons listed above. My street shoe size is 7.5 narrow and my Capezio Hanamis are 8.5 narrow.
Don't be startled when you take them out of the box for the first time and wonder, "How am I going to get them onto my feet?" Just insert your toes into the front of the shoe under the conveniently pre-sewn elastics, pull back the shoe to smoothen and stretch the canvas around your metatarsals, and then pull up the back onto your heel.
Pros: Good looking, comfortable, fits like a smooth glove
Cons: Tradeoff for thin, comfortable canvas is less durability, runs small
Buy the Capezio Hanami on Amazon for $16.31 to $88.46 (price varies depending on size)
Buy the Capezio Hanami Girl's model on Jet for $22.95
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