What tap shoes should I buy?

If you're just starting to learn this art form or you're returning to it after a long time away, I can understand why you'd want advice on what shoe to buy. First of all, it's an investment. Second of all, of course, you want to get the most bang for your buck: best sound, most comfort, cutest appearance. (We have to sound good and look good!)

Tap shoes are an instrument. Just like any other instrument, you have to figure out a way to play them. While every shoe has a different sound, and some definitely have higher-quality leathers and construction that allow for a richer sound, you have to make the music. No pair of shoes out there will make you sound like anyone but yourself. 

Let's think about that. How DO we make sounds in tap shoes? The short answer is, we pick up our feet and touch the floor. (The old adage, "if you can walk, you can tap dance," is true at its core). The toe tap has a different sound than the heel tap. Some people refer to the toe tap as the snare and the heel tap as the bass. 

So, how do you touch the floor? Have you just begun exploring your own technique and understanding of music? Are you able to practice at a variety of speeds? Are you able to make your sounds softer or louder? 

How are you practicing? Do you practice consistently, or do you use weekly class as your practice time? Are you practicing how to improvise? Are you aiming to practice in heels?

How do you want to sound? The goal of playing music/tap dancing is that you sound like yourself. What kinds of music do you gravitate towards? Do you like sounding "heavier" or "lighter"? Do you want to dance and practice in a shoe with some weight to it? Do you know how to "play" a shoe that has a heavy build-up?

Don't feel like you are limited to what you see in dance shops or dance-wear websites. You CAN buy a nice leather shoe and put taps on them. Cobblers can always add an extra sole to your favorite pair of dress shoes. 

In most cases, a better-made shoe will produce a higher-quality sound. (Again, what kind of sound do you want?) But, depending on where you are in your training, most expensive doesn't always mean it's the best for you. The custom shoes are not going to make you sound like Savion Glover or make you magically do a 5-count wing. If you don't have the stamina or muscle training, a shoe with a triple build might slow you down. 

While I know everyone wants to get a good deal, you get what you pay for. The patent leather shoes with the ribbon ties might be the cheapest, but....yeah. You already know. If you wear split soled tap shoes, you are putting your joints and ligaments at risk. Just say no to split soles! And please don't buy any shoe with a metal heel. Please.