Recently, I conducted a poll through an application on Facebook called Poll Daddy Polls. My goal was to find out what kind of ballet shoes dancers prefer, leather or canvas. With 79% percent of the votes, canvas is by far the leading choice. Leather, on the other hand, came in at a 21%.
Although leather shoes are not the popular choice, further study shows that teachers prefer beginning students to wear leather ballet shoes. Kathy Mata, Artistic Director of Kathy Mata Ballet and instructor at Alonzo King LINES Dance Center, is a trained RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) instructor. She stated that, “… we always ask the beginner to wear leather.” In addition, Mata also believes a full sole is better for beginners, “Split sole lets you get away with a lot,” she added. Liezl Austria, also an Alonzo King LINES Dance Center instructor, teaches a Vaganova inspired class. She said, “Preferably for beginner students, adults or children, I would put them in leather shoes.” Austria also commented that leather shoes challenge students to work their feet to building strength. Furthermore, Sarah Wellman, a shoe fitting specialist at San Francisco Dancewear and professional dancer, extended that canvas shoes are high sellers with adults and leather for children. “This is mostly because pretty much all canvas shoes are split-sole and therefore have to fit much tighter than a full sole slipper,” she shared.
As my research continued, I came across lists of pros and cons for both types of shoes. A funny thing happened when I started checking out these ideas. Right and left, opinions were clashing. I debunked the first idea that one is more expensive than the other. The truth is that leather and canvas shoes are about the same price, according to discountdance.com, only differing by a few cents. Of course there’s always a few outlier, but those shoes tended to have more bells and whistles. Secondly, there was this idea that warmer weather was better for canvas and colder for leather. Theoretically this makes since, but when it boils down to it, people just get what they like. Thirdly, I was told that leather shoes are better for wood floor and canvas for marley. Again this statistic doesn’t hold up, it’s really based on preference. Personally, I’ve used both types on both floors and never noticed a difference.
So what are the fact? Leather shoes are best for foot strengthening and beginners. Canvas shoes are best for and advanced dancers. Most dancer that I polled preferred Sansha’s canvas ballet slipper. However, just because most people like it doesn’t mean it will fit your foot the same way. I suggest going to a dance store and trying different brands, find what’s best for you. There’s a variety of “U” or “V” shaped shoes, split or full soled, criss-crossed or straight elastics, and some with mesh, neoprene, or a nylon/lycra mix in conjunction with the material of the shoe. Below are a variety of ballet a shoes brands and styles that are available in your local dance wear store or online. Which do you prefer?
All shoe photos posted in this blog are from www.discountdance.com