What are Jazz Shoes?

Lou Paun

Dancers wear shoes designed to support their feet and enable them to perform the movements used in a particular style of dance. Although modern dance is often performed barefoot, tap dancers wear tap shoes with special plates that enhance the sound, ballet dancers wear pointe shoes so they can rise onto the point of their toes, and jazz dancers wear jazz shoes.

There are different dance sneakers available for different types of dance, such as jazz and hip-hop.
There are different dance sneakers available for different types of dance, such as jazz and hip-hop.

Many kinds of jazz shoes are available, and they can be made of leather or canvas. Leather shoes last longer, but canvas ones are usually cheaper. The soles are normally made of leather, although some styles have rubber pads on the toe and heel or a hardened toe for brief rises en pointe. Split soles are especially flexible. They have a small heel, unlike ballet slippers. Traditional jazz shoes are closed with laces that can be tightened for a snug fit, but slip-on types are available. Some have a flexible panel built into the side of the shoe, offering greater flexibility for the dancer.

There are many styles of jazz shoes: the jazz sandal, the jazz boot, the jazz sneaker, and so on. The color is usually black or tan. Costumed performances may call for a particular shoe style or have decoration added to the shoe.

As with all dance shoes, fit is important in these shoes. Make sure the shoes have good arch support and feel light and springy on the feet. Check to be sure it is possible to bend and flex the feet. Try making a few turns before purchasing new ones.

Beginning dancers should check with their teacher before purchasing jazz shoes, since many teachers prefer a specific type. Street shoes should not be worn on a dance floor, and dance shoes should not be worn on the street, since they might track in grit that would make the floor unsafe.

New jazz shoes are sometimes too slippery. Dancers solve the problem by dampening the soles before dancing. Most dancers use water, but a few prefer soda. Some dancers spray the soles of the shoes with hairspray, but although that gives them an immediately tacky surface, it makes the soles even more slippery later.

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Some models have reinforced toes, subject to increased wear.

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