What are Split Sole Shoes?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Split sole shoes are articles of footwear that are designed with their soles in two sections, rather than as solid pieces that entirely cover the bottoms of the shoes. Typically, a split sole shoe includes a heel pad and a toe pad, often made from a rough material to provide traction. The center of the shoe is left without a sole, with only the soft material of the bottom of the shoe protecting the foot. This style of shoe has both advantages and disadvantages as well as many potential uses, such as being worn for certain types of dancing.

Split sole shoes are commonly worn by ballet dancers.
Split sole shoes are commonly worn by ballet dancers.

Pros and Cons

One of the biggest advantages of a split sole shoe is that it creates more flexibility in the foot, making it easier to point the foot and to get traction on difficult surfaces. Split sole shoes typically also allow the wearer to feel more connected with the ground, which some people find useful. They tend to provide less arch support than other types of shoes, however. This type of shoe also is not always ideal for prolonged outdoor wear because the soft section in the middle of the shoe is vulnerable to rocks and other hard objects that could hurt the foot.


Most commonly, split sole shoes are sold in dance boutiques. Ballet, clogging and jazz dance, among types of dancing, all permit the use of split sole shoes. In some cases, these shoes are actively recommended. The flexibility of split sole shoes is the primary advantage for dancers, especially in ballet, where the feet are frequently pointed as part of a pose or routine.

Some people who work outdoors also wear split sole shoes, such as rock climbers and hunters, because they want to feel more of a connection with the terrain that they traverse. Split sole shoes also can assist with traction on challenging terrain such as rocks and sand by allowing the wearer to curve his or her foot for greater grip. These shoes also tend to be quieter, which can be useful for hunters who do not want to disturb their prey.

A Proper Fit is Important

Getting split sole shoes that fit properly is important. Shoes that are too loose might not be as flexible or as useful, and extremely tight shoes will be uncomfortable. When trying on such shoes, it is a good idea for the person to walk in them and to move their feet around, curving them and pointing them to see how the shoes respond. If the sides of the shoes buckle or the shoes shift in an uncomfortable way, they will not be a good choice.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I really like the split sole look because they often come in a variety of sizes as well. I usually end up buying wide width shoes for women, but with split soles, they're soft enough to where I can pretty much fit into any of them.

And they actually look nice and elegant, unlike so many unfortunately clunky wide women's shoes. If you are a woman who needs wide width or split size shoes, then trying split sole shoes might be a good option.

They look classy, but they're pretty forgiving in terms of fit too.


What are some good tips for choosing girls split sole jazz shoes?

My daughter is starting a jazz class pretty soon, and although she's got the basic split sole shoes, they want her to have some split sole shoes specifically designed for jazz.

I really don't know what the big difference is -- they're all just dance shoes to me -- but her teacher is very picky about things like this, so I need to know where and how to buy them.

Are there any good tips for buying split sole jazz shoes; for instance, is there a particular style or brand that is better than another, or am I just stuck with buying whatever fits?

Can anybody help me out?


I really love the way that split sole shoes look -- though most of them are designed for ballerinas, they also made a little comeback in fashion when the ballet flat also became popular.

Besides the way they look, wearing split sole shoes for me is the closest I can get to wearing my barefoot shoes at work, which is a definite plus for me.

They just have such a more natural feel, and with such elegant and classic looks like that, why would you go with anything else?

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