Today is a tap shoe review. I’ll be sharing with you my personal experience with and opinion on the many different types of professional, flat tap shoes that are out there. If you haven’t yet, check out Episode 022 where I discuss what shoes you should recommend for your students, and Episodes 023 and Episode 024 where I am joined by special guest Matt from Dancing Fair in Minnesota, the go-to guy for all things tap shoes. Don’t miss next week’s episode when I discuss high heel tap shoes.
It’s important to note that tap shoes are an instrument for a tap dancer and everyone has their preference. I’m about a size 7.5 U.S. women’s or 38 european, I have a pretty high arch and my foot is regular width.
The Fit: K360’s don’t sit right on the back of my heel which is bothersome for me. Because of that, I had to put a heel liner in the shoe to push my foot forward and make it more comfortable. In terms of weight, it’s a very light shoe, even with the build-up, so that can be nice if you’re looking for that
The Sound: I really dig the sound of a K360. It’s pretty crisp.
Customization: There are lots of color options available and you can get a regular ankle cut or a boot (popularized by Savion Glover in Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk). Personalization comes at a hefty price tag though with many options available, including custom colors, designs, build-ups, etc.
The Price: When all is said and done, you could be looking at a $500+ shoe, which is fine because investing in an instrument is important. However, I feel that a shoe should last a long time and K360’s these days aren’t standing the test of time. I have friends and students who need a new pair every six to twelve months.
Other Thoughts: My biggest complaint about K360s is that the quality really dropped. I have an old pair from when I was a teenager, built up by Pete (a shoemaker who used to work from the Capezio Store in Times Square, NYC), and they’re good quality. My understanding is that there was a factory change, and since then, I feel like the quality of the shoe isn’t great. Many people have had their stitching come undone, or the leather detach from the sole of the shoe, amongst other issues.
I have friends who have K360’s built 20 years ago that are in better shape than ones they bought 5 years ago. I also have friends who are head over heels in love with K360’s.
Customer Service: Capezio’s customer service is spotty – they hire dancers to work in their stores and that means there’s a high employee turnover. Often, the sales-person you placed your order with, isn’t working there anymore and if something gets messed up along the way, which I’ve seen happen to my students, you’re stuck waiting another six months or longer for another pair of shoes while they figure out what went wrong.
For many years, this was my go-to shoe. I wasn’t in love with Miller&Ben tap shoes, but at the time, I felt like it was the best option for me. Of their flat tap shoes, I’ve worn their Jazz Tap Master, Triple Threats and SporTaps.
The Fit: The Jazz Tap Master and Triple Threats are a pretty traditional, snug fit oxford. The SporTap is a bit more comfortable, with more of a relaxed type of fit. You have to be careful with any type of Miller and Ben to line the heel with a heel liner or moleskin – when you first get the shoe, the leather on the back of the heel feels soft, but it’ll tear your heel up like sandpaper. In terms of weight, the Triple Threat is the heaviest of the options because of the additional build up. In comparison to other shoes, Miller&Bens can be considered on the heavier side, but the weight their shoes is evenly distributed along the foot.
The Sound: Some people find their sound to be clunky. I love a good bassy, heavy sound, so I dig it.
Customization: Lots of color options – probably the most of any tap shoe vendor that I’ve come across. And not just colors, but they have some cool exotic prints too.
The Price: With taps installed and custom leather, you’re looking at a little over $300. That’s not a bad price point.
Other Thoughts: We can’t talk Miller and Bens without talking break-in period. These shoes are notoriously, extremely difficult to break in. Specifically, any shoe with black leather has a super long break-in period, but any shoe of theirs has a steel shank in the sole of the shoe and that also adds to the break in period. The break-in time is so rough for some dancers, that I’ve actually had a number of students who were my shoe size, who asked me to break the shoes in for them. I kid you not, I’d teach them a private lesson, wearing their brand new shoes, to help them out. Honestly, the break in didn’t really bother me all that much – I could break a pair of Miller and Bens in in about 2 weeks, but I’ve seen dancers who still can’t stand on the balls of their feet after 2 years of trying to break their shoes in. However! These shoes last forever. I still have my first pair that I got about 15 years ago, and they’re still in good shape.
Customer Service: On the bright side, the customer service that Avi and Ofer offer is really solid. If you have questions or problems with a shoe, they’ll help you out.
Ruben Sanchez Dance Wear:
Ruben Sanchez has a line of tap shoes. They’re pretty popular in Europe and while I was teaching in Taiwan a few years back, I had the opportunity to try them on and feel them out.
The Fit: I didn’t love the cut near my ankle bone. It cut a bit too high on me so it was really irritating for me to wear, but again, everybody’s foot is different, so there are plenty of dancers who’ll feel comfortable in the shoe.
The Sound: It sounded a little bit lighter and gentler than I was hoping.
Customization: I do love the design, I think the wing tip on the toe is beautiful. It looks great on stage from afar, really pretty. I just saw online the other day, that they have a vegan leather. I’m really excited about that and appreciate Ruben putting the effort, energy and thought into having that option available. If you check out their website, they have what they’re calling their online configurator, where you can design your shoes easily online. You can customize the leather options, the sole of the shoe, the color of your laces and the shoelace eyelets. It’s pretty cool – I’m impressed by how quick and easy the configurator is to navigate. They also do embroidery or vinyl prints onto the shoe in case you want to put your name, something inspirational, or maybe your logo on your shoes.
The Price: With taps installed and some custom options, you’re looking at anywhere from 380 euros for a basic pair up to 500 euros for a pair with all the bells and whistles.
Other Thoughts: I think this is a great option for European tap dancers who often struggle with getting shoes shipped overseas. If you choose to order online, you need to be very careful. I have friends who have ordered these shoes online, and messed up the sizing and like most companies, they’re not going to refund you or allow you to return a pair of shoes that you didn’t properly size. And let’s be real, that’s all tap shoes around the world. You really need to try tap shoes on in person before ordering a pair, especially before ordering a customized pair.
Jason gave me a pair of these shoes years ago and this is one of the two shoes that I recommend to my students.
The Fit: They’re pretty comfortable, one of the more comfortable tap shoe options out there.
The Sound: The sound is heavy. You can always tell when someone’s wearing a pair of JSams, you can really hear it in the weight of the toe. Speaking of the weight of the toe, the reason I don’t wear the shoe anymore is because they’re front heavy, heavier in the toe, and that pulled at my knee in a weird way. I found that whenever I wore this shoe, my knee would click, so that’s why I stopped wearing them.
Customization: You can’t really customize a pair of JSams, but the colors that they do have are nice, including a yellow gold, rose gold, platinum, black patent leather, white patent leather and basic black or white leather. I know Jason’s working hard on trying to get some customizable options out there for the tap community, so we’ll see, hopefully it becomes an option soon.
The Price: Super affordable, and for that reason, this is a shoe that I recommend to my students who are looking for a professional tap shoe but maybe they’re not done growing yet. You can get them for under $200.
Other Thoughts: The shoe comes out of the box, ready to wear. No additional cost for tap installation and things like that. You buy it, and it’s ready to go. I really dig that.
I’ll be honest with you guys… I never know how to pronounce the name! Help me out...
The Fit: They feel good. I feel like the shoe breathes.
The Sound: The sound has always felt a little bit light to me, but some people really dig that. I prefer something heartier and heavier.
Customization: I love the heart that they have on the shoe – it really sticks out. I’ve seen so many designs of this shoe – including plaid – denim – suede – you name it. So the options are definitely available.
The Price: If you’re looking at a plain black pair of shoes with a red heart, it’s a little over $200. I’m not sure what they charge for custom leathers though as this information isn’t readily available on their website.
Other Thoughts: The one thing that kept me away from these shoes is the way the toe sits. No tap shoe sits entirely flush to the floor, but this one, the toe really rounds up and away from the floor and I personally didn’t like the feel of that. But I’ve got a lot of friends who dig this shoe.
And of course, my favorite...
The Fit: Compared to all the tap shoes I’ve ever tried on, it feels like a slipper. The sole of the shoe is strong – but the insole is soft – you get both comfort and support at the same time, which isn’t typical in a tap shoe. They’re very light – which took me a while to get used to coming from Miller & Bens. The attention to detail is so evident – there’s a small line of padding around the upper rim of the cut of the shoe near your ankle that gives added comfort.
The Sound: clean, clear, crispy, it’s lighter in the heels than other options.
Customization: Matt has so many options, if you tell him what you’re looking for, he’ll send you a piece of different leather swatches for you to choose from which is really nice because then you’re not looking at a computer monitor for colors, which isn’t reliable. Not only will they send you a swatch, but they’ll take a deposit from you and send you a pair of shoes to try on to make sure they fit properly. I feel like this should be standard practice for all tap shoe vendors, because you really don’t know until you put them on your feet and you shouldn’t invest a large sum of money into a new pair of shoes unless you know for a fact that they fit your feet.
Customer Service: They’re top notch. The best. They’re a small business that’s passionate about what they do, and it doesn’t get any better than that.
The Price: Black $170 + taps installation. Customer shoe is $250 + taps installed. Boots are $300 + taps installed (and he does a full boot, which I like to wear, or a lower cut ankle boot)
Side note: I get no kickback from promoting this shoe. There’s no affiliate marketing or commission coming my way. I simply believe in the product.
What’s your favorite shoe? I want to hear from you! What’s your favorite shoe? Have you tried the shoes on this list? Do you wear on that’s not listed above? Comment below or in the iTapOnline Community Facebook Group and share. I always write back!