For many dancers, the outfit really makes or breaks their performance, whether it be in class, at an audition, or a performance, and as any fashionista knows, no outfit is complete without the right shoe. Dancers across all styles, from musical theatre to burlesque, frequently dance in heels, and with a wide range of brands on the market, it can be difficult to make the expensive decision of buying dance shoes. Dancing in heels is not easy, and having supportive shoes can make all the difference, not only for your body but for your dancing too! After speaking to dancers and researching different brands and styles, here is a list of recommended heels for your various dance needs!
For all the dance styles encompassed by musical theatre, as well as the different stages of your career (not to mention the unique needs for each body) there are various character heels that are most popular amongst professional dancers.
Some things to look for across the board are a stable heel, for comfort and ankle safety, and a flexible sole. Musical theatre dance takes many steps from jazz and ballet, among other styles, that require the ability to be in relevé and to point the foot, which is facilitated by having mobility in the sole.
Among musical theatre dancers, LaDuca seems to have a monopoly over shoes worn. Many dancers consider it to be a rite-of-passage to purchase your first pair of LaDucas. The brand offers shoes in a variety of skin-tones as well, and while they are pricey, they are a great investment for your career and longevity.
- Alexis: Their most popular style for beginners, described by the website as “a stable shoe to guide [dancers] through their choreography.”
- Elizabeth: LaDuca recommends this shoe for dancers who may need more support due to strong, archy feet. Created initially for ballet dancer Elizabeth Parkinson, for her role in the Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel musical Movin’ Out, the shoe was designed with multiple straps crossing over the arch of the foot, keeping it in the shoe while pointed and keeping the foot secure when landing jumps and turns.
- Annie: In any class at Steps on Broadway or Broadway Dance Center, it is clear that this Can Can boot is a favorite for pros around New York City. Dancers like how it provides stability for the ankle and the way it accentuates the line of the leg. This style is unique to the brand, and hasn’t been recreated by any other dancewear designers.
SoDança offers a collection of character shoes with the flexible heel, named after iconic characters in Bob Fosse musicals: Roxy, Charity, Velma, and Lola. They all feature straps across the arch of the foot, with the Roxy and Lola adding an extra strap along the top of the midfoot. These shoes also come in various skin-tone shades.
Capezio offers one comparable shoe, the Charlotte, and while they appear to be similar to the SoDança shoes in terms of style, in many reviews of the product, it is noted that they are not as sturdy. Notably, they only come in black and beige, which isn’t great compared to the relative inclusivity other brands are pushing for.
Burlesque and commercial heel dance styles typically exude confidence and sensuality, so wearing the right shoe can make all the difference. Unlike musical theatre dance, there is not one brand, or one type of shoe, that has any sort of monopoly over commercial and burlesque dancers- just as these genres encompass such a wide range of styles, there are many different types of footwear each one requires. Depending on the demands of the choreography, the height and style changes, but when you’re dancing in heels, there needs to be a stylish and supportive shoe beneath you. While some choose to wear character heels, like the ones listed above, there are many other shoes commercial and burlesque dancers recommend.
Pleasers is a brand that is always referenced when people ask about the best shoes for burlesque- although much of their marketing and branding caters to pole dancers. Most of their shoes come with a thick platform and sturdy tapered heels. They offer dancers multiple styles, pumps, sandals, and boots. The shoes are lightweight but sturdy, and tall enough that they elongate the line of the leg. They are also vegan!
- Aspire: This shoe comes in tons of colors and different styles, including the 608, 609, and their boots 1020.
Also highly recommended, this brand makes heels for ballroom dancers as well, so you can trust that they know what they’re doing when it comes to a dance shoe. Their shoes come in both strapped and laced designs, so that dancers feel secure with whichever one they choose. They also come with different sole materials- street or suede, which gives you the option to wear them in your everyday life as well. The suede sole version, however, makes turns and other dance-specific movements easier!
- Sierra: A favorite, this open-toed mesh/leather bootie, offers extra support around the ankle, which is necessary for anyone taking their first heels class.
- Shabina: Another popular zip-up, stretch-lycra sock bootie.
- Sierralynn: A vegan leather, lace-up bootie.
- Jezabel: An open-toed, fishnet and leather lace-up bootie.
- Amalia: One of their most popular sandals which laces up around the ankle.
- Vaneno: Liked by Latin/Ballroom dancers.
- Tiyah: A vegan version of their other lace-up sandals.
Speaking of Ballroom and Latin dance, many dancers choose to take heels and burlesque dance classes, or to perform, wearing ballroom or Latin dance shoes. As mentioned above, Burju is a very well-regarded brand that sells these, along with many others, such as Salamanca, Supadance, Yami Dance Shoes, and of course, Capezio. Additionally, many dancers choose to wear thick-soled, heeled boots, such as these Dream Pairs.
Overall, you can find the best shoe for you by doing your research on not only the brands or styles, but on the choreography that you will be performing plus the needs of your body. Despite dance heels being at a slightly higher price point than other shoes, it’s a necessary investment in both your dancing, as well as your career longevity.