How to practice safely in dance shoes at home

In lockdown, it can be difficult for dancers to find an appropriate space with suitable flooring to dance in – especially as many dancers don’t have special dance flooring in their home.

The way dance shoes react can change drastically from flooring to flooring. This can affect weight placement and ease of movement.

We’ve compiled a guide to talk you through the limitations – or even advantages – of different shoe styles on common home floorings, along with helpful tips. Remember that dance shoes should never be worn outside.

Dance shoes at home guide

The main concern for home practice is that dancers will not be using the special sprung flooring that they would in their usual dance classes. Why is this important? Sprung flooring has a natural spring and so it – rather than your bones and joints – absorbs the shock from jumps and high-impact steps. Dancing on hard flooring can therefore lead to problems such as stress fractures. Any solid flooring, or flooring with a solid base (such as concrete), are those that most commonly cause problems. If you are unsure, check with your teacher who will be able to advise you.

Also be careful of slippy or highly polished floors. Ask any professional dancer, and they’ll probably have a terrifying story for you about dancing on a slippy floor sometime! Dancing on these surfaces can be dangerous in any type of shoe, regardless of the standard of the dancer.

The shoes to be most careful with are tap shoes and pointe shoes. In pointe shoes, carpet will make the foot unstable, slippy floors can be dangerous, and hard floorings can put added pressure on bones. If you are unsure, talk to your dance teacher.

Injuries can potentially put even more of a burden on an already-strained health system – please exercise with caution.

Ballet shoes

Ballet shoes are quite easy to use in any environment.

Ballet shoes, such as canvas ballet shoes, are great for most dance floorings. They move quite easily over carpets and, when used on wooden/laminate floorings, they can mimic how they might feel in a dance studio – just be careful it isn’t slippy. Ballet shoes can glide fairly easily when performing steps such as Ronds de Jambe (even on a carpet) and they don’t pick up too much dirt, unlike satin ballet shoes.

The only drawbacks of dancing on a carpet can be that it is difficult to use correct floor pressure (for example, in a Battement Tendu) and the unexpected resistance against the foot can affect balance in, for example, a Grand Battement. However, this can be easily overcome by finding a large piece of thick, unvarnished plywood which will provide a steadier base to use as a flooring for barre work.

Don’t forget that ballet shoes don’t have to be boring! Dancing in beautiful shoes can really brighten a dull lockdown day. Take a look at the patterned Basilica Helen of Troy shoes or Grishko shoes.

Tap shoes

Tap shoes are probably one of the most difficult shoes to find a good floor to dance on. This problem can easily be solved, however:

Highest-rated flooring: wooden flooring

Wooden flooring can produce some beautiful sounds in tap shoes. But be careful that your prized wooden flooring doesn’t end up covered with scratch marks or have chunks of wood taken out of it! If this is of concern to you, a large piece of thick, unvarnished plywood can be a great alternative. Plus, you can tuck it away after you’ve finished your tap practice.

Lowest-rated flooring: carpeted flooring

Tapping on carpet is difficult because carpet (especially with a thicker pile) can make the foot unsteady. There will be barely any sound produced and there is also the risk of damaging the carpet. Care must also be taken with dancing on carpet tiles – while making a better sound than regular carpet, it can be slippy. Again, a large piece of thick, unvarnished plywood can easily be put on top of the carpet to make a good tap board.

When choosing floors to practise your tap dancing on, the primary concern should be about whether it is slippy. It’s surprising how even wooden flooring, when treated with certain types of varnish, can make you feel like you’re taking ice-skating lessons, not tap!

Ida wearing the Bloch Chloe & Maud tap shoes

With all floorings, be sure that the tap shoes will not cause any damage. Tap shoes with pre-attached tap plates are ideal in helping to eradicate one of the main causes of floor damage: poorly-fitted plates with uneven screws that protrude past the plate.

Remember to never dance outside in tap shoes. This will severely damage the tap shoe plates, which are made of a soft metal. It scratches the metal, making them sharp (which itself will damage any indoor flooring you dance on afterwards), and they can even catch stones in them. It also changes the sound of the shoe, creating a duller sound. Here are our range of tap shoes.

Jazz shoes

Jazz shoes are constructed in a similar way to ballet shoes, and because of this, they respond similarly to floorings.

Jazz shoes are excellent on most floorings and they don’t leave marks. Again, just be careful that the floor isn’t slippy.

The only flooring that can cause problems for dancers in jazz shoes is carpet. While the ball of the foot can move relatively freely (just like a ballet shoe), rubber heels don’t move easily across carpet. Care must be taken that the foot doesn’t get stuck in the carpet pile, risking a potential injury.

Amelia Townsend in Roch Valley Jazz shoes

Sneakers

Dance Sneakers are primarily used in jazz classes, fitness classes and commercial classes – even some dance teachers prefer them for teaching in!

Sneakers are great on most floorings, but they can sometimes be troublesome on carpet. The pile of the carpet applies resistance to the shoe, so any step involving a pivoting movement can be difficult to perform.

Foot thongs

Foot thongs can provide comfort and protection, just as they would in your dance studio. They can stop friction on the ball of your foot on wooden, laminate and vinyl floorings while still giving you grip from your toes and heel.

On carpet, foot thongs can be a good solution against carpet burn, something that could happen in bare feet. If performing any turning steps, however, this can feel quite different, and care must be taken that your toes aren’t turning at a different speed to the ball of your foot. This can be a problem even for dancers in the studio, so many prefer the half shoes – this is the kind of shoe used in ‘Dance Moms’. They feel just like a well-fitted ballet shoe at the toe and will keep your toes moving at the same speed as the ball of your foot, but you still have grip from your heel and the rest of the foot.

Dance Sox

Dance Sox look gorgeous for contemporary dance. They are practical, too. Dance Sox feature grip control lines to secure the sock to the dancer’s foot and also have padded heels.

If you are dancing on carpet, be aware that, as they are made of material, the Dance Sox could pick up any fibres from the carpet.

Jess wearing Bloch Sox

Dance Sox can be used to dance on any surface. But as with all dance shoes, be careful that the floor isn’t slippy.

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