Choosing Ballet Slippers
So you’ve heard the terms full sole and split sole when it comes to ballet slippers. You know they come in leather and canvas. But how do you know which type is most appropriate for your ballet slippers?
First, a fun fact: Marie Ann Cupis de Camargo of the Royal Ballet is credited with helping to create the first ballet slipper. In the 1700s, she began dancing in slippers instead of shoes with heels in order to jump and leap more gracefully. Ballet shoes have come a long way since then and now dancers have many varieties from which to choose.
Full Sole or Split Sole
As the name suggests, a full-sole shoe has a “full” sole that runs the length of a dancer’s foot from the heel to the toe. A split-sole shoe has two smaller, rounded soles, one at the forefoot and one at the heel of the shoe. There is no sole at the arch of the foot in a split-sole shoe which allows for a snug fit and a flattering line when the foot is in a pointed position.
Many beginners wear full-sole slippers. The full sole adds more resistance to beginning ballet movements and helps to build strong technique as students are learning to work through their feet
Intermediate and advanced dancers often wear split-sole slippers because these shoes offer more flexibility and cleaner lines that show off the arch of the foot. Split-sole shoes also allow dancers to better feel the floor.
Leather or Canvas
While the upper section of full-sole ballet slippers are most often made from leather, split-sole slippers can be found in both leather and canvas. Making the choice between leather and canvas revolves around personal preference for the shoe’s look, feel, fit, and last.
Leather ballet slippers stretch and mold to the foot over time. They become softer the longer they are worn and take a little bit of time to be truly broken in. Properly fitting leather ballet slippers hug the foot nicely and, depending on the amount of use, will last a good amount of time between replacements.
Canvas ballet slippers are soft, lightweight, and flexible from the first wear. Canvas hugs the foot and combined with the split-sole design, creates flattering lines. Some dancers who choose canvas do so because they prefer the light, breathable feel of the canvas. Canvas shoes can wear more quickly than leather, but they are often lower in cost.
No matter what style of ballet slippers you choose, a proper fit is very important. Ballet slippers should have a snug fit when worn with tights, bare feet, or very lightweight socks. Do not allow for extra growing room. Shoes that are too large will not allow for proper performance of ballet movements, even for younger dancers. Shoes that are too small will cause the toes to curl and put added stress on the Achilles tendon. Be sure to try on shoes and perform a few basic movements such as a plie, releve, and tendu to make sure the fit is just right.