This would depend on the age and level of the dancer. For tiny tot dancers, don’t waste your money on the most expensive pair of dance shoes that are available for dance classes. I always tell my dance parents to buy the most budget friendly pair as the dance steps that tiny tots will be doing in their dance classes do not require a higher quality shoe. Besides, a tiny tot dancer is going to outgrow the dance shoes before the quality is even a problem.
Most tap shoes run similar in size to street shoes, and like street shoes, a tap shoe for a tiny tot dancer should have a pinch above the big toe for comfort, but not too much so that the shoe falls off the heel when dancing. (A good trick to see if the dance shoe is too big is to have the dancer go up on the balls of their feet. If the heels pop out of the shoes, you should consider going down a size.) Typically, tap shoes for tiny tots are black, shiny and tie with a ribbon. Tap shoes can come in enticing fun colors, but check the dress code for your dance studio. I recommend getting black because come recital time, the dancer will already have the necessary shoe.
Ballet class shoes for tiny tot dancers are typically pink leather that tie on top of the foot. Again, I would recommend going with the traditional pink ballet shoe for the recital as most dance studios are going to use pink ballet shoes. Ballet class shoes should have an elastic strap across the ankle to keep the shoe from falling off the heel and be snug on the foot, but ensuring the toes are not pinched. The one shoe that should be avoided is more of a slipper. It has a cushion or padded sole and is usually silky material. Although these may be cute for around the house, they can be a safety concern in dance classes. Dancers can trip with the padded sole. Dancers are also not learning to feel the floor while dancing in dance class. (See picture of a cushioned ‘ballet slipper’ that should be avoided.) Both tiny tot tap and ballet shoes, can be purchased online for the best prices at www.discountdance.com and www.dancedistributors.com.
For older students, there are multiple ballet and tap brands. It is probably a good idea to buy your first pair in a retail dance store where you can try on various brands and styles. After that, you can definitely order them online to save some money. For the dancer buying her first pair of pointe shoes, it is very important to go into a well known dance store that has professional and knowledgable staff for the fitting. Many dance teachers will go with their students for this fitting in preparation for their first pointe class. Every dancer’s foot is significantly different in size, shape, and arch and therefore it is imperative to get the pointe shoe that fits the dancer’s foot.
For hip hop dance classes, dancers simply need to wear a tennis shoe that ties so it doesn’t fall off while dancing. It is also a good idea to have a shoe with less traction so that slides and turns are possible. This becomes more important with older dancers as they start doing more advanced moves and helps prevent knee injuries. High top shoes are great for added support too!