Updated January 2022
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Buying guide for Best ballet shoes

When you’re trying to perfect your dance technique, having the right footwear can make all the difference. That’s especially true when it comes to ballet shoes, which offer protection and comfort while you’re practicing the perfect plié.

Ballet shoes are lightweight with a rounded toe and no heel, giving them a completely flat sole. The sole is flexible, too, which allows for full freedom of movement when you’re dancing. Because of their simple design, ballet shoes don’t offer any ankle support, so they aren’t suited for activities other than dancing.

Basic ballet shoes aren’t meant for dancing en pointe, or on the tips of your toes. For that type of advanced dancing, you need pointe shoes, which are usually more expensive than standard technique ballet shoes. Ballet shoes are available in sizes to fit extremely young dancers up through adult dancers.

Ballet shoes don’t come with a specific right or left shoe. They mold to your foot, so it doesn’t matter which foot you wear them on.

Key considerations


Ballet shoes are typically made of leather or canvas, although some are made of mesh.

Leather ballet shoes are a classic option and preferred by some dancers because of their durability. They provide better traction, too, and can easily be wiped clean. They’re especially good for beginners because they can help strengthen the foot as you develop your dancing technique. Some dancers also find leather to be a more comfortable option because it molds to the foot over time.

Canvas ballet shoes are an ideal option for dancers who prefer vegan footwear, as long as you choose a shoe that doesn’t have a suede or leather sole. Canvas is lightweight and breathable, too, and better able to absorb moisture while you’re dancing. The shoes can usually be cleaned in the washer and don’t take as long to break in. Some dancers also find that they can feel the floor better in canvas shoes than in leather.

Mesh ballet shoes are breathable, but most of these shoes aren’t as comfortable as leather or canvas shoes.

Full vs. split sole

The sole is one of the most critical parts of a ballet shoe. It helps cushion the foot and prevent injuries like plantar fasciitis. In most cases, the soles on ballet shoes are made of suede or faux suede. There are two types of soles to choose from: full or split.

Full-sole ballet shoes have a single piece of suede that spans the entire bottom of the shoe. These shoes are suitable for young children or beginners because they help provide greater stability and balance.

Split-sole shoes have a sole that’s in two parts, one at the ball of the foot and another at the heel. Most dancers prefer shoes with a split sole because it allows you to arch the foot and point the toes more easily.

Pointe shoes

Young kids and beginners should wear basic or standard ballet shoes that allow them to perfect their technique. But if you’re an older or more experienced dancer, you’ll likely need pointe shoes. The design of pointe shoes allows the dancer to dance on their toes. Instead of a round shape, the toe has a boxy shape to make it easier to support all the dancer’s weight on the toes.

Pointe shoes are usually made of satin, which has a lovely traditional look that many people associate with ballerinas. Satin wears out very quickly, though, so save the satin pointe shoes for recitals, shows, and competitions.

Did You Know?
Beginner ballet shoes usually have the elastic already sewn in. Many pairs intended for more experienced dancers require you to add the elastic yourself.


Fit and size

Ballet shoes should fit snugly, but they shouldn’t feel too tight. If you’re selecting your first pair, it can be helpful to visit a store that sells dance gear and have your feet professionally fitted.

When it comes to sizes, children’s ballet shoes typically correspond to standard shoe sizes. However, adult ballet shoe sizes are often two to three sizes smaller than street shoe sizes. Consult the sizing guide for any ballet shoes that you’re considering to be sure that they will fit properly.


Elastic: Ballet shoes usually have elastic to help keep them on your feet. Some shoes have a single strap that crosses the arch, which is usually sufficient for children. However, with a single elastic, there can be some gapping at the arch of the foot that can cause the shoe to slip off adult dancers’ feet. More experienced dancers prefer shoes that have double elastics that crisscross over the foot and more effectively secure the shoes to the feet.

Ribbon: Instead of elastic, most pointe shoes are secured to the feet with ribbons. Some shoes come with the ribbons already attached, while other pairs require you to sew the ribbons on yourself.


The standard colors for ballet shoes are pink, nude, black, and white. Traditionally, female dancers wear pink or nude shoes, while male dancers wear white or black. Some brands make ballet shoes in several nude shades, so you can find an option that matches no matter how light or dark your skin is. You can also find brands that make shoes in stand-out shades like red to match a leotard or costume for a show or recital.

If you want to customize canvas ballet shoes on a budget, try dyeing them by letting them soak  in strong tea for a few hours. You can’t control the exact color, though, so if you need a specific shade, have your shoes professionally dyed.


Ballet shoe prices

Ballet shoes vary in price based on the material, style, size, and other features. Most shoes cost between $6 and $100. Children’s sizes generally cost less than adult sizes.

Inexpensive: The most affordable ballet shoes are typically basic canvas. Some leather shoes also fall into this price range, though they usually have a full sole. These shoes cost between $6 and $20.

Mid-range: Most of these ballet shoes are basic canvas or leather, usually split-sole styles that feature double elastics. Some lower-end pointe shoes also fall in this price range. You’ll pay between $20 and $70 for these shows.

Expensive: The most expensive ballet shoes are satin pointe shoes. They often come with ribbons and may even include a bag for storage. You can expect to pay between $70 and $100 for these shoes.

Did You Know?
If you use pointe shoes, make sure to keep your toenails trimmed. Nails that are too long (or too short) can cause discomfort when you go up on your toes.


  • Wear ballet shoes only for dancing. Keep your child from wearing them for sports or other activities or on grass, concrete, and other rough surfaces.
  • Clean ballet shoes carefully. Most canvas ballet shoes are machine washable, but it’s important to wash them with lightweight clothing in a similar color. It’s also a good idea to put the shoes in a lingerie bag and use the delicate cycle. Don’t dry canvas ballet shoes in the dryer. The heat can cause the shoes to wear out more quickly. Don’t wash leather ballet shoes in the machine. Use a damp rag to gently wipe off any dirt.
  • Store your ballet shoes carefully. It’s best to store your ballet shoes in a mesh bag. A plastic bag can trap moisture that will break down your shoes more quickly.
  • Get two pairs. If you dance regularly, it’s a good idea to have two pairs of ballet shoes. The more you dance, the faster your shoes will wear out. Alternating two pairs can help both last longer.
For children, you may want to get ballet shoes that are just a bit big. Kids’ feet grow quickly, so with a larger size, you won’t have to replace the shoes as often.


Q. Do ballet shoes have to be broken in?

A. Basic technique ballet shoes typically don’t require much breaking in. Canvas and leather shoes usually break in relatively easily with repeated wearing. Wearing them around the house on hard flooring for a few hours before a class or practice should break them in effectively.

Pointe shoes are a different case and require more work to break in. You should begin by breaking in the toe box by using your hands to bend it a little each way to soften it. Stepping lightly on the toe box can also work. You also have to break in the shank, which is where the arch is. Moving the heel of the shoe gently back and forth can help loosen it up. Next, put the shoes on and walk around in them. You can even perform some exercises, like walking on demi-pointe or doing roll-throughs.

Q. How should a leather or canvas ballet shoe fit?

A. Basic technique shoes should fit snugly, almost like a sock. There shouldn’t be any extra material when you pinch the toe area, but they shouldn’t be so tight that they pinch your toes.

Q. How often should I replace ballet shoes?

A. It depends on the type of shoe and how often you dance. Canvas ballet shoes usually have to be replaced every couple of months if you dance regularly. Leather shoes can typically last twice that long with regular dancing. Pointe shoes have a much shorter lifespan: some pairs last for up to 12 hours of dancing, but others can only make it for a few hours.

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