Tap shoes are special kinds of shoes made to be worn by tap dancers. The shoes are normally made of leather or a similar material and have metal plates fitted to the areas of the sole beneath the ball of the foot and the heel. Each step, therefore, makes a tap against the floor, hence the name of the shoes.
While dancing, tap dancers make percussive noises that relate directly to their footwork and the speed of their movements. For this reason, tap dancers are often considered to be musicians as well as dancers. In keeping with this logic, tap shoes can be considered both musical instruments and footwear.
Tap shoes are often flat shoes that lace up on the top or have a strap that fits over the top of the foot. Shoes with laces can be worn by male or female dancers. Those with straps are usually designed for women only. Character shoes, which are high-heeled women’s shoes worn on stage, can also be fitted with tap plates. This is done when a female tap dancer needs to wear a particularly feminine costume while dancing.
In order for tap shoes to make their percussive noises, they must be worn while dancing on a hard surface such as wood or linoleum. Tap dancing on concrete is not ideal, as the texture of the surface can leave deep scratches on the metal plates of the shoes. Furthermore, the density of concrete can lead to foot and leg pain for the dancer. For these reasons, tap dancers who perform outside often bring a small, portable platform upon which to dance.
Standard issue tap shoes are normally made of black leather. For various costumes, however, the leather can be stained with color or painted with patterns. In some cases, they are even decorated with sequins, glitter, and metallic paint. The shoes may also be covered with fabric.
It is quite common for dance programs for young people to include a tap dancing component. In order to have a successful learning experience in a tap dancing class, proper footwear is required. Tap shoes for young children and teens can be purchased at most dancewear stores. Some dance schools and programs go a step further to assist their students by selling the necessary footwear on site or offering order forms that can be filled out on the spot.