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So, you’ve decided to take ballet classes, great! Maybe you’re a complete beginner, or perhaps you took class as a child and want to get back into it, either way you couldn’t have chosen a better activity! Ballet is great physical exercise, but it also teaches discipline, focus, and good posture (perfect for all of us crumpled over a desk all day).
Note on vocabulary: Adult ballet shoes can have a few different names (ballet shoes, ballet slippers, and ballet flats), we will be using all three interchangeably throughout this article, so don’t be confused! They’re all the same thing.
The slippers are by far the most important piece of dance attire, as ballet requires feet to do most of the work! Ask any dancer and they’ll assure you the shoes are what they give most consideration to when purchasing dance wear.
Thus, you’ll want the best ballet shoes for your feet.
Lucky for you, in this guide we’ve broken down what to look for in a pair of ballet flats, different types and features and for those of you with little spare time, the top ballet shoes in the UK right now!
We love these canvas shoes by Bloch!
What to look for in adult ballet shoes
As with most shoes, especially ones used in athletics, fit is going to be the most important aspect. It can be easy to get caught up in the “look” of a pair of slippers, but don’t get sidetracked, make sure the shoes feel right on your feet.
Adult ballet shoes aren’t worn with socks, but tights, so it’s always a good idea to wear a pair of tights when slipper shopping. If you don’t have tights handy or forget, no worries barefoot is okay as well, just no socks! Dance stores will often have some in the shoe department that you can borrow, so just ask!
Ballet is all about details and fancy footwork, so you don’t want the slippers too tight and restrictive. If your toes are curling under that means the shoe is too tight. If there’s a lot of extra material that’s a sign of too loose of fit.
Best practise is for it to fit like a sock, no looseness and no pinching. It’s best to point and flex your feet, perhaps jump a bit when trying on a pair. If anything pinches or hurts that’s a red flag, and if the slipper sags or starts to fall off, that will also be a no.
Size is also important and can differ from your regular shoe size.
Some ballet shoes may follow regular shoe sizes and you’ll be able to order exactly what you would for “street shoes”. Some may follow a slightly adjusted size chart, and some may just recommend ordering up or down a size or half size. Make sure to check the fit guide for each product and read reviews to get an idea if a particular shoe runs smaller or larger.
Leather ballet shoes and canvas ballet shoes (more on that in a minute) will also fit and follow slightly different sizing norms.
Also note that ballet shoes will come in a variety of width options; narrow, normal, medium and wide. Most shoes only have one choice (which helps a lot – if you require narrow shoes, don’t buy ones that only come in the medium width), however some may come in multiple width options. Check your order carefully to avoid poor fit!
*Please note ballet slippers, especially canvas (more on that in a sec) tend to stretch out, so when in doubt, a bit snug is better than a bit loose.
Leather vs. Canvas Ballet Shoes
The age old debate, and honestly neither is “better” than the other, it just depends on your feet and preference.
As mentioned above, canvas slippers tend to be more flexible than leather ballet shoes, and thus, if you’re not sure of a shoes’ fit, or have wide feet, may be a good option.
Leather on the other hand, is much more durable and can be a better choice if you have particularly strong feet that wear out slippers faster than normal (it may take a few weeks or months of classes to figure this out).
However, leather can feel a bit restrictive to fully-grown feet (unlike in children’s feet where it can provide extra support and durability), so keep that in mind when shopping!
Historically, satin has been reserved for pointe shoes (which you shouldn’t be shopping for unless you’re an experienced dancer with the requisite foot strength, if you’re newer to ballet wait for the green light from an instructor). However, in recent years some manufacturers have been making soft ballet shoes out of satin.
This isn’t very common, although if you’re not too thrilled with either leather or canvas, it may be worth to try satin ballet shoes.
In the end it’s up to you to determine what feels best, and it may take a few tries in the store or in class to figure out the best fit.
*Please note this section refers to the outer material of the shoe, the sole (more on that in a sec) will more often than not always be leather.
Split Sole vs. Full Sole
Another ancient debate in the ballet world is between full sole ballet shoes (usually a single strip of leather on the bottom of the slipper) or split sole ballet shoes (a leather piece on the heel and a separate piece on the toe).
Split sole tends to be the norm in adult ballet shoes while full sole tends to be more common in kids ballet shoes. However, both are options when shopping for your next pair.
The argument for full sole is that it provides more support for lesser developed muscles (i.e.; children). However, if you’re a complete beginner to ballet, full sole shoes may be a good choice. The full sole helps with resistance and stability that will build strong ballet muscles for later, important if you have dreams to eventually go en pointe. However, in the end it’s up to you to choose what feels best, experienced or beginner ballet shoe-wise.
Single or Double Band
So far we’ve discussed the sizing and fit of ballet shoes, the outer material options, and the choice of sole. Another important component to adult ballet shoes is the elastic band (or bands) that stretch from one side of the shoe to the other, across the width of the foot.
Typically there are two main options; single band or double crossband.
The single band is one elastic that stretches across the width of the foot. The double cross band are two elastics that stretch diagonally, crossing over each other to form and X over the foot.
Double cross band tends to be more common on “sew-it-yourself” ballet flats (more on that in a sec) while the single band is more common on pre-sewn shoes.
Like the leather versus canvas (or satin) debate, you’ll need to figure out (often by trial-and-error) what feels best.
Pre-Sewn or “Sew-it-yourself” and What About a Drawstring?
It’s less common in adult ballet shoes for elastics to come pre-sewn (unlike children’s ballet shoes where it’s very common), however make sure to read the product description carefully so you know what to expect!
If you’re not much of a seamstress it may be worth it to seek out pre-sewn slippers. As you develop in your ballet career you may change your mind and prefer to have the elastics sewn to your preference, as the one downside to pre-sewn is you can’t choose where the elastic is placed. This is great practise if you ever want to build up to pointe shoes – which never come pre-sewn!
Another feature that differs between ballet shoes – the drawstring. Most adult ballet slippers have a string that circles the entire shoe that you can tighten or loosen and tie at the top for a better fit. However, not every shoe comes with one, so read carefully if you prefer the flexibility!
Top Adult Ballet Shoes in the UK
Skysoar Canvas Ballet Shoes
The Skysoar canvas ballet shoes are a great choice for any dancer. These canvas ballet shoes are some of the most breathable, not to mention durable on the market. Easy slip-on, no drawstring adjustment needed and “pre-sewn” cross bands make for a low maintenance shoe.
The cotton insoles provide extra comfort and help prevent foot injury. The Skysoar canvas slippers are perfect for any level of ballet dancer and can be used in other activities as well (jazz, yoga, gymnastics, etc.)
Note these tend to run a bit large, it’s recommended to order one size up.
- Split sole
- Cotton lining
- Double cross band
- 3 colour choices (pink, light pink, black)
Starlite Satin Ballet Shoes
Tired of the same old canvas and leather ballet shoes? Looking for something a bit more unique? Then the Starlite satin ballet shoe may be the perfect choice for you!
The satin material is durable while the full sole provides extra support for dancers that need it. Your feet will be secure but not too restricted in the single elastic band with adjustable drawstring.
This satin shoe is perfect for anyone in need of a bit of extra arch support, or who hasn’t found a traditional leather or canvas ballet shoe that feels just right.
Bloch Pro Canvas Ballet ShoesNo products found.
Busy life? Still want to dance? No time to “prep” your slippers? Then look no further than the Bloch Pro Canvas ballet shoe. The slip on design and pre-sewn double cross band makes it “ready to wear” for the busy dancer.
The pleated toes provide extra grip, but the Bloch Pro have reduced ridges to minimize pinching. The unique textile inner lining with cotton cushion prevents bacterial build-up, which mean better smelling shoes (and feet!) for you.
This is one of the most highly rated canvas ballet shoes out there, making it a great choice for anyone who prefers canvas, but it may convert leather ballet shoe dancers as well!
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Bloch S0209 Arise Leather Ballet Shoe
In need of choices with your leather ballet shoes? Then the Bloch S0209 Arise may be just what you’re looking for. This full sole slipper with a pre-sewn elastic provides foot support without being restrictive.
You’ll also enjoy choice of width (unique in leather ballet shoes) as well as choice of color (white, black and pink ballet shoes). This shoe is one of the best leather ballet shoes on the market, and great if you need choice.
- Full sole
- Pre-sew single band elastic
- Adjustable drawstring
- Choice of width
- 3 colour choices (white, black, pink)
Bezioner Pro Elastic Ballet Shoes
These stretch, leather elastic ballet shoes are a great choice for all dancers. A durable shoe made of flexible material that will mould to your feet and stretch with wear, like a pair of well-fitting socks.
The medium width is perfect for most feet, but it is recommended to order down a size. The Bezioner Pro Elastic shoe is a great choice for all dancers, especially if you’re unsure of fit.
- Split sole
- Double cross band
- No drawstring
- Full shoe elasticity
- Medium width
Basilica Helen of Troy Ballet ShoeNo products found.
A bit of a bizarre name, but truly a wonderful shoe especially for experienced dancers looking for a bit of personality in their canvas ballet shoes!
The Helen of Troy Ballet Shoe is a beautiful and comfortable choice. The double cross bands are pre-sewn and the lack of drawstring makes the shoe “ready to wear” and a great choice! The beautiful floral print on the arch is a wonderful touch that add a bit of personality to this durable and breathable canvas ballet shoe.
Note that these tend to run a bit small, so it’s recommended to order a size up.
No products found.
Capezio Leather Ballet Shoes
The Capezio daisy-printed slipper is the perfect leather ballet shoe for dancers just starting out. The single elastic band and adjustable drawstring allow for support but also flexibility.
The pleating around the toes ensures a decent grip, while the leather material is especially durable. The cute daisy print on the inside allows for a bit of personality, while being subtle enough to by-pass even the strictest studio dress code.
- Full sole
- Adjustable drawstring
- Pre-sewn single elastic
- Pleated toes
- Daisy printed instep
S.Lemon Canvas Ballet Shoes
The S.Lemon canvas flats are some of the best fitting on the market. All the comfort and breathability of a normal canvas slipper with extra durability. These canvas ballet shoes fit like a glove, or a sock is perhaps a better comparison.
The split sole is perfect for experienced dancers, as is the tighter fit (although the canvas material ensures it will stretch eventually).
- Split sole
- Double cross band
- Adjustable drawstring
- Normal width
- Warm and breathable
Tips & FAQs for Use
Washing Ballet Shoes
This is not typically recommended unless your ballet shoes become especially dirty (dog slobbered on them, sports drink spilled in the dance bag, etc.), but if necessary follow the instructions on the box (always keep the shoebox!) carefully.
In general you’ll want a gentle wash with cold water and to air dry so they don’t shrink. Although this is a good trick if you pick the size poorly and end up ordering too large – just wash and put in the dryer to shrink a bit!
*Note – shrinking/drying and washing is okay for canvas, but leather ballet shoes can be a bit trickier. Typically we would not recommend washing leather, but if you must, definitely air dry!
If you end up participating in performances, the choreographer or art director will likely want all dancers to have clean shoes for opening night.
In this case you could wash your shoes (if you do this make sure it’s a few days before ahead of time to give the slippers time to air dry), but depending on how old they are, it’s probably a better idea to just buy a new pair (or pairs).
When trying a new shoe, always order two sizes; what you think is the correct size and a half size bigger/smaller depending on how the shoe runs (read reviews) as this varies between ballet shoes. If you can’t find any information, note they will more often than not run small. Same goes for width if you’re conflicted between two options.
Remember patience with sizing is key, especially if you’re just starting out. It may take a while to find the best shoe and fit.
Where to Store Ballet Shoes?
No matter how breathable the shoe may be or how ventilated the ballet class is, there is no way to avoid smelly ballet shoes. So, you’ll probably want to be careful where you keep your slippers.
It’s generally a good idea to have a “dance bag” to lug your gear from the house to work to class and everywhere in between. We HIGHLY recommend leaving the flats there and washing the bag every few months.
What About Pointe Shoes?
You may be reading this and thinking “huh” but I want to dance like a real ballerina (i.e. en pointe or on your “tippy toes” which is the stereotype most of us carry around about ballet).
If you’re just starting out in ballet, or returning after a few years (or decades) away, you’re probably not ready to slip on a pair of pointe shoes yet. However, if you’ve been invited by your ballet instructor to join the pointe class (most are invite-only to ensure only students with the necessary strength and technique take class, to prevent injury) please check out our guide on best pointe shoes for beginners.
Our Top Picks!
Our best ballet shoe choice for beginners are the Skysoar canvas ballet shoes. These split sole flats provide the flexibility and versatility of split sole canvas shoes, with the security of anti-slip grip and a cotton insert for comfort and injury prevention! Whether you’re starting from scratch or beginning again after decades away from the studio, you can’t go wrong with these slippers!
The Bloch S0209 Arise is our best leather ballet shoe pick, as it’s the quality you’d expect from Bloch, with the durability and support leather ballet shoes are known for. The S0209 comes with an adjustable drawstring, choice of width and colour, making it much more versatile than your average leather shoe.
Finally, our best overall pick for adult ballet shoes is the Bloch Pro Canvas Flats. The pre-sewn elastic band and pleated toes ensure stability and support. The cotton anti-bacterial lining is comfortable, prevents sweat build-up and keeps feet fresh and cool!
Last update on 2023-11-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API