For rhythm tap, it’s most important that your shoe be leather, hard-soled (NOT a split-sole), and if possible, for more stability and heel manipulation, look for a built-up toe box and heel. Adult shoes range in price from around $30 to upwards of $400, so your choice will depend on how much you are able to spend, how much tapping you plan to do, and of course aesthetics/comfort. I won’t lie – in the case of tap shoes, quality pretty consistently varies with price: more expensive shoes are more comfortable, more stable, and better-sounding. It’s our musical instrument! But price shouldn’t keep you from tapping – I often see shoes for sale listed on Craigslist, so finding a used pair is possible, with all the wonders of the internet!
Here are some shoes across price points that I can recommend – prices directly from the manufacturer except where noted from Discount Dance, which carries a wide selection across brands. Another great internet retailer is Dancing Fair, which is a go-to for getting specialty requests. In Columbus, check out Opening Night.
- Bloch Jason Samuels Smith shoe ($185) – [women’s] [men’s]
- So Danca Pro Tap 705/805 (from around $150; custom colors available; check with Opening Night about ordering)
- Miller & Ben Jazz-Tap Master (from $190 and higher, if you want custom colors!)
- Capezio Character Oxford K360 (starting at $310) (also customizable; most people go through Dancing Fair for this)
- Rubén Sánchez Tap Shoes (starting at ~$350; customizable; these are GORGEOUS and comfortable and sound beautiful)
(Check out Shelby Kaufman’s tap shoe reviews!)
Being a tap dancer is awesome, but it can be frustrating to deal with the constant feeling that you have nowhere to practice! You don’t want to ruin the floors in your house, and you definitely don’t want to ruin your shoes, not to mention your knees and your hips, by dancing out on the concrete sidewalk or in your garage. Sadly, many dance studios don’t even have exposed wood floors anymore! (Exceptions in Columbus: Artisan Dance Studio and BalletMet.) Here are some options for boards. I have notes on a few important factors: sound, portability, and shock absorption. If you are crafty, you can of course build one yourself, or just use a small wood board. Again, though, shock absorption is important – this is the “sprung floor” people often talk about in dance studios.
MartyBoard (call Marty for pricing)
This is the floor we use for our large-scale performances and some of our small-scale ones, too. It’s sprung, it has a tap-specific finish with the right amount of slide, and it sounds great. Each 3′ x 4′ piece weighs about 25 pounds, and you can put them together any way you want—shortwise or longwise. They don’t collapse (for that, look directly below) but they do fit in the back of a full size sedan or hatchback. We love our MartyBoard!
FasFoot (from $159)
This is my favorite truly portable, easy-to-transport floor. The wood surface sounds great, it’s got some shock absorption (perhaps a bit less than the Jubilee), and is SUPER easy to carry around! Also comes in fun colors and can be made larger by connecting them together. See/hear me tapping on it here. (Notice Janet’s awesome homemade board – a good illustration of how board mechanics, as well as shoe types, make a HUGE difference in terms of the sound you get!) FasFoot now also makes BIG floors, for performance.
Jubilee Dance Floor (from $38 per 2×2′ tile)
Except for the seaming produced by putting multiple tiles together, I think these are a great at-home and portable option. The padding feels pretty effective, doesn’t kill your knees – also because of the surface, which isn’t wood. Despite that, the sound is surprisingly clear, and carrying around 4 tiles (which is 4×4′ floor) in the custom bag is not too burdensome. Lots of color options, and you can have as small or as big of a floor as you want!
StageStep Tap Mat ($170 small/ $280 large)
This ingenious roll-out floor creates a larger surface area than some others – I’ve performed on them in public! The seams are pretty innocuous, and it sounds good. I do think it feels a bit thin to dance on, though, and there’s little to no shock absorption, so no great for regular practice.
StageStep Tap Board ($90)
I have no experience with this board, but I bet it sounds great. Has absorptive foam underneath.
O’Mara Portable Tap Floor (from $199.95)
I have no experience with this one, but this company makes true sprung wood floors, so I’d imagine the shock absorption would be better than most.
Tappin Floor (from ~$200)
I also have no experience with this, but it looks really really nice!
Portable Tap Floor (from $139)
This one doesn’t break down at all, so really it’s for your home practice; despite the name I wouldn’t take it anywhere when there are other better options. It could slide under a bed but otherwise storage isn’t very convenient. I have the Original model, and find that the wood chips off so I have to sweep up after I use it; I think the Birch or White Oak would have less of this problem. I also don’t love the sound quality of mine – I find it too deep and muffled. I think the other models probably improve this too. The best part of this board is definitely the feeling of shock absorption – and you sort of feel like you’re dancing on a stage, which can be cool.
StageStep Tap in a Tube ($80)
I haven’t tried this, but I imagine it’s a lot like the marley in dance studios. Not a board, but a covering for your floor. Probably doesn’t sound great, and doesn’t provide any shock relief. But a low-cost option for practicing at home!
Harlequin Home Studio Pack
If you want to go really big and dedicate part of your home to your newfound passion! I have no experience with this but Harlequin is a respected flooring company. Probably not cheap.