A Dancer’s Shoe Dilemma – Full Sole or Split-Sole

by Danielle Hernandez on July 18, 2018


A dilemma that every dancer would face at least once – to wear the full sole or split- sole dance shoe? What’s the difference and will it matter to your technique and form? Get answers to these questions and read what the experts recommend.

Dancers work extremely hard, and after years of rigorous training, they take the stage with beauty and grace. A dancer's primary tool of expression is his or her body and their dance-wear, costumes and shoes are designed to be the perfect extension of a dancer's line and form. The dance-wear and shoes need to be perfectly designed and customized to their age and proficiency level.

Catering to the dance industry is a range of industries that are into designing and customizing costumes, shoes, technical wear, and tools. The various options available often present a dilemma to the dancers with regards to when to wear what.

While costumes add to the beauty of the dancer's form, the dance shoes act as an extension of the feet and are revered as an essential tool of the trade. In fact, I can go on to say that the dance shoes are worth their weight in is the single best investment you can make for your dancing pleasure.

Dance shoes are made for a purpose, fitting the foot as close to perfect as a shoe can, and with a sole designed to give the right amount of tread so that every step can be performed with confidence.

The sole of the dance shoes, in particular, are extremely important and pose many questions to the dancer. Full sole or split sole, suede or leather, plastic or steel taps, heeled or flat. In this post, I share with you the qualities of a full sole and split sole ballet dance shoes and what the differences between the two are -

Full Sole Ballet Shoe

Full Sole Ballet Shoe

In a full sole ballet shoe, the suede leather sole of the slipper covers the area of the heel of the shoe to just before the toes. Usually, most full sole shoes are leather or imitation leather.

Split Sole Ballet Shoes

In a split sole shoe, the ballet slippers have two portions of the sole (i.e., the sole is split into two). The split sole with one suede or leather pad at the heel of the shoe and the other larger one covering the area between the ball of the foot to just before the toes gives support in the front.

Split Sole Ballet Shoes

In a split sole shoe, the ballet slippers have two portions of the sole (i.e., the sole is split into two). The split sole with one suede or leather pad at the heel of the shoe and the other larger one covering the area between the ball of the foot to just before the toes gives support in the front.

Split sole shoes usually come in leather or canvas. In general, canvas shoes wear out more quickly than leather shoes, but canvas shoes are cheaper. Before split sole shoes were invented, advanced dancers would often fold and crease their full sole shoes to make the arches more flexible.

Some shoes like these Capezio Children's "Love Ballet" Slipper have a hybrid sole design featuring a two-part suede sole that allows the shoe to function as both a full sole and split sole.

Differences Between a Full Sole and a Split Sole Dance Shoe

A full sole leather shoe provides proper support to the arch and will force the dancer to work the foot and muscles while building strength through the feet and legs. This helps them learn the proper technique and retain muscle memory that is required for more advanced barre and center work.

More advanced dancers use the split sole shoes as it allows the dancers to point the foot and show off the arch easily. Dancers can perform footwork that looks cleaner, an essential criterion for competition or advanced examinations. Since students who have a strong foundation use these, their strength and technique will not be hindered. Split sole shoes are chosen by dancers who are confident in their balance and want to expand their mobility and spinning.

Different Dance Shoes With Split Sole Option

In today's technologically advanced world, dance shoes are being designed with finesse, and the split sole variation is provided for many dance forms. The dance sneakers are designed for street dance, hip-hop, break dancing (called 'breaking,' 'b-boying' or 'b-girling' by its adherents), cheerleading, etc.

Some dance sneakers feature a very thin and extremely flexible sole under the entire shoe, while others are designed with a split sole. In a dance sneaker with a split sole, like these Capezio Adult Rock It Dance Sneaker, there is no sole under the arch, allowing the foot to bend more freely when the wearer is dancing, an essential feature for side to side movements like Zumba, cheerleading, etc. Some dance sneakers feature straps along the side of the shoe to provide a level of support to the arch.

Jazz dance shoes are worn in acro dance, acrobatic roll'n'roll (a very athletic, competitive and choreographed form of dance designed for performance) and other dance-based exercises like aerobics. Jazz shoes could be slip-on or oxfords and are offered as split-soles to enhance flexibility.

Most are rubber soled to provide traction cushioning the foot, and some feature a suede patch under the ball of the foot to assist with turning. Jazz shoes with split soles come as both lace up and slip ons.

Jazz Dance Shoes

Tap shoes like these Capezio Adult Flex Master Tap Shoe also come with split soles. If you're serious about tap dancing, full sole tap shoes are alright for a beginner to intermediate level and the casual dancer but not a more advanced dancer.

Tap dance shoes

Experts Recommend

Experts recommend students wear full-soled ballet shoes (like these Capezio's Child Daisy Ballet Slipper) for ballet training. Dancers, especially small children must first and foremost learn to manipulate the entire length of their foot. The full-sole sits like a small weight on foot, creating a resistance against which the dancer has to work.

The muscles and tendons on the bottom of the feet, therefore, get worked, and become better developed and strengthened with each class. Around the age of 11, the growth plates in the foot would have fused together, and it would be ok to move to a split sole slipper.


Ballet Shoes


Adults just starting ballet can start with either a full sole or split sole slipper, as either is appropriate. Split-soled shoes, while less apt at working the muscles, are often very flattering to the line of the foot, showing beautiful lines and strongly pointed toes. As such, once a dancer reaches advanced levels we recommend switching from the full-sole to the split. We also recommend split-sole for performances, where the aesthetic is the primary focus.

What has been your favorite kind of ballet technique shoe? Do you prefer full or split sole? Leave a comment!



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