If you're a vegan or vegetarian who enjoys, or is thinking of taking up, dancing, you'll be pleased to hear that it's getting easier and easier to find cruelty-free footwear.
Whether you're taking your first steps onto the dance floor or are a seasoned professional, high quality shoes that can endure a lot of wear are essential, as is a good fit. Unfortunately, many teachers will insist that the only fabric that meets the criteria of long-lasting and mould-able is leather, but that is by no means the case! A number of suppliers around the world offer ready-made or made-to-order vegan shoes, for all styles of dance, from tap to tango and from ballet to bachata.
Starting with ballroom and Latin American dancing, British-based Supadance can produce several of their shoes in vegan materials. Unfortunately this is rather hidden away on their website; check the help page for information, and since I last purchased from them in 2013, the extra fees associated with non-leather, made-to-measure options have been done away with. If you are looking for a long-term investment, I can recommend Supadance's ballroom teaching shoes, which are without a doubt the comfiest dance shoes I have ever owned.
For North American dancers, it might be quicker to order from Very Fine Shoes, who stock a limited number of ready-to-wear dancesport shoes, with many more styles available as made-to-order. Both faux-leather and PU soles are offered, as are a range of heel heights, colours and widths, so dancers can tailor their orders to their specific needs and wants.
Should jazz or modern dance be more your thing, consider Ethical Wares' jazz boots and shoes. This is another UK-based company, but constantly gets great reviews for the speed of international shipping. I haven't tried these myself, but they are reported to be lightweight and flexible, and even come in sparkling silver! Street dance and hip hop fans are well-catered for by Capezio; the padded sneakers are made from synthetic nubeck, and carry bonuses of being designed not to leave black marks all over the floor, and in my experience, of withstanding over five years of heavy use.
In New York, ballet teacher Cynthia King sells a variety of adults' and children's soft shoes, in black or pink, and with full or split vegan soles. Those in the area can drop by in person to try on a pair, otherwise they can be ordered online or purchased from stockists in other US states, Japan, Italy and Australia. You can even use the shoes to advertise veganism; 'Cruelty Free,' is printed on the undersides! Grishko also offer soft, demi-pointe and pointe ballet shoes produced with vegan materials and glues, but as it is very important to have correctly-fitting pointe shoes, the process of buying can be a little more complicated. Rather than buying online, ask around at your local dancewear shops, to discover which of them has the facility to order and then professionally fit Grishko's custom-made vegan items. It might be time-consuming, but the resulting pair of comfortable, safe, synthetic shoes will definitely make it worth your while!
Finally, what about tap shoes? Although it can be frustrating to learn that many of the readily-available canvas models have leather soles, rubber alternatives are out there, like this example from Dance Now or these from SoDanca. For the chance to choose between laces or buckles, or higher or lower heels, contact Capezio directly, as some models can be made-to-order using vegan friendly materials.
So, who needs leather? Not dancers, that's for sure!
Photograph courtesy of Kryziz Bonny, used under the terms of the Creative Commons license.