• The Blog of Physical Therapist and Dancer Tony Ingram

  • Over 100 Articles and Blog Posts on Science, Training, Injuries and Dancing

  • Dance and Injury Prevention Workshops

  • Tony Ingram in 'Practice' dance video by Bold Creative

  • e-books: Common Injuries and their Recovery Explained Simply

Subscribe to BBoyScience by RSS! Connect with BBoyScience on LinkedIn! Watch BBoyScience on YouTube! Circle BBoyScience on Google Plus! Like BBoyScience on Facebook! Follow BBoyScience on Twitter!

What shoes are best for bboying?

Adidas Gazelle

I make a scientific case for bboying in Gazelles.

Many sports have a particular type of footwear associated with them. Running shoes for running, basketball shoes for basketball, cleats for soccer, etc…

And yes, dancing shoes for dancing. Of course, most hip-hop / “street” dancers are not going to be wearing these “dance shoes”. Especially b-boys & b-girls – they usually want to wear whatever looks fresh.

But are we putting ourselves at risk of injury? Are there better shoes than others?

Good question – let’s look at some science (of course)!

The Footwear Dilemma

Appropriate footwear is a common concern not only for dancers, but for any activity. And for good reason: injuries suck – no one wants to be getting an ankle sprain.

Shoe companies work hard to convince us that their advanced shoe 90-X is the solution to all our trouble. If you spend your money on them they will make you run faster and avoid injury – or so they claim. But how much of this is just marketing hype?

Research has begun to test these claims, and some results have been surprising. Let’s review some important points.

Keep in mind: there hasn’t been much research done on footwear for dancers. Research is usually on classical dance styles, 1 and even that’s pretty inconclusive. There’s none on b-boying specifically, so we’ll have to infer our conclusions from studies on other sports.

Reviewing research:

First, lets look at function:

If you play a sport that requires traction in grass, like soccer, then you should probably get soccer cleats. Studies have shown that it does make a difference 2.

When you think of what kind of shoe you need, you should first think about what you’re going to be doing in them. How do you need them to function? For b-boying / b-girling, you don’t usually dance in grass…

Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to wear something that’s comfortable to dance in: not too heavy, adequate support and protection, and enough freedom to perform the moves you want. It also wouldn’t hurt to get new ones once they wear out enough to lose support. But there is no research suggesting that buying shoes with small, specific details will enhance sports performance, for any sport!

Next, let’s look at injury prevention:

A review article published in 2009 revealed that no study has ever proven modern running shoes to lower injury rates. 3 This might seem strange to people who are convinced that they need to wear a particular type of shoe because of their foot type (flat food, pronated, supinated, etc). But it turns out that prescribing footwear based on foot shape is too simple! 4

What about shoes with special air / gel / spring cushioning? Don’t they help lower impact? Actually, they don’t make any difference (even after being worn out) according to another study from 2009 5. People just change how they run (slightly, even subconsciously) to keep the force of impact constant!

What about more obvious things, like the fact that wearing high tops should add ankle stability for basketball? Actually, a huge review of evidence from 2008 showed that they don’t really make much of a difference at all 6. To prevent ankle sprains, you’re better off trying braces or taping. High top shoes just don’t work like that.

In summary, don’t waste your money on special shoes in hopes that it will prevent injuries!

Do big companies create misleading advertising?

Oh yes… In fact, check out this interesting news about Reebok: they have to pay 25 million dollars to the Federal Trade Commission for misleading advertisements (that claimed a special shoe helped people lose weight!): http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/09/reebok.shtm


(Disclaimer: I have no problem with Reebok: I have a pair of classics, and I love them – but not because I believe they are going to help me “burn fat”.)

So what shoes then?

Whatever you find comfortable!

Basically, wear whatever you like to dance in. If you feel like a flat sole is better for spinning, that sounds like a good enough reason to get that shoe! Keep in mind what you are demanding from your feet. If you do a lot of dynamic things, you might smack your foot off the floor, so get something with some reasonable support. Lighter shoes are likely helpful as well.

Personally, here’s what I prefer (just my opinion):

Fresh - but not as practical as their shorter cousins.

I prefer to practice and perform in low top classics. My favorites are Adidas Gazelles and Puma Suedes.

High tops look awesome, but sometimes footwork feels a bit restricted – I can’t twist my ankles or pivot as well wearing them (although I did wear high tops in this video – but that was just because they look cool).

Low tops offer a lot of freedom of movement at the ankles, and the flat soles have a good balance of grip / traction and spin / pivot.

So there you have it, my science-based case for bboying in Gazelles.

Bottom line: wear what you like! Avoiding injury is not as simple as wearing the perfect shoe.

Questions: What do you like to wear when you dance? Any suggestions for new dancers? And do you wear different shoes when you dance than just hanging around?

Share the love!

    29 Responses to What shoes are best for bboying?

    1. Jordan says:

      Hey ive been starting to bboy and ive been practicing in some nikes that have almost no grip/soles. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? These shoes are about 2 years old and i worn them out ALOT.

      • Tony Ingram says:

        Hmmm, well in most sports, it’s recommended to change your shoes when their very worn out. I wouldn’t worry about moderate wear down, but I’d recommend changing them if they are really worn with no support – especially if they are bothering your feet when they dance.

        As for the grip/soles, I don’t think flat soles are a big problem. I’d consider how it affects your dancing: does it cause you to slip more? That might be dangerous or simply mess up your movements. But personally almost all my ‘dancing shoes’ are worn pretty much flat on the bottom, but the shoe itself is still in good shape and I feel great dancing in them. I wouldn’t worry too much.

        Of course, I’m speaking from experience, as I’m not sure of any quality research on this question specifically.

        Hope that helps!

    2. Patrick says:

      I’m not surprised by this conclusion. In the end it really is a matter of taste and personal comfort. Personally I look at three things when I choose a pair : the weight, the sound they make when sliding them off the floor(No squeaks please!) and of course look! I’ve seen some bboy’s where three pairs of socks for better absorption when practicing moves like air flare’s and 90’s(Falling the wrong way is sometimes inevitable).

      • Tony Ingram says:

        Good suggestions. Falling out of moves is why I suggest having something that can protect your feet somewhat. Some people try to wear the lightest shoes possible but then you sacrifice protection and support.

      • w2bh says:

        Hey Patrick,

        what shoes have you found to provide a nice grip but at the same time not make those annoying squeaks? It drives me nuts whenever I try to glide…

    3. Jp says:

      I use shoes low top shoes with low soles to have a better feel for the ground as i feel that it increases my speed and makes everything more smoother, is this all subconscious or is this advantageous?

      • Tony Ingram says:

        Hey JP,

        I think it makes sense to have lighter shoes to “feel” the ground better. Bigger shoes also get clunky, so you probably are smoother with low tops and low soles. So I’d guess you’re feeling real benefits. Of course, if you believe they help, and they feel more comfortable to you, there are probably subconscious factors that help you too (but who cares, it’s all good).

        Personally, I find if shoes are too thin, like Chucks, some things can hurt – but they aren’t too bad. The happy medium I find best is still Adidas Gazelles.

        Thanks for the comment!


    4. smeer says:

      I personally use adidas superstars. They are a bit heavier than gazelles, but they are an old school classic and shelltoe is indestructible which helps because I sometimes accidentally hurt my toes when doing CC’s.

    5. Tareq says:

      I use Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81, because they fit my feet like a glove. Though they don’t have the same support of full suede shoes, these shoes never need to be broken in. I can wear them without a blister from day-1. Oh these are also very light. The soles are pretty thin, but very grippy; does that mean it is bad for long term impact injuries wearing me down?

      My Puma Classic Suedes are very comfy and give a nice support due to their material. They also have a thicker sole just like they adidas gazelle. However they are significantly heavier than my Onitsukas. The Gazelles and Puma classic suedes, always give me blisters when I first wear them. Haha I am always hesitant to wear them whenever I find buy them on sale.

      For best mobility, I like my Onitsukas; especially for that grip their soles give.
      For best support, I like Pumas Classics Suede more than the Gazelles.

      In your article for support, are you referring to the material support? Like the foot-arche reinforcement and thick material like suede? Or are you talking about having thicker soles on the bottom of the shoes?

      • Tony Ingram says:

        Hey Tareq,

        The Tigers look pretty good too, although I’ve never tried them myself. I don’t think the thin soles would make that much of a difference for repetitive stress injuries – you would probably also be lighter on your feet naturally. Hard to say though without any research data, but I’d say they are probably fine.

        Generally, when I say support I mean the soles, including thickness and arch reinforcement. Of course, support can mean a lot of things! I think the thicker material of suede around the outside of the foot is useful for particular moves, especially if you hit your foot on the ground sideways during footwork or power. The support at the bottom is important for comfort – but as I said in the article, there’s no magical shape or material that’s proven to be best. Until better research exists, I’d just go with whatever is comfortable.



    6. Jprime says:

      Tried Onitsuka Tigers, Puma Suedes, Gazelles, Pro-keds, & Chucks.

      (Just a personal opinion)
      -Tigers are the lightest but least durable.
      -Puma Suedes are heavier but comfortable. Good weight.
      -Gazelles are a good fit-wise n comfy-wise.
      -Pro-keds are supposedly one of the better bboy shoes. Fresh, and nice weight, but over time, my bone near the pinky toe starts hurting.

      Last but not least
      -Hi-top Leather Chucks!
      Fresh, Raw, Durable, Extremely Comfortable (especially for footwork). Gotta be leather though.

      • Tony Ingram says:

        hmmm, the only ones I haven’t tried now is pro-keds… someday when I have some extra money, I’ll buy a pair!
        I’ve also worn chucks many times but not leather – will have to invest in a pair!

        I’ll take any excuse to buy shoes…


    7. Ems says:

      Hey sorry for being a total idiot here but my boyfriend is like a bboy and is forever breakdancing — I was thinking of surprising him with some new shoes. His friend told me that he was looking for a pair of Puma Glydes ?? Can you tell me if they are useful or good or what? So so so much appreciated haha as I knew nothing of these dilemmas before now :/ thank you!! :D

      • Tony Ingram says:

        haha, awesome question! I’m not a footwear expert but I’ll offer my opinion. I think Glydes are very similar to Suedes and are likely very comfortable to dance in. They look good too. If that’s what he likes, then go for it!

    8. Ems says:

      Thank you sooo much! haha — I cannot ‘break’ with him but I CAN buy him stuff (and then watch) — WIN! Cheers Tony :)

    9. chirag says:

      can we use adipure trainers

      • Tony Ingram says:

        I wouldn’t wear any of the “toe shoe” types of footwear for dancing – I’d be afraid one of my toes would stick to the floor as I did some sort of weird sideways pivot or something, and lead to a sprain. But I’m sure people can figure it out if they want to!

    10. harsh says:

      n i also have puma ultra lite which is extreamly lite waight so are they also good for bboying??

    11. Pete says:

      I’m pretty new to break dancing, and just getting back into it.

      I noticed that in roller skates and other heavier shoes, windmills are easier; the weight on the extremity keeps carrying you around. Ofcourse sick footwork becomes much more difficult. So I’m really unsure how I feel about shoe weight…

      I’m planning to try some suedes and gazelles at a store, and see which feels better. Thanks for the discussion help :)

      On a side note is it acceptable to do footwork at the shoe store before you buy?

      • Ben says:

        Lol, just because I can relate to this, I always see if I can do a bit of footwork to just see how they feel when I’m moving like that (also do that buying clothes). I suppose if you’re in a nice shoe place you can just ask the person bringing you shoes? I’m sure they’d just think you’re cool and want to see it!

    12. BBoy Zack says:

      hi my personal opinion,
      nike free flyknit,
      confortable, lightweight, quality,
      for me best shoes ever had

    13. Bawine Allan says:

      I really liked the lesson, and hope i will find my bestfit!

    14. Gray says:

      BEST shoes EVER (adidas GAZZLE)

    15. Ben says:

      A few friends also suggested tennis shoes to me, because they offer the best support.

      I read in one article ‘Tennis is an active sport that requires fast rigorous movements from jumps, sprints, split steps, and backwards motions.’

      So it seems that tennis is the sport with movements closest to bboying where a shoe has been specifically designed for those kinds of movements..if you catch my meaning?

      Obviously they don’t look as cool – mostly – but I was just wondering about your opinion on that, if you thought tennis shoes might be a good option?

      Thanks for this article and all the comments, it’s been super useful!


    16. Connor says:

      When I first started with Drew, all I had were combat boots. I practiced in them every night anyway, and when I finally got lighter shoes my feet were crazy fast. The main struggle I have is that I love my Jordan’s, and really don’t like low top shoes, but I’ve found that having the ankle support really screws up my footwork like you said. I’ve tried chucks before but they feel like they’re made of glue. If they touch the floor at all, my footwork just stops.
      Also, even in Vancouver I haven’t found Gazelles anywhere dammit.

    Leave a reply