Save Your Shoes

Article excerpt

HOW TO KEEP TAPS IN TIP-TOP SHAPE.

Tap shoes can top out at $300-$500 per pair, so you'd better make those dogs last. These tips from the pros who make shoes for the Rockettes, Savion Glover and Broadway hoofers can help your pair last through the long haul.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

"Taking care of a tap shoe is like taking care of a musical instrument," explains Avi Miller, dancer and co-owner of Miller & Ben Tap Shoes. It takes both good daily care and preventive measures to make sure that your shoes-your instruments-last as long as possible.

Phil LaDuca, creator of LaDuca Shoes, says that preservation starts as soon as you get them. "Like any expensive shoe, you need to keep them clean and care for them," LaDuca says. "Some of my Rockettes have been wearing the same pair of shoes for five years-doing 4-5 shows a day every season!" Even if you're wearing your shoes mostly in the classroom, proper cleaning and care will protect your investment. Or, if your shoes are on their last legs, caring for them could lengthen their life, from a week to several months!

Pete Ktenas, who makes the Savion build-up shoe at Pete's Theatrical Shoe Repair in NYC, says maintenance starts even before you bring them home. Always begin with good taps and a good shoemaker. "If taps or rubber are put on the wrong way, the shoe can break apart too easily," he says. Your cobbler should be well-seasoned in working with tap shoes, and if you're unsure, ask to see other shoes he's worked on or get references from friends who've used him already.

HIGH AND DRY

Once you've started to dance in your shoes, dryness is a major factor in their longevity. "Sweat contains a lot of salt," explains LaDuca. "Perspiration goes into the leather, lining and insoles and the salt breaks down the materials in the shoe." A good pair of sweat-absorbing socks or tights will keep perspiration from making cracks in the leather and wearing through the lining. Air-dry shoes every night after you use them, the same way you'd air out sneakers you washed in the laundry.

Conditioning the leather will protect the outer shoe from damage and cracks. Leather ages over time, particularly in drier climates and with frequent use, so you should oil or polish your shoes every few weeks. …