I’ve been tap dancing for nearly 30 years now and in that
time I’ve gone through a fair few pairs of tap shoes. I’ve had heeled shoes and flat shoes, canvas kids’ shoes to adult leather. I feel like I’ve worn them all- all except a professional shoe, that is, until a couple of years ago when I went in search of giving my feet the sheer joy of the sound of a professional shoe.
Finding the Perfect Shoe
A few years ago I set out to buy a pair of professional tap shoes. I walked into the Capezio shop in Covent Garden looking for the holy grail of tap shoes, the K360, only that is not what I left the store with. Apparently, during that time Capezio could only offer K360s in sizes bigger than my UK 5/ EUR38 and somewhat strangely the shop assistants kept on highlighting how expensive the K360 was. It seemed like a near impossible goal to buy a pair of K360s and in fact that day I somehow let myself be talked into buying the Capezio Tapsonic, a shoe I didn’t stick with for long, for many reasons which I will talk about in another post.
So, just a couple of years after dropping quite a sum of money on a shoe I didn’t really want and finding that getting a K360 over in Europe was near impossible, especially as everywhere was saying not to accept a K360 made in South America but get one made within the US, I gave up trying to buy a pair. That’s when I set about finding a professional shoe I could buy in Europe which had all the features a professional shoe should have, leather sole, leather upper, quality taps etc.
After trawling the internet and evaluating a number of options such as the Ruben Sanchez and the Bloch Jason Samuels Smith I decided to settle on Miller and Bens. I spent a lot of time umming and ahhing over whether to go for the Jazz Tap Master or the Triple Threat, finally settling on the latter. And I love this shoe.
Let’s set aside that I wanted them in ‘All White’ and therefore had to wait an extra 3 months for the bad boys to be made, they were worth the wait.
The minute I put them on their sound was just phenomenal. They are loud even when you aren’t killing your ankles by giving the floor a good beating. The tone is great coming from the Capezio Teletone Taps. I had these added by the company as the shoe price listed on the Jazz Emporium website is for the shoes without the taps; there is an extra fee for the taps and having them installed on the shoe, I had the people at Miller and Ben take care of this aspect so the tap exactly fits the shoe’s footprint like it would on a Capezio shoe.
Obviously the Triple Threat has quite a bit of build up and therefore each shoe is quite heavy weighing in at around 425g/15oz, but having compared them to a Bloch Jason Samuels Smith they still come in much lighter while producing the same well-rounded powerhouse tone. The Triple Threat has more build up than a Jazz Tap Master, under the arch the sole is a single layer but at the toe this increases to three with the addition of two extra layers giving a build up totalling 3.3cm/ ½ in. The heel has 8 layers at the very back and highest point, tapering to a compressed 7 layers at the forward point of the heel. This means heel height at the back is 3.8cm/ 1 ½ in and at the front 3cm/ 1, 3/16s in. Due to the shape of the shoe this essentially means you are dancing on a heel 1.7cm- 3cm (11/16s in) high. In order to add a bit of comfort they have some padding in the heel. They could maybe use some padding just behind the tap inside, because after I’ve been wearing them for hours this is where I get the most pain. The high build up does, however, allow for ease in producing toe stands as there is a nice surface on which to balance.
How it Compares
I’m not going to lie, breaking in these shoes takes quite a while. The leather on a Miller Ben compared to the K360 (which I tried on in the Capezio Flagship store in New York) is much tougher. The K360 has gorgeously soft, supple leather so I imagine it takes a lot less wearing to break in. This is probably the main reason the Pros love them. I imagine this contributes to its durability though as my instagram feed has been known to show pro tap dancers and their K360s that have fallen apart, mainly due to the leather splitting. I’ve had my Miller and Ben’s for a year and 8 months at this point. Now, I know I don’t tap as much as full-time professional tap dance artists, but I do tap a fair amount. I teach tap, study tap and have given them a good beating at a couple of festivals and training intensives and they are not even close to wearing out.
Overall the Miller and Ben Triple Threat is a great shoe. It offers a hearty tone, excellent professional quality and a nice design aesthetic. My only faults with this shoe is that because of the build up I have to work my ankle harder to achieve toe drops, and the leather at the toe sticks out from the profile making toe tap clicks quite difficult to achieve, but these are small factors in an otherwise extremely long lasting, beautiful shoe.
If you are buying shoes from the Jazz Tap Emporium website or indeed anywhere outside of the EU please be aware you will have to pay import taxes on your shoes. If you are looking to buy some of these shoes in the UK then there is now a Miller and Ben stockist you can order from and their website is: https://www.millerandbentapshoes.co.uk/miller-ben-tap-shoes-1
When I purchased my shoes this was not currently an option so I had to fork out for the considerable import taxes on my shoes.
The Photography in this post is by Ania Sadlowska Fotografia