You’re on your feet for hours at a time on game days and parades—possibly marching in rain, sleet or snow. So, finding a good pair of shoes can mean the difference between “happy soles” and “the agony of the feet.”
If you’re like me, the best part of getting back from a long game day is unbuckling your spats and pulling your sweaty feet out of your shoes. Nothing feels better than propping your sore feet up on the coffee table after 10 hours of standing and marching.
During both high school and college marching band, I have had the luxury of choosing my own shoes—as long as they were black. When the time came, though, it wasn’t as easy as I’d thought. In the end, I bought a comfortable pair of all-black athletic shoes that have lasted me through three years of college band.
At Halftime Magazine, we all remember our marching shoe woes, so we decided to find some tips on what to look for in a band shoe. We interviewed students, directors and even the manufacturers. Here’s what they have to say about finding the perfect marching shoe:
University of Montana Marching Band
[You need] something you can make sure you can walk in for up to seven miles. Basically, something that will accommodate you for a long walk.
You want the best quality. It’s best to go with quality. Even though they may cost a little more, you’re going to be wearing them for the next few years. You don’t want to be marching halfway through the season and have them wear out. You want them to be the right fit, so they can be comfortable.
Director of Instrumental Music
Norman North High School Band
[We decide] a couple of ways, one is construction. Making sure that it has good foot support and arch support. And then also comfort. There are some that have good support but aren’t comfortable. … There are a lot of times that [students] have to wear those shoes, so if they’re not well made, they’re not going to hold up.
A good shoe will allow you to have better technique. It aids in the process of marching.
In the old days, we literally wore white nurse’s shoes. To do roll step in those—you just had a regular heel—it was much harder.
For us, we use our marching shoes during concert season too. That way the kids get more bang for their buck.
Northwestern University Marching Band
I’ve used the same shoe ever since high school. I’ve only worn one pair of shoes since I started marching. Having shoes that are made for marching is going to be better. … I definitely think having the rolled heels makes a huge difference. It accentuates the rolled step and forces people to do a better roll step than they would.
[What’s important is] a shoe that’s really comfortable. We’re standing on them for six hours a day—more than that actually— we’re standing in those shoes for probably seven hours on game day. It’s really important to have something that’s comfortable and doesn’t hurt.
Director of Bands
Interlake High School
I would say comfort, durability and quality [make a good shoe]. … If it fits well and supports the foot, that’s big. …
I don’t tell [the students] to get the cheapest shoe, but I also tell them not to get the most expensive.
USC Trojan Marching Band
The way I figure it is if the band is going to let me choose my own, the exact blackness or look doesn’t matter much, so what I base it on is comfort and then weight. I don’t want a really heavy shoe. The last thing is waterproofness. … I remember we went out to Notre Dame, and the grass was really wet.
It’s going to be a shoe that I’m going to commit to marching in. I’m not going to get a really nice shoe that I’m attached to. I know I’ll ruin it at some point. … Something that’s easy to clean is always a plus.
I think [a good shoe] can make a huge difference. Especially if you’re in a parade, if you have one less thing to worry about, it helps. You don’t have to think about, “oh my feet hurt.”
Find Your Style
Many companies make shoes specifically for marching band and guard. Check out these popular brands and their thoughts on choosing a shoe.
Director’s Showcase International
Key Features: Moisture-wicking material and a flexible sole
Shoe Types: MTX, Viper, others
“If a band member has an instrument, and it’s an inexpensive instrument, and they don’t get a very good sound out of it, the band won’t sound very good. Same thing with a marching shoe. If a shoe isn’t comfortable, it isn’t flexible; If it isn’t doing what you want it to do, you’re not going to march very well.”
—Tom Herald, President
Key Features: Rolled-Heel™ and a notch for your spats
Shoe Types: Drillmasters
“What makes a good shoe is that the shoe gives you what you feel are the best benefits that help you and your performers do the most. Will that shoe make it easy to teach your kids? Will it help them march better?”
—Jon Farbman, President and Owner
Man-How Inc. (makers of Style Plus Shoes)
Key Features: Premium leather and split sole for flexibility
Shoe Types: Plus One, Triton, Pinnacle, others
“Quality of a shoe will help for longevity and save you money, so you don’t have to purchase replacement shoes. … Comfort, quality and function should always be the most important things to look for.”
—Tim Mangee, Vice President
Up-Front Footwear (makers of DINKLES)
Key Features: Full leather upper and Runner’s Ortho Cup cushion
Shoe Types: Vanguard, The Edge, Glide, Frontline Shoes for guard
“I think you need a shoe that’s good in all conditions. Bands can’t buy two or three different shoes. … What makes a good shoe is that you make sure that it meets the high standards of safety, comfort and durability.”
—Tom LaBarbera, Director of Sales
Venturelli North America
Key Features: Specialize in guard and dance shoes; microfiber material for easy cleaning and gel heel cushion
Shoe Types: Pro (full sole), Dance (split sole), Gym
“[The perfect guard shoe] needs to be strong, flexible and washable. … You want the leg line to look extra long, so the color of the shoe needs to match the color of the leg.”
—Windi Vianello, Owner
About the Author
Eddie Carden is an editorial intern for Halftime Magazine. He will be a senior, majoring in public relations and neuroscience, at the University of Southern California. He has been playing the trumpet since the fifth grade and currently serves as the drum major for the USC “Spirit of Troy” Trojan Marching Band.