Here is an interesting read on what appears to be a patent for the invention itself: Sole and heel shoe tap
United States Patent 4587746 Inventors: Williams, Alvin (Apt. 4B, 720 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY, 10039) More here: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4587746.html A brief history of Tap Shoes for dancing: http://www.tiptoedancewear.com/tap-history/
Historically, for the lower class, the invention of shoe taps had to be borne out of necessity. Probably it was inspired by horse shoes. If they can fasten metal to a horses hoof, then why not a leather shoe, only smaller. Certainly it was quickly adapted for Military use as well. Nothing more impressive than seeing hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of soldiers marching with taps. It must have sounded like sheer thunder, and would most certatinly intimidate as well as impress anyone hearing the sound. The Tap dancing use had to have come after. I feel this, because Military always gets the toys first.
I tried metal taps on a pair of shoes and almost broke my neck slipping in them, not mentioning the crashing sound they made. It just turned every head, and that was not my intention at all. I concur with Rider's post earlier. There is no need for metal taps. Regular maintenance, and non-abusive wearing are the keys to a shoes long life. Maybe Nylon Taps offer a better alternative to metal. Metal Taps, outside of the dancing world, no longer serve any purpose I can think of. Perhaps Cowboy Boots or a narrow toe shoe may warant metal toe taps? My own decisions
for any of my clothing / footwear are made by addressing a specific need
first. Anything after that, is 'pure theatre' in my estimation. Where is Manton & Sator today? I'd like to learn more about the history of metal taps. Google offered very little.