• Let’s talk about shoes

    I love to talk about shoes!

    Wearing ballroom shoes rather than street shoes really does make a difference.  Ballroom shoes are purpose-built for dancing, so they are easier to move around in.  They help you do the rise & fall in waltz or roll through your feet in rumba, for example.  The suede soles give the perfect amount of grip on the floor–not totally slippery but not sticky either.  Women’s ballroom shoes have well positioned heels that are easier to balance on and help with heel turns in the dances that use heel turns.  They are also soft enough to allow you to point your feet.  Men’s ballroom shoes are lighter, trimmer, and more flexible than street shoes.

    Serious dancers have different shoes for different dances.  Daniel and I each have 2 pair: one for Smooth (waltz, tango, foxtrot) and one for Rhythm* (cha-cha, rumba, swing).  Smooth shoes for women have a closed toe while Rhythm shoes are sandals.  Smooth shoes for men look like jazz oxfords; men’s Rhythm shoes have a Cuban heel.  I think that if you only buy one pair, men should buy Smooth shoes and women should buy Rhythm shoes.

    Those are the plain facts.  Now for the deep, dark secrets of shoe-buying:

    • Women dancers wear their Rhythm sandals really short–you want your toes to hang off the end a little bit so you can feel the floor as you dance.  This feels weird at first; then you get used to it, and wearing them the “normal” length feels weird.  My Rhythm shoes are an English size 5, which is like an American 7.  I wear an 8 or 8 1/2 street shoe.
    • Dancing with men who aren’t wearing proper dance shoes makes me nervous.  A lot of men’s shoes have that extra ridge of hard sole around the outside.  It’s easy to bump exposed toes with that part of the shoe–I’ve had the broken toenails to prove it.
    • As you probably guessed from the above, dancers check out each other’s feet and figure out who the dedicated ballroom types are by spotting who is wearing ballroom shoes.
    • Suede soles can’t be worn outdoors without damaging them.  That means carrying your shoes in a bag when you go to an event.  You might feel silly walking into a black tie charity ball with a shoe bag, but it’s worth it.  Plus, if you go in sneakers, you get the enjoyment of putting your sneakers back on after a good long evening of dancing.

    Not wanting to give anyone free advertising unless they want to give me a shoe sponsorship, I haven’t mentioned any brand names or models in this post.  But if you are curious about what shoes to buy, email me and I’ll be happy to give some recommendations.  Good shoes for social dancing are available for around $60.  Worth every penny, as far as I’m concerned.

    Stay tuned for explanation of “Smooth” and “Rhythm” and related terms.

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