We are often asked about shoes for dancing. It’s kind of a big subject, and everyone has their own preferences. But for those interested in being appropriately shod for dance occasions, here are some Shoe Basics:
Dancing in street shoes: You can do perfectly well attending lessons and dances in street shoes for a good long time; don’t feel pressured to buy dance shoes right away. For best results:
Wear a shoe with a hard (not rubber) sole; your shoe should stay securely on the foot. The dance floor is a “No Flip-Flops” zone!
Ladies, avoid backless shoes since we spend a lot of time backing up.
Gentlemen, the more slim and trim your shoes, the easier you will find it to dance with your lady–no fear of accidentally bumping her with your shoe.
Most people who get interested in ballroom dancing end up buying some ballroom shoes. They are lighter, more flexible, and more comfortable to dance in than regular dress shoes. They have a suede sole that gives you just the right amount of grip on the dance floor. The suede means that you can’t wear them on the street, but it’s okay at dance events to come in wearing street shoes and then change to dance shoes.
Dancing in ballroom shoes:
Brands: The best “entry level” brands that I’m aware of are Go Go Dance Shoes and Very Fine. Very Fine is a wholesaler and lots of stores and studios carry their shoes. It could be worthwhile to shop around a bit and compare prices. If you are ready to spend a little more, take a look at Supadance or International. I wear Supadance and have found that ordering directly from the company will get you the lowest price, even taking shipping and exchange rate into account.
Styles: Competitive dancers wear different shoes for different dances. Ladies wear open-toed shoes for Rhythm/Latin dances and closed toes for Smooth/Standard. It’s easier to waltz in a sandal than to cha-cha in a pump, so if in doubt, get open toes. (I have these.) Men wear regular heels for Smooth/Standard and a higher “Cuban” heel for Rhythm/Latin–no need for a Cuban heel unless you are competing. Get plain black leather instead of shiny patent leather. (Daniel wears something like this.)
Fit and heel height: Dance shoes will fit closer than street shoes–you want a snug enough fit that your foot doesn’t shift around inside the shoe. Ladies often wear their Latin sandals with their toes hanging a little bit over the front edge of the sole. If you absolutely can’t tolerate a high heel, don’t worry. Almost every maker has at least a couple of low-heel styles; Very Fine has several. (I wear these when teaching lessons.)
Where to buy: This is where things get a little more challenging here in Macon, GA!
Bobo’s Dance Supply (2352 Ingleside) sometimes carries some ballroom shoes and they always carry dance sneakers (which are GREAT if you need/want maximum comfort). They also do special orders.
Showtime Dance Shoes in Duluth only carries the more expensive brands (Supadance, International, Freed) but they have tons of inventory and they’re very nice. Once or twice a year they have a big clearance sale; get on their email list to receive notification and plan to carpool with your friends.
If you are comfortable with online shopping, Discount Dance Supply has an extensive ballroom selection and their prices are good.
How to put on your shoes: Ladies, you are likely to find that the straps and buckles on your shoes are different from what you’re used to. Never fear; I have made a video to help you sort it out:
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