Dance shoes: what you should know before buying
In this article, we’ll discuss general features to look for when shopping for any type of salsa, latin, swing, or ballroom dance shoe.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD DANCE SHOES
Quality dance shoes are lightweight, comfortable, flexible, made of genuine suede and/or leather, and have additional cushioning built into the sole. They give your foot more freedom of movement than regular shoes while keeping the heel “locked” in place. They have leather/suede soles to give you just the right amount of slip and grip on the dance floor while allowing your foot to spin freely (to prevent knee damage). In general, any leather-soled or suede-soled shoe is “good,” and rubber-soled sneakers, hiking boots, etc. They are not good”.
FIND THE RIGHT FIT
Your dance shoes should feel like a glove on your foot. You do NOT want any wiggle room as they will stretch out a bit once you start wearing them. This snug fit allows your foot to connect better with the ground, giving you more control of your movement, balance, turns and will significantly reduce your fear of slipping and falling. You’ll wonder why you didn’t make the investment sooner once you experience the difference.
WHAT STYLE SHOULD YOU BUY?
The type of dance shoe you buy depends largely on the style of dance you do. Gentlemen usually wear low-heeled suede or leather shoes for Ballroom, Swing or Salsa dancing. For Latin Ballroom, the heel tends to be a bit higher, measuring up to 1.5 inches.
For the ladies, an open heel or strappy sandal is best for Latin and salsa dancing. This allows for more movement of the toes, which many dancers feel helps with balance and creates a clean leg line. For Swing and Ballroom, a closed dance shoe with a slightly lower heel is common. The wide range of styles can make choosing your first pair of dance shoes overwhelming. Here are some things to consider:
CHOOSING STRAPS FOR YOUR SHOES:
- Traditional ankle strap: This is the standard around-the-ankle strap commonly used for most women’s dress shoes and sandals and provides the least amount of security for the foot.
- T-strap: The T-strap connects to the base of the shoe securing your foot more evenly to the shoe while taking some of the pressure and strain off your ankle.
- X-Strap (around the ankle): This X-strap style anchors you firmly to your shoe by providing twice the coverage of a traditional strap.
- X-Strap (around the arch): Great for new dancers, this style of strap anchors the foot to the arch of the shoe, providing an ideal amount of support and stability. If you’re prone to “rolling” your ankle in heels with a traditional ankle strap, you’ll love the security this crossover strap will provide.
- Double X-strap: Combining the best of all worlds, the double X-strap provides FOUR anchors that secure you just as if you were wearing a lace-up style. You will be amazed at how secure your foot feels!
Heel sizes can be as low as 0.5″ or as high as 4″. The most common heel sizes are between 2″-3″. Higher heels give your leg more shape, but just that extra half inch can make a noticeable difference in how it feels to dance. For beginners, it is recommended to start with a heel height of 2.5″. The higher your heel, the more your weight will push forward on the ball of your foot. A lower, thicker heel provides more stability and distributes weight more evenly across the foot.
The thickness of the heels varies. Cuban heels are the lowest, thickest heels and distribute weight over more of the foot, providing more balance and comfort. The slim stiletto heel is very popular with salsa dancers right now. The flared heel, thin in the center and wider at the bottom, is another popular heel still favored by many ballerinas.
FIND THE RIGHT SIZE
Usually your dance shoe size will be the same as your street shoe size. If your foot is narrow, you should go down 1/2 size. If your foot is wider, you should go up 1/2 size from your usual street shoe. Remember, you want them to be snug, but not painful.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR DANCE SHOES
To keep shoes clean, shoe polish is excellent for leather. Satin, mesh and shiny netting can be cleaned with soap and water. Suede-soled shoes can wear out quickly if worn on the street. It is best to wear suede-soled shoes only on dance floor surfaces (such as hardwood floors). We suggest changing into dance shoes once you arrive at your dance destination. Most new dance shoes come with a shoe bag for this reason.
Wire shoe brushes can be used to clean suede-soled shoes. The wire not only removes debris from the bottom, but also lifts the nap so the chamois is like new again.