Most frequently asked question is, “What makes dance shoes different from street shoes?”
Dance shoes, both ladies and men’s have non-slip suede soles, a metal shank in the arch for support, and they are very light-weight and flexible.
Ballroom Dance Shoes: Choosing the Right Style
Men’s dance shoes are typically black lace-up Oxfords with a flat heel for standard dances, and a 1 to 2 inch heel for Latin dances.
For women, form is almost as important as function, and shoe styles are as varied as dance categories — including Latin, swing, cha cha, foxtrot and waltz, to name a few.
Basic designs include open- or closed-toe pumps and sandals. Heels in women’s shoes are slim or flared and generally range in height from 1 to 3 inches.
Slim heels make turns and other moves easier. Flared heels are preferred for the Latin dances because they provide more stability.
A Word on Women’s Shoes
Women new to the world of ballroom dance may consider purchasing one pair of shoes that will work for a number dances — typically a closed-toe pump with a 2 to 2.5 inch flared heel and an ankle strap. These are referred to as standard, court or modern dance shoes.
Latin dancers typically wear open-toed shoes or strappy sandals with a 3 inch flared heel. As you become more proficient, you can add more styles to your wardrobe.
Expect to spend about $100 for a good pair of ballroom shoes.
Ballroom dance shoes come in a variety of colors. Black is the most popular. Many women choose flesh-colored shoes, which help extend the leg line, for competitions.
Ballroom Dance Shoe Construction
Non-slip soles are essential. Look for suede soles, which provide the right combination of grip and slide.
Rubber sneaker-like soles can stick to the floor and cause knee injuries, and leather soles can slide too much. Dance shoes have thinner soles than normal shoes. Most dancing shoes have a steel shank for support. The shoe material is flexible and lightweight.
For Ballroom Dancing, A Good Fit is Essential
Choose a snug, but not toe-crushing, fit. Try on several styles before purchasing. Shoes should be both comfortable and functional.
Buy in person the first time. If you can, ask your Social Graces instructor about this for guidance. An experienced salesperson can help you find the proper fit and style. Large cities, such as New York, have specialty shops. Ask your dance instructor or experienced dancers at your club where to buy locally.
Once you’ve found shoes you like and know what size you need, you can also purchase them online.
Maintenance and Repair
Don’t wear your ballroom dance shoes on the street. Rough surfaces and dirt will wear them out quickly. Carry them in a bag and put them on when you get to class or to the ballroom.
If you need your shoes repaired, call before you drop them off at your local shoemaker to be sure the shop is familiar with handling dance shoes.
Buying Latin or Standard Dance Shoes
Generally, dancers use open toe shoes for Latin and Rhythm and closed toe pumps for Smooth and Standard.
Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep are defined as Standard dances.
Samba, Cha-Cha-Cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive, Salsa are defined as Latin Dance. In Latin dancing, partners perform tightly choreographed routines in which they must project energy and passion. The pair’s appearance, including costuming and shoes, is important to the success of the routine.
Women’s Dance Shoes: Style and Fit
For Latin and Ballroom dancing, women wear either pumps or sandals with a 2- or 3-inch heel. You may want to choose a lower height if you are not used to dancing in heels.
Pumps are open along the sides of the feet, have a closed toe box and are secured with an ankle strap. Sandals are strappy and open-toed. Practice shoes come in many different styles but tend to offer a lower, wider heel and breathable mesh or canvas covering much of the foot. Many students prefer practice shoes for lessons but wear a Latin or smooth shoe for dance parties, showcases, and competitions,
Most often made of leather or satin, women’s Latin dance shoes are lightweight, flexible and have suede soles, which provide the right blend of grip and slide while moving across the floor.
It’s best to purchase your first pair of Latin dance shoes in person, not online or from a catalog. When you shop, try several styles and brands. Look for a fit that is snug and hugs your foot, but is not too tight. Shoes that are too tight can cause blisters; those that are too loose can make you trip.
For Latin sandals, the woman’s toe should be as close as possible to the front of the shoe. Some women prefer to have their toes extend or hang over the edge of the shoe so that they can point their toes more easily and feel the floor.
Whichever style you choose should offer good control and look sexy. Prices range from $85 to $150.