You have taken a few ballroom dance lessons and are starting to get more serious about dancing. It's time to look into purchasing some dance shoes! A pair of quality dance shoes, with its special construction and materials, will help you learn better and dance longer. Below are 7 important things to consider when choosing the right dance shoes.
1. Make Sure it Fits Like a Glove
When you first try on a pair of dance shoes, make sure they fit snugly without excessive pressure. This will give you the most control of your shoes even after they are broken in. I usually go a half or full size down for my dance shoes.
2. Open Toe vs. Closed Toe
Generally, open toe shoes are designed for Latin and rhythm dances, such as Salsa, Rumba and swing, which require more pointing of the toes and articulation of the feet. The opening in the shoes allows you to point your toes easier and execute footwork more precisely. Closed toe shoes are designed for smooth/standard dances, such as Foxtrot and Waltz, as these dances require a more traditional classic look. Unless you are focusing on a particular dance style, beginning dancers can pretty much choose any style you'd like. Though, when you first learn to dance, it's almost inevitable to get stepped on once in a while, so you may consider getting closed toe shoes as they provide some protection for your pedicured toes :)
3. Heel Heights
The heel height for Latin and ballroom dance shoes ranges from 1.5" to 3". For beginning dancers, you should choose a heel height that gives you the most comfort. If you are not accustomed to wearing heels, you may want to start with shoes that have a lower heel to start with. Also, there are different shapes of heel, such as slim and flared. A flared heel is a popular choice as it gives you more stability. For men's dance shoes, a 1" heel is designed for ballroom dance styles while a 1.5" Cuban heel is designed for Latin dance styles. Unless you are participating in dance competitions, a 1" heel is generally sufficient for both ballroom and Latin dancing.
4. Suede Sole Shoes
It is recommended to have a suede sole for your dance shoes. The suede sole gives you the right amount of slip and traction so that you can feel more balanced and have more control when turning and moving around the dance floor. Every once in a while, you need to brush the suede sole with a wire dance shoe brush to maintain its roughness.
5. Buying Dance Shoes Online vs. In Store
Whether you order shoes online or purchase them in a store, I suggest you first go to a dance supply store to try on some shoes. Since sizing can vary from brand to brand, it is best to try and compare various brands, sizes and models to ensure you find the right fit.
Moisture is the no. 1 thing that kills a shoe. After dancing, I usually use shoe trees to absorb moisture and keep the shape of the dance shoes. Cedar shoe trees are particularly great for fighting odor! Unfortunately, dance shoes are not made to last for a long time due to their delicate materials and the way dancers use the shoes. To extend the life of a pair of dance shoes, I recommend having 2 or more pairs of shoes (depending on how frequently you dance) to rotate between dance sessions. This allows each pair enough time to dry out before the next use. Also, never wear your dance shoes outdoors as the suede leather is very delicate and can be damaged easily by any harsh objects and water!
The cost of Latin and ballroom dance shoes range from $80 to $300 a pair depending on the brand and quality. For about $170, you can get a great quality pair of shoes. It is definitely worth spending a little more money since a good pair of dance shoes can last longer and give you more comfort and support when learning to dance.
I hope this is helpful to anyone who is buying their first pair of ballroom dance shoes! Please leave me a comment if you have any questions about choosing dance shoes. I'd love to help!
Szewai (C-Y) Lee is the founder of Duet Dance Studio, a Chicago dance studio that offers Latin and ballroom dance lessons, wedding dance instruction, and BYOB dance parties. Besides dancing, Szewai enjoys discovering hidden gems in the city, finding great music and making short videos about people and things that inspire her.