I knew when I tried the first pair of ballroom dancing shoes on that they were the ones for me. The saleswoman had correctly identified the shoes that would best fit the size and shape of my feet. I tried other pairs on, but none felt as comfortable or as right as that first pair.
I bought a standard pair within two weeks of starting the introductory ballroom dancing class. I knew I would continue with the dancing lessons and I wanted the proper footwear. I decided they were worth buying as they would help me to feel more like a dancer. I have found that to be the case with other sports and physical activities, such as rock climbing and golf. I learn more quickly with the right equipment.
Dance shoes make it easier to dance due to their weight and flexibility. Ballroom shoes are generally lighter than street shoes because they are made of lighter weight leather. I noticed this when I tried a pair for the first time. I don’t expect them to last as long as street shoes even though I intend to only ever use them for dancing.
Ballroom dance shoes are flexible, have more padding in the insole and have more room to move and don’t squash your toes. This latter feature I like especially for the tango where I have the tendency of tensing my toes.
For men there are two main types of shoes: Latin (rhythm) and standard (smooth). Apparently, latin shoes are more fexible than the standard shoes. I chose a pair of standard black shoes because I want to dance both styles. Men’s standard shoes have the same heel as dress shoes, while latin shoes have a one or two inch heel.
I have heard that ladies shoe styles are as varied as dance styles. The basic designs are open toe or closed toe with either slim or flared heels which range in height from one to three inches. Slim heels make turns easier. Flared heels provide more stability, especially for the Latin dances. Basically, a standard ladies dance shoe – closed toe with a two to two-and-a-half inch flared heel and an ankle strap – will work for a number of dances.
Both ladies and men’s ballroom dance shoes have non-slip soles. The sole is made of thin suede which means we keep in better contact with the floor and have a greater range of motion. This split leather sole works better because of the napped (fuzzy) surface.
Work Less, Dance More
Is it worth buying dance shoes when you are a ballroom dancing beginner?
I believe so. I think it is true that my feet are more comfortable with dance shoes which means I can dance longer in dance classes and practice sessions. There is less strain on my feet, legs and knees and there is more ease of motion with improved control. This makes it easier for me to learn to ballroom dance and make the most of the ballroom dancing lessons.
I am glad that I bought better quality shoes as better suede means less risk of slipping. What we want are shoes that let us pivot or spin halfway around on one foot, but do not let us slip and fall.
Where to Buy?
Ask your dance studio where to buy locally. I bought mine in person from a local store recommended by the dance studio. The experienced salesperson helped me to find the proper fit and style.
I would expect to spend a minimum of $100 for a good pair of ballroom shoes. I paid $140 CAD for mine. I love the craftmanship of these shoes.
- Try on many different shoes. Give yourself plenty of time to find comfortable shoes as you can’t take them back if they are worn.
- Do some dance steps to simulate what you expect your feet to go through. It’s ok to look and feel silly. If possible, play some ballroom music.
- Choose a good fit, avoid toe-crushing. Find shoes that are both comfortable and functional.
- Make sure the salesperson identifies whether you require a narrow or wide fit, and whether you need shoes for Swing or Latin or standard Ballroom.
Shoe Care Tips
- Don’t get them wet
- Don’t wear them outside
- Carry them in a bag and put them on when you get to class or to the ballroom
- Use a metal brush frequently on the suede sole
If you have any helpful advice for beginners based on your experience of buying dance shoes, please leave a comment below.