For new students just beginning in ballroom finding the right shoes can make a big difference. Buying ballroom specific shoes can be overwhelming if you don’t have a guide to help you. We found the following tips from another website that rang true with our own experience as we bought our first pair of shoes so we decided to share with these tips with you. We covered several of these points in our Tuesday Tips series but wanted to list them all here for easy reference.
Q. What’s the difference between regular shoes and Ballroom Dancing shoes?
A. Like regular shoes, ballroom dance shoes come in a wide variety of variety of styles, sizes and colors. There are a few qualities, however, that are unique to dance shoes, and which make them ideal for getting around the dance floor. Some of these differences include the shoe’s sole, materials, fit and style.
Sole: The single biggest difference between ballroom dance shoes and normal shoes is that dance shoes have suede soles. Obviously Ballroom and Latin shoes are made to be worn indoors, usually on a wood floor; therefore they don’t need the durability of a leather or rubber sole. The advantage of suede is that it is smooth enough to slide easily on the dance floor, but tacky enough not to be slippery. Also, suede soles are malleable, so you can actually feel the floor under your feet. As you get better with your dance steps, your connection with the floor becomes more and more important, and a suede sole gives you the connection you need to make the dance floor your friend.
Materials: Dance shoes are made of various materials: leather, satin and patent are the most common.
The leather used in ballroom dancing shoes is usually very soft so leather shoes are stretchy, comfortable and light. They will also last a long time, but will need some polishing and maintenance to keep them looking sharp.
Satin shoes do not have the some stretch as leather and they tend to wear out faster. However, Satin is the most popular material for women’s dance shoes because it is easily dyed. Most competitive women dancers prefer to dye their shoes a nude color that closely matches their skin, so that their leg lines are not interrupted by the shoe.
Men’s Patent shoes look very sharp for ballroom and are the appropriate shoe to wear with a tail-suit. Patent shoes do tend to crack or rip as they age however. Also, you will need a lubricant to keep the shoes slipping past each other and not squeaking or sticking when they touch. Patent shoes will stretch over time, but not as much as leather. They also stretch more as they warm up, and shrink again as they cool.
Fit: In general, ballroom dance shoes should fit tighter than regular shoes, especially when they’re new. Dance shoes are made of very soft materials so over time they will stretch and mould to your foot. When you buy them, therefore, they should definitely be snug on your foot and not fall off or have the regular 1.5 cm space in the front like regular shoes. Basically dance shoes should “Fit like a glove”.
Style: We recommend a peek-a-boo toe for beginning ladies because it suits both the Ballroom and Latin dances really well. A peek-a-boo shoe is much more flexible than a Ballroom pump so you will still be able to arch your foot, point your toes and ‘grip’ the floor. At the same time a peek-a-boo shoe offers more support than a Latin sandal, and definitely keeps your toes more protected. You may also find a T-strap is helpful as it adds a little more support and stability for your foot.
Heel: It is not a good idea to get heels that are too high, especially when you first learn to dance. Everyone wants to look good and feel great when they’re dancing, and choosing a heel height that you can’t handle will make you look bad and feel worse. A 2 – 2.5 inch heel is pretty standard. If you have difficulties with balance, or aren’t used to wearing heels you might consider a wider heel, or even a flat shoe to start with. Remember that it is very difficult to focus on learning dance steps if you are wobbling around like a newborn giraffe.
Color: Black is a nice color for a pair of starter shoes because it looks more like a regular shoe, goes with most clothing and can easily go from “dinner” to “dancing”. Another color that is very popular with dancers is nude. Nude shoes do not stand out as much, which is nice because mistakes are not as noticeable and your legs will look longer. They also go well with both summer dresses and winter clothing. You can get both leather and satin shoes in nude and if your particular style or skin color isn’t available, you can usually find the style you want in white satin and dye it nude. The shopkeeper can do it for you or you can do it yourself.
Your first pair of ballroom dance shoes is a no-brainer. You want a comfortable leather ballroom shoe that fits well and has good support. If you want to stand out a little more you will probably be able to find something with some interesting styling (different weaves, cuts, textures). However, you should probably avoid patent shoes as they are most appropriate in very formal situations.
You should also steer clear of Latin shoes unless you only plan to learn Latin dances (Latin shoes have a higher ‘Cuban heel’ which makes taking heel leads very uncomfortable). Even if you never plan to learn to Waltz or Foxtrot we suggest that you learn you first dance steps (and many more after that) in a normal leather ballroom shoe.
You will likely only find black shoes, which will probably suit you just fine.
There are a lot of good reasons to buy ballroom dance shoes even though they can be pretty expensive (they are quite specialized and usually imported from Europe). Furthermore we feel it is worth the money to get a good quality shoe with the proper support rather than going with a cheaper pair. At the very least try on a few different pairs to get a sense for what feels good on your foot.