Ballroom Dancing: Let’s Talk Shoes

If you don’t think ballroom dancing is a sport, try swing dancing for around an hour and a half and see if you don’t break out in a sweat. Ballroom dancing also has its own “uniform,” which includes the type of attire and shoes used during competitions. Of course, this varies depending on whether you attend a class, a studio dance, or a competition.

I regularly hear the question, “What kind of shoes should I wear to dance in?”  is one that I get asked quite frequently. I think the best options for footwear are those designed specifically for ballroom dancing and even more for the specific dance style you intend to be doing at the event.

However, practicing in street shoes is entirely appropriate until you treat yourself with that hot strappy Latin shoe with the Cuban heel for the cha-cha or rhumba or a gorgeous sequinned number for the graceful waltz. This is because the cha-cha and the rhumba both require a Cuban heel.

Permit me to add that not just any street shoe will do hastily. Anything with rubber soles, like sneakers (they don’t offer you the traction you need on the floor), open-toed shoes (for obvious reasons, you’re still learning, and chances are your partner is, too), like sandals, or (heaven forbid!) flip-flops, should be avoided. Do your best to pull off a double spin in those! Additionally, I can confirm that I have witnessed students attending class while wearing flip-flops.

If your feet are hurting, it won’t be long before you can’t concentrate on anything else. A shoe with a leather sole, such as a loafer or, for males, a particular style of a dress shoe, will, on the other hand, usually fit you well. They are comfortable and do not constrict your feet should be your top priority when purchasing a pair.

The quality of the dance floor itself contributes to the level of comfort experienced by your feet. Some studios have the appropriate flooring for dancing, which typically consists of cushiony and almost spring-like underflooring. If the dancers’ shoes are also comfortable, they can dance for long periods without experiencing much fatigue on this type of floor. However, some dance studios are built on concrete slabs and have only a layer of hardwood layered on top of it; if you dance in one of these studios, your poor feet will take a beating from the hard floors.

Be sure to do comparison shopping before purchasing a high-quality pair of dance shoes at the earliest opportunity. The prices and the styles are all over the place, and the selection is virtually limitless. The cheapest items can cost anywhere between $30 and $50, while the most expensive items can cost well over $200. Dance shoes are not only made to be optimally suited for dancing but also to enhance the aesthetics of your dance as a whole. You will look better out there on the floor if you wear dance shoes.

Most elements that makeup dance shoes are designed with functionality in mind. Not only are the ankle straps aesthetically pleasing, but they also function to keep your feet securely within the shoes. Some pumps have elasticized rims on the uppers, which “hugs” the shoe to the wearer’s foot when the shoe is worn. The heels come in various heights and widths, all of which are determined by the type of dance they are intended to be worn. In most cases, the soles are made of suede, which enables you to literally “glide” across the dance floor but also assists you in performing turns and spins more effectively.

The suede soles of dance shoes should never be worn outside because doing so will shorten their lifespan. You may extend the life of your dance shoes by purchasing a travel case for them and a sole brush to elevate the nap of the suede every few weeks or so. Both of these accessories are available at most dance supply stores.

One last piece of advice: since your feet are most likely to be at their largest during the late afternoon or evening, it is best to put on dance shoes (or any other sort, for that matter) around this time. You’ll be asking a lot about your feet throughout your dancing experience, so taking care of them is essential. Treat and dress them well, and you’ll have a solid basis to build a lifetime of ballroom dancing.

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