Dancing is a great way to stay healthy and is one of the most universally enjoyed activities worldwide. However, if you want to get the most out of it, you need the right pair of shoes.
Below are some key features to look out for when choosing ballroom dance shoes.
Open Toe vs Closed Toe
If you are new to ballroom dance, you may think the choice between open toe or closed toe is purely down to style preference. For this reason, you might be surprised to learn that it goes much deeper than that. Open-toe vs closed-toe is a decision that affects your performance to such an extent that dancers often consider these shoes as totally different styles.
Open-toed shoes are often best for fast-paced, powerful Latin ballroom dances, such as salsa. Latin dances require quick movements, and the open-toed style offers more flexibility to allow that.
On the other hand, closed-toe shoes are generally more suitable for traditional ballroom dances such as the Waltz, Foxtrot, or Tango. They offer more rigidity and support, allowing you to glide with restrained, precise movements across the dance floor.
When shopping for different shoes, identify which style you're more likely to perform and choose accordingly.
Similarly to the case with open-toe vs closed-toe, you may assume that your heel is a purely stylistic choice. In actuality, your heel's height can significantly affect your performance. From precision to comfort, the heel of your shoe can change everything. So what do you need to look out for in particular?
The first thing to consider is height. The range of heel heights in ballroom dancing is substantial, spanning from as small as 0.5'' up to 3''.
When dancing ballroom, you want to ensure your weight balances over the balls of the feet. Wider, shorter heels provide more stability, so if you are new to them, we advise starting there.
As you progress, feel free to increase the height and maybe opt for some thinner heels. It'll take time, but dancing in higher heels can make you feel very powerful!
You should expect all your shoes to fit well, whether they are dance shoes or not, but ballroom shoes take this to a new level. The fit needs to go beyond basic comfort. You need to make sure they fit like a glove because you will potentially be wearing them for hours at a time. Even if you don't intend to perform at a professional level, any pain or discomfort will quickly suck the fun out of dancing.
A few of the warning signs of a ballroom shoe that doesn't fit properly include:
- Any slipping around the front or back of the shoe
- Wobbling from side to side at the ankles
- Discomfort after minimal wear
- Feelings of tightness
Although you certainly don't want the shoe to feel loose, too tight is also a problem. It should fit your foot perfectly.
Many ballroom shoes will come with a transparent, adjustable strap that can help mitigate some of the more common problems associated with ill-fitting shoes. Alternatively, if you have the budget, you could have your shoes custom-made to fit your foot.
As you try on different pairs for fit, know that our feet expand as the day progresses and in warmer temperatures. Shopping for shoes in the evening or after walking around extensively is best. That way, your feet will be closer to the size they would be whilst dancing.
Sold on the Sole
Yes, when it comes to the finer details of ballroom shoes, you even need to think about the sole.
Ballroom shoes possess the unique feature of suede soles, which provide a heightened grip. Ballroom dancing covers a significant amount of styles, but many of them require you to travel far across the dance floor. Others require less travelling but make up for it with their fast pace.
Either way, you need a secure grip, which suede soles provide!
Granted, we have spoken a lot about how style isn't as important as function when choosing your ballroom shoe, but sometimes the look does matter. It is especially true in competitions, where judges will be assessing you for everything, not solely the skill of your performance. Your neatness, costume, and overall ‘look’ will be in the spotlight.
When choosing the right style, you have a lot of options. Your shoes should always match your attire, or you should opt for a tasteful, neutral colour.
International ballroom competitions often feature shoes with closed sides, with or without a strap. For American Style Smooth, the rules are less stringent on the style you need to wear.
However, if you're just dancing for fun, then wear whatever you want! The rules go out of the window when it comes to recreational dance, so feel free to get a little more creative.
Finding the perfect shoe is a triumphant moment, but you also need to think about what you will do afterwards when the curtain closes and you return home with your hot, sweaty shoes.
If you don't store them properly or stay on top of upkeep, you will have to get out there and find another perfect pair a lot sooner than you'd like.
Dancers will often keep their shoes in the box they came in or similar conditions, away from harsh temperatures and certainly away from adverse weather. Always pack a second pair of comfortable shoes when travelling between performances.
Another critical thing to remember is that even the best pair of dance shoes won't last forever. In fact, they often don't last nearly as long as conventional shoes. Why? Well, there are two key reasons.
First, they are made from highly specialised and often delicate materials. The second is that they receive intense use. A dance routine is far more intensive than simply walking to and from your local shop.
A good tip is to purchase two or three pairs of the same shoe, so you can switch them out instead of giving one pair all the work.
Finding the perfect ballroom shoe might feel like an uphill struggle, but your perfect pair is out there! It just might take a little time to find them. All you need to do is stick to our advice, and you'll be comfortably gliding across the dance floor in no time.