High-quality dance shoes are the next most important thing after your dance partner.
Your shoes allow you to pivot, twirl, step, and sashay. In competition, they also add to your aesthetic.
Proper shoe care is essential to keep your favourite pair of ballroom dance shoes looking new. Follow these steps:
How to Care for Your Ballroom Dance Shoes
So much rides on your shoes. Proper care is about knowing how to treat the material and the part of the shoe:
Leather can last a lifetime if you look after it. Clean and treat your leather ballroom dance shoes at least once a week.
Use a damp cloth to remove dirt, then apply a thin layer of cream or wax polish to nourish the leather and keep it soft, supple and shiny.
Patent leather should be cleaned with a damp cloth and then treated with patent leather dressing once it is dry.
Shine with a soft cloth to remove smears and light scuffs. Patent leather cannot be cleaned with ordinary shoe polish or cream but requires a proprietary treatment designed explicitly for this material.
A clean toothbrush is perfect for removing dirt from suede and is small enough to work into every angle and crevice. Brush the shoes from toe to heel and apply suede dressing.
A suede dressing will help nourish and look after the leather, but it does take a while to dry out, so don’t treat the shoes if you plan to wear them soon afterwards.
Suede soles can go hard and flat after time with regular wear, so you will need a suede shoe brush to raise the nap. Always brush from toe to heel. The brush will also remove any dirt that has adhered to the suede.
Nubuck requires almost the same treatment as suede as nubuck is made from cowhide leather and treated similarly.
You can clean nubuck with a cloth lightly dipped in warm, soapy water, so it is not wringing wet.
Satin shoes are some of the most difficult dance shoes to clean because the fabric is delicate. Improper cleaning can cause more harm than good.
Start by gently removing excess dirt with a soft brush or cloth. Then, with a damp cloth, blot away any stains. Avoid pressing too hard, or you could tear or damage the fabric. Always follow the grain of the fabric and never rub the stain.
Stubborn stains may require removal with soap. Use a hand washing liquid like Stergene, designed for delicate fabrics. Place a small amount of liquid on a clean, damp cloth, rub gently to lather and then blot or dab the stains.
Rinse immediately by patting with a clean cloth and cold water, so the lather doesn’t remain too long on the stain. Otherwise, it will create a mark.
Use a soft, clean hand towel to dab the shoes dry. Never rub as this will damage the grain of the satin and rub in any marks even more. Remove as much moisture as possible; leaving to air dry will leave watermarks.
The Inside of the Shoe
Dancers’ feet get hot and sweaty. Whatever your shoes are made from, caring for the inside is just as important as the outside to minimise damage from sweat and prevent odours.
Some dancers use foot liners or wear socks to protect the shoes, but this can alter the fit and is not always comfortable for long hours spent in training.
Baking soda sprinkled inside at the end of a dance session can help dry damp, sweaty shoes. Leave overnight and tip out in the morning.
Fabric softener sheets can perform the same function, just tuck one into each shoe and leave it for 12 hours.
Feet which remain sweaty for long periods in a hot dance shoe can suffer from conditions likeblisters and athlete’s foot. Treating the feet is essential, but don’t forget the shoes.
Shoes on the Move
If you are competing or training for long hours in the studio, take other pairs of shoes with you to rest your dance shoes and feet.
Most dancers know the importance of a change of shoe so they can refresh their feet whilst not performing.
Strictly Come Dancing favourite Sara Davies revealed to the world in 2021 that she wore slippers for most of her time on the set of Dragons Den other than when filming. It was a shock to viewers accustomed to seeing her in her trademark heels but a lesson for competitive dancers to give the shoes (and feet) a rest.
As well as looking after your feet, look after the hot shoes too. Talcum powder or charcoal bags can help deodorise and dry out a damp dance shoe.
The shoes are a ballroom dancer’s greatest weapon. Use the tips above to keep yours looking new no matter how many times you’ve worn them on the dance floor.
For more information, contact Supadance. Our dance shoe specialists will not only find the right pair of ballroom shoes for you but can also advise you on how to look after them with a full range of accessories and shoe care products.