First of all, congratulations on one of the best decisions of your life: you started dancing! Now that you have a new passion, you might consider buying a pair of dancing shoes! But what kind? How tall are heels? Do I have to wear heels? Do I need dancing shoes? Why are they special? Would a “normal” pair of heels do?
If you are serious about dancing and planning to dance at least once or twice a week, yes, you do need a pair of shoes for dancing – regardless of your gender. This can be an actual Latin dancing shoe or a shoe that is good for dancing. A good pair of shoes can enhance your dancing, help with fast turns, and spinning, and can improve your balance. In this article, you will find out what makes Latin dancing shoes special, what other alternatives you can have, and get practical guidelines on what to keep in mind when you buy them.
Anatomy of a Latin dancing shoe:
Latin dancing shoes, both for men and women, have a metal shank running from the heel all the way to the front section – this gives extra support to your arch. The front of the shoe, under the ball of your feet, is flexible for better mobility. Depending on the brand, the inside of the shoes can have extra padding, which gives extra comfort – so you can dance longer.
The sole can be suede or some kind of plastic (not rubber!). If you plan to dance inside, suede is the best solution as it slides the best. Suede cannot get wet and hence it is not recommended to dance outside in it. The advantage of plastic-soled shoes is that they are more universal; you can dance inside and outdoor.
The basic designs of the upper part of the men’s shoes are relatively similar; they are laced, or it’s slip-in (“loafers”). It’s up to you which one you prefer. However, our feet end up swelling during the day, and the laced version allows you to somewhat change the “fit” of the shoes and adjust them to your feet.
Straps or the upper part/design is a lot more diverse for women’s shoes. Closed toe, open toe, lace up on the front, zipper on the side, boots, sandals… the variations are nearly endless. It’s really up to you which style you prefer, but here, just like for men’s shoes, I would recommend those that fit can be changed (laced up, or sandal with buckle on the front as well as around the ankle). Toward the end of a long dancing night, feet can swell up, and it’s nice to be able to adjust it and make it more comfortable.
Shoe heels are more of an issue for women, men’s shoes tend to be at most 3-4cm. Heels for women’s shoes can be of various height and shape. The three main heel types or shapes are stiletto, flared, and chunky. Stiletto heels are slim or super skinny – sometimes shoemakers put magnets in them to make them heavier and more stable. Flared heels have a kind of hourglass shape; they flare out close to the end – the bigger surface in contact with the ground gives it more stability compared to the stiletto heels. Chunky heels have the biggest heel surface and are only for very low heels.
The heel height you want to dance in is, again, up to you. For women, it’s usually better to underestimate the heel height you can handle than to overestimate. A 6 to 7 cm heel height is typically comfortable even if you are not used to wearing heels and gives you the extra height and shows off your legs. It usually takes time to get used to dancing in higher heels. If you are a dedicated dancer, it’s better to invest in a good brand that puts extra support and cushioning for more comfort.
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Flat dancing shoes for women are also an option, you don’t need to wear heels if you don’t want to. If you are not comfortable in high heels, there is still the option of a flat dance shoe that gives you mobility on the dance floor.
The sizing of the dance shoes tends to be country/brand specific. Fortunately, brands tend to give a size chart relative to the actual measurements of your foot. Always follow the company’s guidelines; you probably will have to draw your foot around on a piece of paper and measure it to find the right size. If you buy a heel, maybe above 5-7 cm tall, order a half size up, as your foot will slip forward a bit.
Dancing in shoes that are not dancing shoes – You can, of course, just keep a few things in mind. You can get a sneaker – the sole must be plastic (its slippery!) not rubber (it has a grip). This can also be a good solution if you are dancing a lot (several hours a day) or want to give your feet a rest.
Finding the perfect pair of dancing shoes is an adventure! There are the aesthetic reasons – it must be pretty – but also practical reasons too: they must be comfortable so you can dance all night. If this is your first pair, don’t buy heels higher than 6-7 cm, and try flared heels first for extra stability.
You may feel pain in the balls of your feet when you start wearing heels on the dancefloor. This is quite normal; your feet are just not used to it. With feet stretching, you can train your feet to be more flexible, and you can dance longer and longer without pain.
Difference between “cheap” and “expensive” dancing shoes: In my personal experience – there is not that much difference… Both can be comfortable and last long. Also, I had expensive dancing shoes that killed my feet every night and cheap ones that were awesome. The general rule is that expensive dancing shoes tend to have more padding and a higher quality arch support system, making them more comfortable and lasting longer. I believe an “expensive” and good pair of dancing shoes is an investment in my passion of dancing; myself, got several pairs of “cheap shoes” and a few trusty “expensive ones.”
I hope I could help you to find your dream shoe(s)!
Disclaimer: I am not representing any shoe company or manufacture; I am an enthusiastic dancer who is crazy for shoes.
More info in YouTube videos:
Shoe brands we, in the Tribe tried, and recommend from cheap to more expensive.
Werner Kern https://www.werner-kern.com/