Our beginners can come in for any class or lesson wearing street shoes without worrying about investing in a dance shoe. We recommend comfortable shoes that you are accustomed to wearing (no blisters!) and above all else that the shoes stay on your feet whether you take forward or back steps! In the beginning, any shoe that fits that description should be fine, although rubber soles do tend to make turns tricky so a leather sole or even a plastic sole is preferable over rubber. (Sneakers will be okay if that’s your best option at the beginning.)
Now that you’ve started your new hobby, it might be time to get the gear! Most people find that the suede on the bottom of ballroom dance shoes provides just the right resistance to facilitate turns and better footwork, without being slick enough to be dangerous. If you are considering investing in a pair of dance shoes, it’s always wise to consult within your studio what the best values and latest trends are, and ask if there are any local vendors. Sometimes your only option is to shop online, in which case you will want to be sure whether the sizing is US or European.
For gentlemen it’s a little easier to shop since the options are more limited…black shoes with suede on the bottom are your best bet. For ladies, there are a few more considerations.
Here are some things to keep in mind;
- When it comes to heel height, and heel width, you will want to consult your own comfort and balance as well as discuss with either your teacher or studio counselor because the Latin and Swing dances can be comfortable in a slightly higher heel than the Smooth (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, etc) dances. Your first pair should be something that might work for multiple styles so I would generally suggest choosing a 2 inch or at most 2 and a half inch heel. This might vary depending on habit (if you love and live in 3 inch heels, for example) and also the above mentioned balance. If you have balance concerns, there are inch and a half Cuban heels you can find for practice until you build up to a higher heel. These Cuban heel options sometimes hide on the website under “practice shoes” or “ladies teaching shoes” because teachers will spend so many hours on their feet they will often have a Cuban heel for teaching but you will generally see them in the appropriate higher heel for performances and showcases.
- Black or tan? Many of us gravitate toward a black shoe as beginners, because we view the shoe as similar to our street shoe shopping…this is different!! Particularly when we wear a skirt or dress, and let’s face it when we are dancing we may do so more often than when we are not, the tan shoe will elongate the leg line whereas a black shoe will make any leg appear shorter. Most often the dance floor is also a tan wood color, so a black shoe really stands out. As a beginner, or at any level really, we want to call attention to our feet minimally and then only for the right reason…so unless you plan on wearing black slacks with black socks and black shoes to every lesson, or black hose with every skirt/dress, it’s better to have a tan shoe!!
- Open toe or Closed toe? The closed toe shoes are typically designed for Smooth dances, and sometimes have a little less flexibility. The appeal for a beginner is that there might be less risk of getting stepped on, and more protection in case it does happen. Most of the time the open toe shoes are a more popular first timers choice.
- In essence: 2 inch open toe TAN shoes are the best to start with, barring any exceptions!
It is a wonderful feeling to be able to walk in for your lesson or class and join in with the more advanced students in the ritual of changing our shoes. Some even find it helps them to shed the worries of the day and get into dance mode. Not only should the shoes make dancing more comfortable (once the shoes are broken in) it is almost unspoken code within any dance setting that you are no longer a total novice.