You need dance shoes, but everything in your local dance shoe shop looks boring and ugly. You’re not comfortable ordering online, since you want to try them on first. Or you just started dancing and you’re not sure you want to invest in dance shoes yet. What do you do?
I have discovered that it’s actually possible to find heels for dancing at regular stores. During my dance years I have already found 3 pairs of dance shoes from a mall. Here are things to pay attention to when looking for a comfortable pair. (These guidelines can also be used to see if any shoes you already own could be used for dancing.)
Type of Shoe
When you browse any women’s online dance shoe site you’ll see that the majority of shoes are sandals, which is what I am also usually sticking to. Breathability is definitely an issue when it comes to cheaper shoes, so when choosing a dance shoe from a regular store, I think strappy high heeled sandals are the safest bet. At a party you’ll be dancing for hours and you want your feet to breathe!
Most important thing to look for is that it would have a strap around your ankle or some other kind of support, to keep the shoe from coming off. The material of the straps shouldn’t be too stiff, otherwise it might painfully dig into your skin. Look for something softer, but still secure.
The sole of the shoe needs to be slippery enough so that you would be able to do spins and turns easily on the dance floor. If the shoe sticks strongly to the floor, you will hurt your knees during pivots. Which makes rubber soles a big no-no. I have found that some forms of plastic are slippery enough to dance with, as well as leather. Downside to some shoes might be that they’re too slippery, but that’s a better scenario than too much friction.
Regular indoor dance shoes have suede bottoms, so what I actually did to my first pair is I took the shoes to the shoe repair and let them stick a sheet of suede to the sole. The other two pairs had pretty good soles already so I didn’t have to do any altering.
Heels give the most support when they are positioned in the center of your heel, and not too far in the back. This is something I’m looking for in all heels, whether for dancing or not.
Height of the heel depends on what you’re used to. For beginners or girls who are not used to wearing heels I’d recommend the height of no more than 6 cm. Most of my dance shoes have a 7 cm heel – I don’t feel the need to go any higher right now, since this feels comfortable but still looks good on me.
Another little tip: wider heels give more support than thinner heels. In general, the strength of your ankles will be a big factor in how stable you feel wearing them, so doing ankle stabilisation exercises at home will help you with graduating to higher shoes.
Most latin dance shoes, since they’re sandals, are open-toed, or at least with a peep-toe. During heavy use, your feet will naturally slide forward in a shoe, so it’s good to make sure your toes won’t get crushed in it.
I think it comes down to how your toes are shaped, I personally cannot wear closed toe heels. However there are some argentine tango shoes out there with a closed toe, so if that is comfortable for your feet shape, go for it!
Getting dance shoes from a regular store can be a faster and cheaper alternative to ordering professional shoes online. These kind of heels might even be better for a beginner since the sole tends to be more stiff and stable than in regular latin ballroom shoes. However I’d still recommend trying on “real” dance shoes to feel the softness and how slippery exactly you want the sole to be. Most important thing is to take care of your feet and wear shoes that feel comfortable! If you’d like more advice on dance shoes, let me know and I’ll make more posts on that : )
* Shoe examples on the images were taken from Dune London site and are being used for educational purposes