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How to Clean, Maintain, and Take Care of Suede-Bottomed Dance Shoes

Anya Brodech is a professional salsa, Latin, swing, and ballroom dance teacher in Oakland, CA.

Suede Bottom Latin Dance Shoe

A spectacular suede bottom latin dance shoe

A spectacular suede bottom latin dance shoe

Why You Should Clean Your Suede Bottom Latin Dance Shoes

For proper Latin dancing, it is essential to have suede bottom Latin dance shoes, especially for the ladies! Unlike regular street shoes that have rubber or leather bottoms, Latin dance shoes have suede bottoms that require special treatment and care.

It is important to take care of your dance shoes so this way you can make the most of your investment by having them last as long as possible for your dancing before you replace them.

If you don't clean your shoes regularly, then that gunk will solidify into a slippery mass on the bottom of your shoes and you will lose that traction you need for controlled dancing on hardwood dance floors.

Regular shoes with leather bottoms can be slippery on hardwood dance floors, and also aren't nearly as flexible as suede bottom dance shoes. For women, this flexibility is essential for quality dancing because it allows you to change your weight easily as you move around and gives you full range of motion in your feet so you can do some really nice styling.

Besides, ruining your shoe bottoms by neglecting to take care of them is the same as throwing your money away since you probably spent $60-150+ to buy them!

All proper dance studios for latin will have hardwood dance floors

All proper dance studios for latin will have hardwood dance floors

How to Take Care of Your Suede Soled Dance Shoes for Dancing at a Studio

All proper dance studios have hardwood dance floors that are cleaned and maintained on a regular daily basis (or at least they should be!)

Before or after each class or l recommend using a suede sole shoe brush and cleaning the bottom of your shoes so this way they will stay clean and the suede will last longer, giving you the professional edge with your dancing!

Dance shoe brushes typically feature a wooden handle and metal bristles with a leather cover that flips on/off the bristles to prevent you from damaging other items that the brush may come into contact with while in storage.

Where to Buy Wire Shoe Brushes for Suede Bottom Dance Shoes

Dance shoe brushes can be purchased at just about any business/store/website that sells genuine dance shoes since they are a must-have item for shoe maintenance! They typically cost anywhere from $5-20 depending on which kind you buy and where you buy it from. You can buy it online from Amazon or at your local ballroom dance supply store.

Dance Shoe Brush on Amazon

Shoe Brush

Most shoe brushes come with a leather flap that covers the metal bristles on the brush so they don't damage other items in your bag or hurt your hands when you're handling your brush to put it away

Most shoe brushes come with a leather flap that covers the metal bristles on the brush so they don't damage other items in your bag or hurt your hands when you're handling your brush to put it away

How to Clean Your Suede Soled Shoes Using a Wire Shoe Brush

To clean your suede-soled shoes using a wire brush, you have two options. Either you clean your shoes while you are wearing them, or you hold them in your hand separately.

If you are wearing your shoes, stand somewhere where you can a) hold onto the wall or lean onto something sturdy for support as you balance your balance, and b) have the dirt fly off onto the ground and around you and not have it be a problem.

Then you clean your shoes one a time. Leaning against the wall or other sturdy thing to balance yourself, stand on one leg and bend your other knee to bring up the foot towards you that you want to clean the shoe of. Keep your shoe bottom facing you and hold onto the top of your shoe with one hand, and use the other hand to hold the brush and scrape off the bottom.

You can also do this sitting down on a chair/bench/etc., just not in bed! You bring your foot up and hold it just like your would if you were standing up.

Scrape the bottom of your shoe using short quick strokes going from the center out since most dirt tends to get caked on the area under the ball of your feet because that's where the most pressure is. When you brush, press down firmly enough so that the metal teeth can sink into it a bit and get at that gunk. However, don't press too hard or you'll end up ripping your shoe!

Keep scraping until the shoe is clean and alternate going in different directions and changing your pressure as needed. If the brush gets clogged, you can tap it on the wooden side so the dirt falls out of it or use an unbent paper clip/metal wire to manually remove the dirt that gets stuck between the teeth..

If you want to clean your shoe while not wearing it, feel free to stand up or sit down as you like, then hold the top of your shoe in one hand and the brush in the other, and clean it as described above. Just pay attention and make sure you don't hurt your hand accidentally!

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Regardless of how you cleaned your shoe with the brush, make sure you clean up after yourself and don't leave a mess!

I recommend holding your shoe over a trash can with a large opening, or over a big plastic bag (like the one from the dry cleaners) on the ground, so this way the dirt that flies off from your shoe can land on it.

When you're done, make sure you clean your shoe brush so it'll be ready to use for next time!


What to Expect on the Floor at a Salsa Dance Club or Bar

Club and bar floors sometimes tend to get very sticky and/or dirty, with the occasional spilled drink or two. It is very bad for your dancing if the floors are not cleaned properly because you'll end up sticking to the ground and have trouble spinning. Not to mention the fact that your shoes can get very grimy and dirty on the bottom!

It's for these reasons that I say that you be careful with what kind of shoes you wear to a salsa club/bar!

Many serious dancers, like myself, will wear our dance shoes just about everywhere we go for dancing, and put them on when we get inside.

If you would like to wear your suede-bottomed-genuine-dance shoes there l recommend using awood/metal shoe brush and cleaning the bottom of your shoes.

Another option is to bring talcum/baby powder with you, as described below.

Baby Powder


Why You Should Bring Talcum/Baby Powder to the Dance Floor

Talcum/baby-powder is good for dancing at nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and other places for social dancing outside of a studio where the floor might be sticky or dirty because it creates a barrier between your shoes and the dance floor and helps absorb some of that stickiness on the ground, reducing the friction and thus allowing you to glide across and not get stuck!

Powdered Dance Floor

Powdered corner of a dance floor

Powdered corner of a dance floor

How to Use Baby/Talcum Powder to a Dance Club

If you are going to a dance club or bar outside of a dance studio setting, it is recommended to bring talcum and/or baby powder, available at most drugstores/mass retailers like Walgreens, CVS, or Walmart. What you do is shake some out and pour it directly onto the dance floor in about a 2 or 3 ft circle, so it's evenly distributed and not just in a big clump. Make sure you do it on the side of the dance floor, towards the front or back of the room, but not in the middle of the dance floor! However, make sure you find out first if this is okay because some places have a problem with getting their floors powdered. An easy way to do this is to ask other dancers and/or look for another powder circle on the floor.

Once you made your circle, you step on it while wearing your dance shoes and kind of swivel around in it and do the "twist" so to speak, or you just walk around all over it and swirl it around using the bottom of your shoes. Main point is to get a thin layer distributed onto the bottom of your shoes, specifically under the ball of your foot and where your shoe makes contact with the ground. Anymore than that is unnecessary.

You will know that you're in a place with good dancers and sticky floor when there are 2 or 3 big powder circles on the ground. A lot of times you can just use someone else's powder circle without a problem because you only need a little bit.

Using Baby Powder on the Dance Floor

How to Clean Your Suede Bottom Dance Shoes without a Shoe Brush

If you would like to maintain your shoes, buy a shoe brush so you can scrape off the gunk that tends to accumulate on the bottom of your shoes from the dance floor.

If you don't have a shoe brush, another option is to go outside onto a DRY sidewalk/driveway/concrete area that is somewhat rough in texture but relatively clean (so you don't get your shoes more dirty) and do some swivels or the "twist" to rub off the gunk on the bottom. You can also walk up and down the area drag your foot from front to back along the ground, sort of kicking up behind you, as another way to scrape off the gunk.

Obviously, make sure you do this in a safe area and stay out of the flow of traffic and away from cars/motor vehicles so you don't get hit while cleaning your shoes!

Feel free to move around as needed to get the stuff off. Check periodically as you do this to see how clean your shoes are getting and move to a different spot so you don't end up grinding the dirt into your shoes.

Remember, be careful to do this ONLY ON DRY CONCRETE and avoid ground that is dirty and/or wet so you don't ruin your shoes!

This is something you should do when you are in desperate need to clean out your shoes and don't have a shoe brush available. Long term, if you want to maintain your shoes you should buy a shoe brush.

Non-suede bottom dance shoe options

Leather soled shoe

Leather soled shoe

Rubber-composite soled shoe

Rubber-composite soled shoe

Other Options to Wearing Suede Soled Dance Shoes

If you want to preserve your suede-soled dance shoes and not worry about possibly damaging/dirtying/etc. them, another option is to wear leather-soled shoes that securely attach to your feet, are comfortable, single-soled, and on a 2.5 inch heel or less. Leather soled shoes are more resistant to sticky floors and don't get dirty as easily because it's hard for dirt to stick on them.

You can also wear shoes with a rubber-composite sole, provided that it is thin and not too rubbery so you stick to the ground and risk twisting your ankle!

For more information on what kind of shoes you can wear for dancing besides genuine suede-soled dance shoes, please read my other hub!

Taking Care of Your Shoes

© 2013 Anya Brodech


Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on February 22, 2014:

The thing about fabric is that it absorbs sweat and dirt from your feet, so over time you'll develop a "footprint" on the inside of your shoes, which is perfectly natural and expected whenever you wear shoes barefoot. It's not something that you can really remove, unless the inside of the shoe is leather, in which case you can gently scrape it off, but otherwise there's not really any effective remedy for it.

Personally, I just throw away my shoes once they get really worn out and buy new ones. I go through a pair of dance shoes every 1-3 years depending on often I'm dancing and if I'm rotating between several different pairs of shoes, which helps reduce the wear and tear on each shoe.

My current dance shoes that I have are all worn out because they're the ones I've been using 85% of the time dancing the last16 months or so (since Oct 2014), and I'm going to be replacing them soon.

Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on February 21, 2014:

Yeah that's what happens when you dance in barefeet and sweat a lot. If it's the fabric that's dirty, you won't really be able to clean it much. I'd just recommend buying a new pair of dance shoes and wearing tights/washing your feet more so there's no dirt on them to rub into the fabric/taking a break and drying your feet off with a paper towel if they get too sweaty when you're out dancing

terri on February 21, 2014:

Hour do you clean the inside of women's Latin dance shoes? The inside of my shoes are just as dirty as the bottom from them being my only pair of dance shoes

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