Anya Brodech is a professional salsa, Latin, swing, and ballroom dance teacher in Oakland, CA.
The Importance of Wearing the Right Shoes for Dancing
Most of us would agree that with any activity, a certain dress code and protocol is involved. This is especially true for physical activities like dancing because you are moving around a lot so you need to make sure that you wear things that move with you and don't get in the way. Nothing is more frustrating than a wardrobe malfunction that gets in the way of your fun and prevents you from doing what you want.
Like any new endeavor, learning how to salsa dance and going out for the first time can be anxiety-provoking and nerve-wrecking, especially if you don't have any salsa dancing friends to ask for advice.
Fortunately for you, I've been dancing for the last eight years and love to go out salsa dancing at least two to three times a week, so trust me when I say that I know what I'm talking about and that you can rely on me for accurate information.
Shoes are arguably the key to dancing success, it is incredibly important that you are wearing the right shoes. Why? Because you dance standing up on your feet, not upside on your hands. If you have to fight to keep your shoes from falling off all evening or are unable to balance yourself in them as you spin and move around, your dancing will be TERRIBLE.
How Wearing the Wrong Shoe Can Lead to Disaster While Dancing
It is no fun to have to stop every thirty seconds to put your shoe back which is why you should avoid slip-on, flip-flops, sling-back, and platform shoes. I've tried dancing in all three of them before, not realizing what I was getting myself into and thinking that it wouldn't be a problem. I was sooo wrong! I ended up having to spend most of the night sitting down because I couldn't dance properly and keep my shoes on. My partner left with the impression that I was a bumbling idiot and completely unaware of the fact that I was actually a spectacular dancer with 8 years of experience.
Dancing in the wrong shoes
Shoes to Avoid Wearing for Salsa Dancing
Here's a breakdown of shoes that are terrible for dancing and why they should be avoided:
1. Slip-On's: Are great for any other time you want to look sexy and dress up and don't have to do more than walk around or sit down in a restaurant. I own several pairs that I really love, but unfortunately discovered that they were a disaster when it came to dancing. The thing about salsa and any other kind of Latin dance, is that it's usually fast and you pick up and move your feet around a lot and change weight from one foot to another and rock back and forth a little, and many other things, so you foot is constantly moving around in your shoe, making it very easy for your shoe to slip/come off. One night I made the mistake of wearing my favorite purple slip on pumps to dance and forgetting to bring my regular dance shoes. I tried dancing in my pumps for the first time and it was horrible. They kept sliding off my foot and I almost fell down and twisted my ankle when my shoe came off halfway through a turn I was doing. So take it from me, don't wear any pumps that slip on because they will just as easily slip off when you are dancing!
2. Platforms: Are comfortable and in-style everywhere else except on the dance floor. Why? Because the platform sole affects your balance and coordination since the bottom of the shoe hits the floor a lot faster than your foot does, your sense of where your foot actually is in relation to the floor is off, which in turn puts you at risk for messing up your timing. Another problem with platforms is that they are hard and inflexible unlike proper dance, so they do not allow your to bend or move your foot fully and rock back and forth or change your weight, which you need to be able to do in order to salsa properly.
3. Slingbacks: Are bad for dancing because you lift your feet up and down a lot so the sole of the shoe will be repeatedly hitting the bottom of your foot which gets annoying after a while. Another issue is that they can slide off/loosen easily and come off of your foot as you move around.
4. Flip-flops: Are never appropriate for dancing because they are way too casual and make it look like you don't know anything about dancing and just stumbled in from a day at the beach. Why? Because flip-flops don't have the right traction for spinning around and the thong-design does nothing to ensure that the shoe will move with you when you dance and in most cases you risk ripping your sandal and/or twisting your ankle. Furthermore, it is very easy for you, your partner, or another dancer to accidentally step on your sandal while your heel is up and pull off/rip your sandal and/or trip you. If you are VERY, VERY, VERY careful about how you move and are an experienced dancer, you might be able to get away with it for a little bit, but don't expect to do much successfully.
Serious about shoes?
Your Shoes Need to Move as Much as You Do!
Latin Shoes for Serious Dancers
If you are serious about dancing and would like to pursue it long term... then buy actual Latin shoes so you can make the most of your dancing. Depending on the brand and quality, they can range up to $200+, sometimes less, sometimes more depending on where you buy them from. Sometimes you can find nice high-end shoes on sale if you look hard enough, especially online. I prefer buying nicer shoes because they usually last longer and are more comfortable than cheap-o ones. If you are going to commit yourself to dancing, then buying nice shoes is worth the investment because trust me, you WILL wear them out in about 1-3 years depending on the frequency/intensity of your dancing.
Many dance shoes are made in England or other European countries, so make sure you check the sizing before you order. I've made the mistake of forgetting to convert from European to American sizes and ended up stuck with shoes that wear 2 sizes too small.
All Latin shoes have suede bottoms, so don't wear them anywhere else except inside on the dance floor. The suede allows you to have traction on hardwood floors and spin/move around at a controlled speed. If you get them wet, the suede will be ruined, so don't wear them outside or anywhere there is water on the ground. Buy a shoe brush to clean the bottom of them so this way the suede stays nice.
I recommend buying dance shoes in person at a store so you can try them on and walk around in them and see how they feel. If you are unable to find a dance supply store in your area that sells dance shoes, don't worry! There are many legitimate online retailers that sell shoes. If you buy shoes online, you should keep notes of the brand, size, and style as a reference because there tends to be a lot of variety between different brands and styles when it comes to fit. Be careful to read the company's return policy before you order because they tend to be on the conservative side with only a limited amount of time you are allowed to return/exchange your shoes.
Some brands that I have bought in the past that I liked include Stephanie, Supadance, and International Dance Shoes. There are many different brands and styles of shoes out there, so explore your options and find a pair that suits your style. Regardless of what your shoes look like, they should feel good and make you happy when you wear them! :)
How to Find the Right Latin Dance Shoes for Women: What You Should Look for When Buying Latin Dance Shoes
So what is the lesson of this story? Wear the wrong shoes and you will spend your evening regretting your decision every time you are out on the dance floor. Wear the right shoes and you will be amazed at how much you can do!
Now that you know what NOT to do, here is the much-awaited information on what you should do.
1. Get shoes that fit you properly and can be securely attached to your feet. Regardless of whether or not you are buying actual Latin shoes, make sure that there is at least one strap that goes around your foot that has an adjustable buckle. You should be able to secure the shoe around your foot so that it does not come off easily and requires some effort to take off. It is important that your shoes are not too big since you will be struggling to keep your shoes on. Conversely, if you shoes are too small you will be in pain or small. In either case, it will interfere with your balance and movement as well as distract you while dancing.
2. Stay Low, Avoid Heels over 2.5" if you want to be comfortable and able to dance for an extended period of time. High heels should be avoided for salsa because they will tire your feet quickly and make the balls of your feet hurt much faster compared to lower heels. I recommend heels between 1-2.25" because they allow you to comfortably rock back and forth and change your weight as you move.
3. Stay cushioned and buy shoes that have a padded toe area to reduce stress on the balls of your feet. Since you are already on your toes when wear high-heeled shoes, it is important to support the balls of your feet since they are usually the first area you will feel discomfort in when dancing for a while. Most dance shoes tend to have a thin bottom that is flexible and allows you to point your foot and change weight easily, but the downside of that is you don't have as much padding, especially in your toe area, so keep that in mind when trying on/looking for shoes.
4. Stay smooth and buy shoes with leather or suede bottoms and skip the rubber. Leather and suede bottoms allow you to spin and move around easily. Depending on the individual shoe, some may be easier to move in than others, so I recommend trying on your shoes on a hardwood floor so you can get an accurate feel of what they will be like on the dance floor. Don't wear rubber-bottomed shoes because they grip the floor too much and put you at risk for sticking to the ground and twisting your ankle/injuring your knee, etc. because your foot doesn't move with the rest of your body. Save rubber-bottomed shoes for athletic activities like running or hiking that require a lot of traction. Latin and Ballroom shoes typically have a suede bottom because it gives you just the right amount of traction while allowing you to move around and spin on the floor comfortably.
5. Pick a nice color that goes with your skin color and wardrobe: Most Latin (and ballroom shoes) come either a golden/beige/tan or black satin. I prefer the golden/beige-y ones because they blend in with the color of my skin and create the illusion of having one long smooth line that connects my legs and feet to the floor, unlike black/patterned shoes. If you have a darker skin tone, then I recommend getting black or dark beige shoes if you want that long leg illusion. Regardless of what color shoes you decide to get, you should pick ones that match your dance wardrobe well so that you can get the most wear out of them.
What Kind of Shoes to Wear to a Dance Studio
For private lessons and group classes held in a dance studio, I recommend wearing genuine dance shoes with a suede sole. Since 99.9% of dance studios that teach ballroom/latin/salsa feature a hardwood dance floor for you to practice on, it's best to use that to your advantage by wearing genuine dance shoes. Also, you don't have to worry about damaging/dirtying/ruining your shoes because studio floors tend to be well-maintained, so they are clean and dry.
Leather soled/fashion/street shoes are not the best idea because a) they can dirty up or scuff the dance floor, b) they don't let you move as well as genuine dance shoes across the floor, and c) they don't give you the same range of motion needed for your fine styling points.
What Shoes to Wear if You Have Foot/Arch Problems
If you have foot/arch problems like me, wearing high-heeled shoes can be really uncomfortable sometimes, especially if you are going to be on your feet for a while. This is why a lot of women wear flat "dance sneakers" or "practice shoes" when they do a private lesson or group class in a dance studio. I'll admit that these kinds of shoes are not very glamourous, but they are super comfortable! Plus you can comfortably wear them with socks and not have to worry about getting blisters on your feet. They go really well with pants and leggings, but you can wear them with skirts and dresses too. Personally, I really like the Sansha "Salsette 1 Jazz Sneaker" because it has a lot of flexibility and a suede sole, so it's really easy to spin around in them. Also, the insole is removable so you can put in your own insert to give you more cushioning and/or arch support. They also come in a variety of sizes, ranging from very small (4 US women's, all the way to 18 US women's).
Leather and Composite-Rubber Soled Shoes
What Kind of Shoes to Wear to a Salsa 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 a wood/metal 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 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!
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!
Where to Buy Women's Latin Dance Shoes Online
Here are some websites that sell quality dance shoes at affordable prices:
- Discount Dancewear
- Showtime Dance Shoes
- Supadance International Dance Shoes
- Chicago Dance Supply
Where to Shop for Latin Shoes
Latin shoes, and just any kind of genuine dance shoe, can be hard to come by in person. Many vendors typically sell them exclusively online or through mail-order catalogs. Depending on which city you live in, you may be able to find a dance supply store that sells latin dance shoes for women. I recommend googling "dance supply store" in your area, and then contacting them and asking specifically if they sell latin shoes because many of them will only sell jazz, tap, or ballet shoes. I have provided some links to vendors who sell shoes online. It is perfectly fine to buy shoes online as long as you keep track of the brand, style, and size of the shoes you buy and try on and make notes since there can be some significant differences between brands. Also, make sure you read the company's return/exchange policy since many of them have a very limited time frame for you to return/exchange your purchase and you may have to pay for return shipping. Most importantly watch out for European sizing, which is usually 2.5 sizes smaller than US sizing, so convert your shoe size before you buy just to save yourself an unnecessary hassle!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Anya Brodech
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on January 12, 2015:
I usually buy my dance shoes at Chicago Dance Supply and so far I have been most satisfied with Supadance and International as well. I got a pair of dance shoes from there on clearance for $25 that looked cute, but ended up being really terrible for dancing. Since I do a lot of dancing every week, it's super important that my dance shoes fit comfortably and it's worth spending the $85 or $100+ to make that happen so my shoes don't interfere with my dancing! Nothing is more distracting than a shoe that doesn't fit right!!!
Stephanie on January 12, 2015:
Showtime dance shoes is an awesome place for latin and ballroom dance shoes, they have supadance and international. Don't waste your money on anything else. So many cheap shoes fit horribly, I learned my lesson the hard way.
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on November 10, 2014:
Elba, The Salsa Sister on November 10, 2014:
Wonderful article. www.SalsaSisterhood.com
Salsa Dancing on September 11, 2014:
Great advice on picking out dance shoes! No mention of Burju or GFranco though? Those are probably the two best companies out there for women's dance shoes.
Pharmc587 on April 10, 2014:
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Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on August 08, 2013:
Marisa, I agree with you that it's a hassle sometimes to have to change shoes, but if you're going somewhere with a decent enough floor, I think it's worth it to wear my dance shoes. If the floor is dirty, all you need to is scrub down your shoes at the end of the night with a metal shoe brush. I'm not too crazy about rubber soled shoes like the ones you described, at least not for latin/ballroom. Those kinds of shoes are good for swing and blues because almost all of the girls wear shoes like that (i.e. Keds). Suede usually isn't slippery for me unless it's a really, really, really clean wood floor or marble.
Anya Brodech (author) from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607 on August 08, 2013:
Great! I am happy that you found this useful! :)
Missbeautyguru from Auckland, New Zealand on August 08, 2013:
Good hub! I love ballroom and Latin dancing. Will definitely buy decent shoes when I start dancing again.
Kate Swanson from Sydney on August 07, 2013:
Good advice on shoes. I don't dance salsa but I do ballroom and Latin. As a former ballet and jazz dancer, I can't understand why ballroom dancers wear court (slip-on) shoes - I know it's a smoother style of dance, but it still seems too risky to me!!
I prefer a smooth, composite rubber sole on my shoes for social dancing. For one thing, the floor is often not a proper dance floor - and on some surfaces, suede can be dangerously slippery. For another, it's so much more convenient to be able to put on my shoes before I walk out the door and wear them all night. A smooth composite sole allows easy enough spinning in a social situation, where you're not trying for superfast multiple spins (not that I can do those anyway...!). For me in particular, they're fine because as a former jazz dancer, that's the sole I'm used to wearing.