How to Buy Dance Shoes, everything you need to know to make your first purchase.
Buying Dance Shoes, that can be tricky if it’s your first time. From the size and style to the heel height and material. Figuring out what you need can be a lot of information. So we’re going to start at the beginning of the process, and walk you through everything you need to know.
1. Style of Dance Shoe
Lets select a style of shoe. The first thing we need to determine is what style of dancing you’re going to be doing. Different shoes will do different jobs. American Smooth, Standard (Ballroom), American Rhythm, or Latin.
American Smooth – Has a closed toe and a sturdy heel that is 2” -2.5” in height. The sides of an American Smooth shoe are open (as opposed to the Standard or Ballroom shoe) to provide flexibility. The style of American Smooth requires a shoe that can be both flexible and supportive. You’ll notice that the American Smooth shoe almost looks like a hybrid between a Standard shoe and a Latin shoe.
Standard (Ballroom) – Has a closed toe and a sturdy 2” – 2.5” heel just like the American Smooth shoe. The sides are closed to provide more stability to the foot. The shape of the shoe as well as the height and structure of the heel are designed to support your foot to take long striding steps forward, back and side to side.
Latin or American Rhythm – Has an open toe and a higher heel, generally 2.5” – 3”. You can find Latin shoes in a 2” heel and if you have foot issues you may consider a pair. The standard height of the heel places your weight forward onto the ball of the foot, so if possible it is recommended that you wear a 2.5” – 3” heel. The sole of the shoe is flexible for pointing the foot and making sharp turns and movements.
American Smooth or Standard (Ballroom) – Has a 1” block heel and a flexible sole. The heel is supportive to allow long strides across the floor. The sole is flexible to allow you to feel and use the floor for better movement.
American Rhythm or Latin – Has a 1.5” heel to place your weight into the ball of the foot. Also, the sole is ultra flexible to allow you to use the muscles in your feet to turn and make sharp movements.
2. Height and Style
Next we’ll look at Heel Height and Style. There are many different shapes and styles to heels. The options can become overwhelming. So let’s narrow some options down.
A good rule of thumb is that the wider and shorter the heel, the more stable you will feel in the shoe. If this is your first pair of Latin Shoes you may want to try the 2.5” (lower) and opt for a flare heel (wider) to provide as much stability as you can. If this is your first pair of shoes, going for a thick-heeled practice shoe is not advisable. You want to learn the right way and if you start with a practice shoe, you will never be comfortable in a proper shoe. In my opinion, very experienced dancers should only wear practice shoes. The only other reason is if you have foot issues or another physical reason.
Guys don’t really have too many options here. You can get some specialty shoes with different heels. But, for the most part if it’s a Smooth or Standard shoe it will be 1”. If it’s a Latin or American Rhythm shoe it will come in 1.5”.
3. Color and Material
Colors and materials of different shoes are another option to explore. However, if this is your first pair you can keep it pretty basic. If you like to express yourself with your personal style then there are many options available.
If you want a basic look that doesn’t stand out, bronze or flesh colored satin is the right selection. If you want to get a little adventurous you can find anything from lipstick red to animal print. Most shoes will still come in satin with the exception of practice shoes which will be canvas or leather.
Patent leather is a shiny look, where the leather has been treated with a black lacquer. Patent leather tends to have a formal look to it, so it is very common at competition. They look really sharp when they are new. However, they will scuff and possibly stick as you brush your feet. If you want a really cool looking shoe, definitely try the patent. If you are looking for a shoe that will hold up really well and blend in the regular leather is for you. I have seen men’s shoes in some different colors and designs as well. There are wing tips for one, (That’s a statement)! I’ve also seen brown, croc embossed patent leather, or combinations of suede and leather. If you want to add some personality into your dance shoes the guys are certainly not left out in that department.
4. Sizing Your Dance Shoes
Sizing and proper fitting of your dance shoes is imperative. If your shoes are too big you wont be able to use your feet properly and if they’re too small they will pinch and blister. (I can’t think of a faster way to make your dance lessons a horrible experience). Many dance shoes come in UK sizes so you’ll need to pay attention and convert your American size. Check out our conversion chart here. For men or women’s shoes you will most likely need to go down a size from the shoes you wear everyday. A dance shoe should literally fit like a glove. Once properly laced up you don’t want to have any wiggle room in the shoe. They should be snug, but not painful.
Latin and American Rhythm Shoes – Any open toed shoe should fit so that your toes come right up the edge of the shoe. Most of our everyday shoes have and extra .5” or so of extra room at the toe. This is not a proper fit for your dance shoes. If you are ordering online and don’t have a chance to try on. A good place to start is to go down a full size from your normal shoe size. Once you have the American size, use the chart to convert into the size you need to order.
Standard and Smooth Shoes – A closed toed shoe should also fit like a glove. If you are trying them on, you’ll want to feel your toes right on the material at the end. You want them snug but not painful. If you are ordering try a ½ size down form your normal shoe size.
Men’s shoes should also fit snug to the foot. You don’t want that extra fingers width at the toe. If you can try a pair on, you want to feel your toes right on the material at the end of the shoe. Your toes shouldn’t be squished into the toe box. If you are ordering a pair you’ll need to go down a ½ size to a full size. If you tend to keep that extra room in the toe of your everyday shoes try a full size down. Once you have your size you can use the conversion chart to find the correct size to order.
5. Brands of Dance Shoes
Brands of shoes are an important decision to make as well. With prices ranging from $60 -$250 you want to make a purchase that will last and will support your dance lessons. When it comes to dance shoes, you get what you pay for. Most good shoes will run you $150 -$200. The materials used to make the shoe, as well as the construction are what makes the price so different. In the $60 range I have seen shoes wear down to cardboard (seriously) I have had shoes closer to the $200 mark last me as a professional for years. As your one stop shop Fred Astaire has 3 lines of shoes the Astaire Social, Astaire Collection and the Astaire Elite by Supadance. For more information on dance shoes or to order your first pair.