Whether or not to invest in dance shoes is a personal question. After seeing an instructor in action or watching performance dancing on YouTube, it might seem as though professional dance shoes are essential for one’s progress. While they might make certain aspects of dancing easier, they are not make-or-break features for social dancing. The purchasing decision really depends on whether the shoes will be in use. Hiking boots should have hills to climb, and dancing shoes must have a dance floor.
Luckily, The Salsa Club has enough of the latter on offer.
Dance shoes are designed to help dancers move easily on a dance floor. Although they might look like regular shoes, they differ in many important respects. The bottom of the shoe is not too “grippy” (sticking to the dance floor like regular rubber-soled shoes) and not too slippery; they provide arch support; and the rest of their construction helps to prevent injuries to a dancer’s knees or joints. Ladies’ dance shoes (and men’s), typically, are much lighter in weight than regular shoes. This makes them more flexible, especially when they are coupled with suede or leather soles—these permits the foot to have more freedom of movement while keeping the heel in place which, for dancers, is essential when turning or spinning.
When choosing a dance shoe, one of the of most important factors to consider is the shoe’s fit—this is more important than its style (colour or design). Unlike regular shoes which might be influenced by a person’s taste or wardrobe, dance shoes must withstand hours of intense dancing without causing discomfort or injury to their wearer. The shoe, then, should fit properly. The recommended fit is: “like a glove”—with a snug fit around the ankle. However, it should be borne in mind that, like all shoes, dance shoes will stretch with repeated use. Thus, when choosing a pair, it is best to ensure that they are not too tight.
Ladies’ salsa dance shoes have sturdily constructed heels—this provides better balance, and another discussion point. Heel heights vary. The higher the heel, the more shape is given to the leg. Dancers who are commencing their dancing journey are encouraged to wear lower heels, gradually increasing the height of the heel as they become more proficient with dancing.
Even though fit should be a primary consideration, style is never too far. Dance shoes for women come in an ever increasing array of colours and designs. There are bright and sequinned shoes for performers, and simpler black or nude-coloured shoes for the more conservative dancer—all tastes and preferences can be entertained.
Price points vary depending on the manufacturer and materials used in the construction of a shoe. Depending on where one lives, shipping costs should also be considered. A simple internet search will easily provide any interested dancer with a varierty of online shops and distributors. For dancers in Namibia, salsa dance shoes are not available locally. Any opportune travel trip to South Africa, however, can be used to visit the Ballet & Dance Emporium in Cape Town (32 Plein Street, +27 21 462 7331) or the Dance Boutique in Pretoria.
Dance shoes are a substantial investment. On top of providing them with dance floors, care for them, like any craftsperson’s tools, is essential. This will not only make the shoes more comfortable to dance in but also increase their longevity. Shoe polish or protectors are the most basic cleaning tools. Soap and water may be used on satin shoes while a wire shoe brush should be used to clean suede-bottomed shoes. When attending class, it is recommended to carry one’s dancing shoes in a separate bag to keep them fresh and clean. Then, also, using dancing shoes on suitable floors will yield a higher dance shoe-mileage. Rough concrete (which will often be found in street salsa venues) will eat dancing shoe soles quickly. Smoother floors, made of wood or polished concrete, found in night clubs and dance studios, will be much kinder to one’s dance shoes.
Once acquired, dancers should take the time to get used to them, wearing them for short stints on the dance floor and then increasing the duration spent in them. Toe and foot-stretching exercises should also be integrated into one’s pre-dancing routine to prevent aches from developing when dancing in them.
A dancer’s relationship with dance shoes will change over time, with each dancer preferring different types of shoes as their journey into rhythm and dance develops and deepens. To further aid dancers thinking of purchasing dance shoes, the following videos from the Azucar Latin Dance Company, Dancer University, and Gaylyn Lareese which share essential tips for making purchasing decisions and how to maintain one’s balance will surely be of use.
Dance Shoe Tips—Azucar Latin Dance Company
Here is Azucar Latin Dance Company’s tips for looking after your dance shoes.
And here is another great video from the Azucar Latin Dance Company sharing tips for developing strong and agile feet.
All About Dance Shoes—Dancer University
Dance Better In Heels—Gaylyn Lareese
Better Balance In Your Dancing Heels—Gaylyn Lareese