A Guide to Ballroom and Latin Shoes

By Move Dance on 23rd Mar 2018

A Guide to Ballroom and Latin Shoes

So you’re looking for a new pair of comfortable shoes for ballroom and Latin dancing? We’re sure that you’re going to want a heel height that matches your confidence, and a flexible sole to support your moves. You may want to add multiple pairs of ballroom and Latin shoes to your dance wardrobe to slip into for different styles of dancing, or even between rehearsals and competitions. That means it’s important that you know what to look for when buying your shoes, and how to make an individualised purchase - whether you’re looking for shoes for a child who’s just starting to learn, or a professional adult. Firstly, familiarise yourself with the different types of shoes that are available to you in this style of dance.

Types of Women’s Ballroom and Latin Shoes

Women’s dance shoes resemble high heels at first, but to a dancer, every pair of dance shoes functions very differently from standard high heels. Although, dance shoes, alike high heels, are of course concerned with style. Style and comfort come hand-in-hand for a dancer, which is why there’s a choice of heel heights, colours, shoe widths and styles. The majority of dance shoes that we offer have additional padding and cushioning, particularly around the balls of the feet where most of the pressure will be. This is to enhance the comfort of our dancers as much as possible, so we also encourage you to choose a heel shape that will offer you the most support for your type of dancing. All ballroom and Latin shoes that we offer have suede soles, and some with split soles, to provide the correct amount of flexibility and friction. Did you know: almost every shoe is carefully handmade!

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Which Style and Colour Dance Shoes Should I Buy?

There is no set colour of dance shoe for ballroom and Latin dancing, however we can guide you on the norm. Tan closed toe shoes are typically worn for ballroom dancing and competitions. They’re great as they protect your toes, especially in the unfortunate event that your partner gets out of step! Tan strappy sandals are popular for Latin competitions, yet you may also choose a peep toe shoe for a little more security. Choose a colour that matches your skin tone to extend the leg line, or more simply, go with whatever suits your personality or your wardrobe. As tempting as it may be, don’t buy shoes based on the aesthetics alone because the most important thing is that your shoes feel right. Style may boost your confidence, but having trust in your style of dance shoe will enable you to move comfortably with confidence.

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What are the Fastenings on Ballroom and Latin Shoes?

As well as the traditional buckle, some dance shoes that we offer come with speed-buckles/quick-release fastenings. The appearance of the shoe is the same with a strap and a small metal buckle (Diamant specifically use a press stud), but you simply adjust the buckle to the correct positioning and then attach it onto the shoe. The buckle is purely for appearance only, as the actual fastening of the shoe is done by looping the strap under a small open hook or by popping the press stud on/off. T-bars create a sophisticated foot appearance and give you the look of a strappy shoe, just with added security.

What Material Should I Pick for Dance Shoes?

Satin shoes are most popular for competitions as they create a glamorous and professional finish, although you’ll want to avoid them for rehearsals. Satin marks easier than other materials that we offer in dance shoes, which means they require special care to keep them perfect for competition. Choose a satin tan or nude closed toe shoe for ballroom competitions. Other uppers like leather and canvas are best for practice as they’re a little more versatile and durable.

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What Heel Is Best for Me?

The size heel you choose for competition will depend on your level of confidence as a dancer. Our heel heights range from 1.5” up to 3.5”. A smaller heel is well-suited to rehearsals or is best to start out dance classes on as a beginner or nervous dancer. A larger heel size tends to be preferred for a more elegant elevation for competitions, by advanced dancers, or just those dancers who prefer a higher heel. You’re most likely to choose a higher heel for Latin dancing as opposed to ballroom. Are you buying your first pair of dance shoes today? Carefully think about what heel height you’re used to day-to-day to give you an idea of what you can withstand. Remember: going too high can lead to stumbles or shy moves.

A favourite style shoe to rehearse in looks like a Cuban heeled brogue. The foot is more secure by being in an enclosed shoe, but the wider square heel means that you can practice your dance routine at the correct height in comfort. Dance sneakers can also be worn to rehearse in to reduce pressure on the feet the most and keep your dance shoes looking their best.The heel heights available on children's dance shoes range up to 1.5” from a square Cuban heel to a junior heel. This supports children whilst dancing and allows them to have elevation at a safer height.

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Men’s Ballroom and Latin Shoes

Men’s dance shoes are simpler to choose in comparison to women’s, as you’ll mostly be looking for a black shoe with a ballroom or Latin style heel. Like women’s, men’s dance shoes have flexible suede soles, with split soles available in some styles for increased flexibility.

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What Heel Height Should I Choose?

A ballroom heel is typically 1”, similar to shoes you would find on the high street. Latin heels are higher at around 1.5” - 2”. If you partake in both ballroom and Latin, yet you’re shopping on a budget, please note that ballroom shoes can be used for both ballroom and Latin. Latin shoes aren't particularly suitable for ballroom dancing as the higher heel can inhibit certain ballroom moves. For competition Latin dancing, a slight heel from 1.5” (like a Cuban heel) will best complement your dancing, although the heel height that you choose may also depend on your partner’s height. We recommend that you practise dancing with your partner before buying men’s heeled dance shoes so you have more of an idea of what height you need to match.

What Material of Dance shoes to Choose and When?

Patent shoes give a glossy appearance that’s perfect for competitions. Black leather or canvas shoes are ideal to rehearse in. More flexible dance sneakers are also available to rehearse in, and they’re often made of more breathable fabrics than your competition shoes.

Top tip: apply a small amount of lubricant like Vaseline to the outside of the shoe where you’ve noticed your patent shoes sticking together as they pass whilst you’re dancing.

What Size Dance Shoes Should I Buy?

We offer half sizes in certain styles for both men and women to ensure that you get the best fit, so we encourage you to order your normal shoe size and try them on. You’ll be looking for a snug fit with no gaps behind the heel, toes at the end of the shoe but not extending over the sole. If your toes feel curled in a closed toe shoe, then it’s not the shoe for you! Getting the right fit in your dance shoes limits unwanted movement in the shoe to give you the most support, and also to avoid blisters.

Why Do Dance Shoes Have Suede Soles?

Suede is the soft underside of leather, which means it’s supple and flexible to dance in whilst providing the correct amount of friction to spin, turn and glide without sticking to the floor or slipping. Some of our dance shoes are available in split soles, but we recommend a full sole dance shoe for a beginner as it offer more stability and support underfoot until foot strength improves.

How to Care for Suede Soles on Dance Shoes

Over time you will notice the nap of the suede sole smooth over, perhaps causing it to feel slippier than normal underfoot. This is where a suede sole brush comes into play!

To bring the nap of the suede back, brush the soles with a suede sole brush. The wire teeth scratch into the surface of the suede creating a ‘fluffy’ type appearance, but be careful not to brush too firmly or you will risk tearing the suede. Repeat brushing as often as you feel necessary.

The shoe itself will typically outlive the sole! If you, however, are not ready to purchase a new pair of shoes when this occurs, then replacement soles are available. Applying a new suede sole to your shoes will extend the life of them and give you many more evenings of dancing fun. It can be a difficult to fit a sole yourself as the sole not only needs cutting to the correct size, but also requires the right adhesive. Thankfully most high street shoesmiths have the tools for this job and are able to fit them for a small fee if you need help.

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