To buy dance shoes or not to buy dance shoes??? That is not even a question - if you’re going to dance more than a beginner level class, you should probably buy some dance shoes!
There are many things to consider when buying dance shoes… So, we thought we’d pull together our list of recommendations:
Review the size charts on each website thoroughly! Dance shoes are notorious for not following standard shoe sizes.
You do NOT want large, sloppy shoes. However, of course, too tight is never good either!
When in doubt, we’d recommend ordering on the slightly smaller side versus going to big; because dance shoes tend to stretch out…. ***unless they’re patent-leather, the plastic-looking shiny kind: those don’t stretch at all. So, make sure patent-leather are not too tight which will cause blisters! We actually don’t ever recommend buying patent-leather for ladies, unless they’re closed-toe, because we’ve had way too many blisters!!!
The sole of a dance shoe is the “soul” of a dance shoe. It is everything. There are many varieties - and you may want to get a couple types for different dance floors.
SUEDE: typically, most dance shoes (especially ladies’ heels) have suede on the sole - or ball of the foot. These are NOT good to wear out on the streets or at clubs because they get damaged quickly by dirt and liquid. These are best for dance studios, parties at ballrooms/studios and dance classes.
LEATHER: Some dance shoes have leather bottoms which are better for going out in. TIP: you can also just buy a regular shoe with a leather bottom that is snug and securely fastens on your foot instead of a “real” dance shoe to go out to clubs in... (as regular shoes are often much cheaper than a dance shoes). This is also a great choice for men - as it is relatively easy to find a nice dress-shoe with a leather bottom that will work well for dancing!
RUBBER: some practice shoes and special dance “sneakers” have a special rubber bottom (which is not sticky and doesn’t grip the floor like a regular tennis shoe).
Ballroom, Latin, and practice shoes are the basic types to search for. Here is some info on the differences:
Ballroom shoes are typically closed toe, and they have an extra-flexible in the arch, so that you can point your toes further. Most salsa and social dancers don't prefer them, because we need a bit more support for those long nights of social dancing!
Latin or salsa shoes are typically strappy and open toed (for ladies), and they have a firmer arch, for more support.
TIPS: Be careful and watch out for shoes that have a really wide opening at the toe; you don’t want your toes completely exposed or to slip forward through the front of the shoes - for comfort and protection on a crowded dance floor!
Minimal straps at the toe (like 2-3 thin straps) may look nice, but you don't want your pinky toe to be falling out the side - so watch out for that. Overall, pay attention that the shoe style looks like it'll hold and support the entire ball of your foot, and you should be ok.
Practice shoes typically look like flat ballet slippers, with or without a heel - OR - they have ones that look like tennis shoes with thick bottoms. Both are nice and usually comfortable for longer wear.
Here’s a graphic showing different heel styles and and how to measure them (but keep in mind every brand may be slightly different):
We wouldn't recommend spending more than about $60 on your first pair of dance shoes. We’ve bought really expensive shoes before, and some were the pairs we disliked the most after wearing them and breaking them in… Plus, you’ll be disappointed when they get ruined out at the clubs!
Start with a reasonable price, and be aware that too cheap often equals poor quality.
WHERE TO BUY???
For the most part, we recommend buying dance shoes online, as you’ll find a wider selection, and better prices. However, you may also want to visit some local shops (or a dance congress!) to actually try on physical pairs and different brands before purchasing online. This will give you a much better idea of sizing, fit, and feel of the shoes.
TIPS when buying online:
Always remember to look at the return policies before you purchase!!!
Keep in mind that any shoes coming from China or overseas will take a long time to ship.
Shoes that are priced super cheaply may be made of sub-par materials or sewing techniques… check out reviews of the shoes or vendor before purchasing!
In MN, there are a few places where you can try on shoes (whether or not you buy them there) and at least get a feel for the size/style that you like.
Grand Jete - 975 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
Step-N-Stretch (several locations) http://www.stepnstretch.com/ballroomshoes.html
BRANDS & WEBSITES
Capezio, Very Fine and Bloch dance shoes - these are classic brands of dance shoes. They've been around forever, and they're pretty affordable. You can find them on a lot of dance websites (including the wholesalers below):
Very Fine website https://www.veryfineshoes.com/LadiesLatinRhythmSalsa
Capezio website http://www.capezio.com/
Bloch website http://us.blochworld.com/ballroom-latin-shoes
Here are our favorite wholesalers to browse (- just search “dance shoes”):
Discount Dance Supply https://www.discountdance.com/dancewear/shoes/
Discount sites (beware of sizing & long shipping times!)
Light in the Box http://www.lightinthebox.com/c/dance-shoes_1278?prm=18.104.22.168
Specialty Latin shoes that are popular among dancers for their stylish designs:
DSOL (Dance Shoes Online) https://www.danceshoesonline.com/dance-shoes/salsa/
ESS (Exotic Salsa Shoes) http://www.exoticsalsashoes.com/
G Franco https://gfrancoshoes.com/
Burju Shoes https://www.burjushoes.com/ (these are really popular because many look like regular fashion shoes, not like typical dance shoes)