So, you’ve got dance fever. You and your partner have booked a course of lessons at the local dance studio, you’ve been out and bought some snazzy duds so you look hot on the dance floor and you’ve watched a few dance videos to fine tune your moves. You’re ready to go.

Not quite. If you stop here, even with all the preparation mentioned above, you’ll still be missing the most important piece of dance equipment – your dancing shoes.

Dancing Shoes – Essential Equipment

Dancing shoes are essential equipment for anyone who takes ballroom dancing even semi-seriously.

A good pair of dancing shoes enhances your look on the dance floor, imparts the essential elegance that is so much a part of formal dancing, protects your feet and, most importantly, helps make dancing fun!

Look After Those Feet

Did you know there are 28 bones, 107 ligaments and 38 muscles and tendons in each foot? Structurally one of the most complex areas of the body, the foot is subject to massive loads and stresses every day. During dancing, with its pivots, spins and split-second changes of direction the stresses are even greater. Hence the need for a good quality pair of dancing shoes.

A well performing pair of dance shoes will:

  • Stabilise the foot.
  • Cushion the foot.
  • Protect the foot from impact.

Dancing Shoe Fit

When buying dancing shoes your prime consideration should be fit and comfort. The shoes should feel secure. Fit should be snug enough to prevent the foot moving around inside the shoe but should not be uncomfortably tight. There should be no pinching of the toes, no slipping at the heel, no pressure points and no discomfort where the shoes crease.

When trying on shoes at the dance shop remember that they need to be comfortable for several hours of dancing, not just those few minutes in the shop. A little discomfort at the shop is likely to translate into foot-agony after four hours on the dance floor. Try them out thoroughly, do some moves (it’s a dance shop after all), place them in stress positions – are they still comfortable?

Dancing Shoe Style

For men, ballroom shoes are lightweight and very flexible with low heels to facilitate pivoting turns. Leather is either patent or matt and shoe design generally conforms to the lace-up Oxford style.

For women, both flats or heels are acceptable, in either open-toe or closed toe designs. The typical high heel will not exceed three inches and narrows to a point. These pointed heels make turns and pivots easy, but dancing shoes with wider or flared heels are also popular as they give a greater sense of stability, particularly for new dancers.

Women’s dancing shoes come in a wide variety of styles and colours. Those with an ankle strap provide more stability and security during fast dances. Black is a good standard colour, but flesh tones are also prevalent as they extend the line of the dancer’s leg.

The Sole

The sole is one of the most important parts of the shoe – it needs to give the right amount of grip on a wooden dance floor while still allowing easy turns and pivots. Suede (also known as “chrome leather”) is recommended. Leather soles are not uncommon, but care should be taken with these as they can sometimes be too slippery.

Shoes that grip too much will overly stress the knee joints and may lead to injury (they also make dancing harder work than it needs to be).

Dancing Shoe Construction

When buying a pair of dancing shoes pay attention to these areas:

  • Steel Shank – this is a steel band that runs from the heel to the centre of the shoe. Shanks give a shoe greater support and stability and reduce foot fatigue. They also make for a more durable piece of footwear.
  • Quality Leather – good quality leather moulds to the foot to provide greater comfort and better fit. Obviously, too, quality leather will last longer and take more punishment than inferior grades of shoe-upper material. A good quality pair of leather dancing shoes should last for years.
  • Quality Construction – is the overall standard of manufacture good? Are seams well stitched? Do the soles feel flat and even, or are there uncomfortable seems and ridges which will affect balance and comfort?
  • Cushioning – is the sole of your foot adequately protected, or can you feel it hitting the floor? The better the cushioning, the more comfortable and enjoyable your dancing will be.

Quality Lasts

Though the novice dancer may not feel the need to spend too much on a pair of dancing shoes initially, those dancers who intend to dance regularly would be well advised to purchase as good a pair of dancing shoes a they can afford. Quality shoes will make dancing easier and more enjoyable, enhance your performance and will probably work out cheaper in the long run by providing years of pleasure on the dance floor.

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