Best Ballroom Shoes to Make You Dazzle on the Floor Reviewed

Any dancer, from beginner to the most avid ballroom performer, is going to need a perfect pair of the best ballroom shoes in order to match their grace on the dance floor with a subtle appearance and a high-quality performance. Perhaps, one of the most important features is the length of time a dancer can wear them in good standing and dancing comfort!

Last Updated: August 8, 2018
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By NicoleH:

Updates is our list of top ballroom dance shoes, for salsa, waltz, or any other swing you want to try out! We've added three new brands and styles to keep you going for your competition or practice. Make sure to read all about differences in dance shoes and dance styles in our Criteria section to help you pick the best one for your fancy footwork!

There are three types of ballroom dance shoes that can be used for competition, practice, or social ballroom dancing.

Latin dance shoes is a style of ballroom shoe that, typically, contains a heel height of two and a half inches (on the women’s version) which can range anywhere between one-to-three inches. They, usually, have an open toe box and fit the description of a dance sandal. They should be chosen for comfort and, also, style. This is one of the basic competition shoes if you are only looking to purchase one pair. The men’s version will have a Cuban heel of one and a half inches and, also, is most often used in competition.

Featured Recommendations

Ellie Shoes Lucille
  • Ellie Shoes Lucille
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Rounded Toe
  • T-strap Closure
  • Price: See Here
Delicacy Angel
  • Delicacy Angel
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Open Toe
  • Zipper Heel
  • Price: See Here
Capezio SD103 Social
  • Capezio SD103 Social
  • 4.7 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 3/4-inch Shank
  • Suede Outsole
  • Price: See Here

Standard ballroom shoes are close-toed for women and an oxford style for men; both having a more centered heel placement than Latin-styled sandals. The basic practice shoe is for ballroom dancing. They are optional and can be, also, purchased in a suede sneaker-style. The purpose of a ballroom dance shoe is to allow grace with ease while gliding around the dance floor in ultimate comfort. If you are in the market, let this be a guide to the very, best ones you can purchase.

10 Best Ballroom Shoes

 

1. Ellie Shoes Lucille

Reminiscent of the 1920’s, the Ellie Shoes 254 Lucille brings ballroom back in time, pulling in the more festive styles of swing and jazz that remind us of the Great Gatsby era. The Lucille is a strappy round toe dance shoe, with a T-strap design and low heel. Great for fast paced footwork, this little number is sure to stay put even when both your feet leave the ground!
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Low Heel
At the base of the Lucille is a wider low heel, great for quick steps as it helps support balance as opposed to more narrow heels. Leather and rubber soles give you firm grip on the dance floor for quick hops and jumps, but slides and glides are possible still. As a bonus, the heel is slightly sculpted adding to the appeal of this pair of dance shoes.

Vintage Appeal
Satin creates the uppers of the Lucille, with a round toe that allows proper toe splay when stepping away on the floor. Strappy styling gives it a boost in personality, and the T-strap design closes around the ankle with a buckle closure. Buckle closure gives some adjustability of fit, making sure this pair wont’ fall off during any move!

Cost and Value
One of our budget friendly styles of ballroom shoes, it’s great for practice or competition, and can be used for several different dance styles. Fast paced footwork won’t phase the Lucille, and you’ll stay firmly secure during each step. Strappy design and T-strap closure is reminiscent of the roaring 20’s, when swing was king! Well worth considering if you’re in the market for a fun pair of ballroom dance footwear.
Pros

Low Heel

Round Toe

Strappy

1920's Feel

Leather and Rubber Soles

Cons

Not Good for Narrow Feet

Sizing Can Vary

2. Delicacy Angel

If you’re in search of some pizzazz for your next competition, consider the Delicacy Angel 62. With a low platform and 2 inch heel, this rhinestoned beauty will turn heads when you’re twirling along the floor. It’s open toe helps keep feet cool, and it’s timeless strappy design is sure to wow. Best suited to more practiced dancers, as the heel has a narrower base.
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Design
The Delicacy Angel was designed for any sort of formal occasion, but can be used as a salsa or ballroom shoe, where a bit of glitz and glamour are needed to boost appeal. A strappy open toe wraps across the toe box, and combines to a T-strap interwoven wide strap that connects to the heel. Heel has a zipper closure for both side panels. Rhinestones adorn the straps of the Angel, catching light as you waltz across the floor to wow judges!

Low Heel
Perfect for dancing, the Delicacy Angel keeps a low two inch heel, and a low platform for stability during pivots. Synthetic soles help give grip for traction during moves, but won’t hinder slides and fast pivots. Open toe helps to keep feet ventilated and cool, and adds an element of style to the shoe as well. Best suited for more practiced dancers, as this heel is more narrow than other dance shoes.

Cost and Value
One of our most budget friendly, price can vary on color option selected. It’s great for beginners who simply need a cheap pair of shoes to try out during classes, but for more advanced footwork, the advanced and well balanced dancer would do well with this option. It’s glitzy style and sparkle bring an element of flash and fun to any routine in the ballroom!
Pros

Rhinestones

Strappy Design

Open Toe

Price

Low Heel

Cons

Durability

Rhinestone Application

3. Capezio SD103 Social

These shoes have maximum ankle support with a strong heel counter and built with a 1-inch lift. Combined with full suede-covered top lifts, you will feel for the ultimate shock-absorbing action. The main use for this shoe is, primarily, for social dances and is more than suitable for all social ballroom dances. Containing a 3/4-inch shank, shock- absorbent sponge insole, and a PU upper, this is one of the best social ballroom shoes.
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Heel Counter
With extreme strength in the heel counter, this ballroom shoe is going to be a durable, long-lasting, and perfect choice of a shoe; standing at 1-inch high in the heel.

3/4-inch Shank
This ballroom shoe offers great arch support; containing a 3/4-inch shank. It is, carefully, constructed. Furthermore, it has a nice, soft feel with the ultimate in durability.

Cost and Value
At an average-to-low price, the SD103 is a smart buy. Its value is well worth the cost of a lightweight, durable, and soft-natured shoe.
Pros
  • EVA-wrapped Heel
  • Suede Outsole
  • Ankle Support
  • Shoelaces
Cons
  • Size runs small
  • Minimal color variety

4. TTdancewear Rhinestone

4. TTdancewear Rhinestone
Rhinestones sparkle, as does this pair of ballroom shoes. With quick-release buckles, you can slip them on and off with ease. In addition, these shoes are made of satin for the upper and suede for the sole; perfect for ballroom dancing while helping to keep your feet nice and cool. Moreover, this pair of shoes is comfortable.
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Suede Outsole
The best ballroom shoes have a suede outsole; thereby, allowing you to effortlessly glide across the floor. With the right amount of grip, you can turn, twirl, and glide to your heart's desire.

2.5-to-3-inch Heels
You have your choice between 2.5-inch and 3-inch heels. Furthermore, with the rhinestone decorative style lining the heels, your feet are certain to light up the dance floor.

Cost and Value
The cost range for this pair of shoes is midrange in comparison to other ballroom shoes on this list. Having your choice between heel heights, the bedazzling sparkle of rhinestones, suede outsole, satin upper, and quick-release buckles, this pair of best ballroom shoes is worth adding to your footwear collection.
Pros
  • Quick-release Buckles
  • 2.5-to-3-inch Heels
  • Suede Outsole
  • Satin Upper
  • Open Toe
Cons
  • Size runs wide

5. TTdancewear Bachata

5. TTdancewear Bachata
The durability and rhinestones are the most notable features in this shoe. Made with suede bottoms, they are ideal for amateurs and professionals alike. They provide comfort and ability and are made with great-quality materials. As such, these are ideal for salsa room dancing in or out of the competition.
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Heel Size
You get a nice option when it comes to the height of the heel. This shoe can be ordered at 2 inches or 3 inches, alike. The height of the heel is based on personal preference.

Suede Outsole
One of the key features of a ballroom dance shoe is a suede outsole. This allows for smooth turns with enough grip to do so. It is a reminder to dancers that grace is what makes ballroom dancing. Furthermore, this shoe is built with high-quality suede.

Cost and Value
A low-cost ballroom shoe is great for those seeking a high-quality shoe while on a budget. The value of these TTdancewear’s is well over the cost of the shoe. Good-quality suede with extreme flexibility makes them the best.
Pros
  • Satin Upper
  • Suede Outsole
  • 2.5-inch-to-3-inch Heel Height
  • Quick-release Buckles
  • Wide Color Variety
Cons
  • Size runs narrow/small

6. Akanu Ballroom Shoes

6. Akanu Ballroom Shoes
Open toe and side foot, this pair of ballroom dancing shoes will adorn your feet, beautifully. Made with satin uppers, suede outsoles, crisscross straps at the forefoot area, and a cross-strap buckle system, you are certain to feel secure, comfortable, and at ease, as you take over the dance floor.
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Satin Upper
The satin upper provides strength; as well as, a gorgeous look while the light sparkles in your dance. In addition, there is less friction; thereby, aiding in preventing irritation of the skin.

Open Toe
The magic of open-toe design is wonderful in that you can feel the air breeze while you spin and glide. This helps you to remain cool and can have the tendency to make your smile a little wider. Moreover, there is a sense of naturalism when you can feel your feet in the open.

Cost and Value
Lower midrange is the cost associated with this pair of ballroom dancing shoes. As such, they are worth the purchase price and make an ideal choice in adding to your dancewear collection.
Pros
  • 2.3-inch Heel Height
  • Cross-strap Buckle
  • Satin Upper
  • Suede Outsole
  • Open Toe
Cons
  • Minimal Color Variety

7. Baysa Ballroom Dance

7. Baysa Ballroom Dance
Sophistication through simplification can be hard to achieve. With these ballroom dance shoes, however, gorgeous artistry is a testament via the single-strap buckle system, closed-toe design, crisscross dual-straps at the forefoot, cushioned insole, and suede outsole. With this pair of shoes, you are certain to feel the benefits of the duality during grip and glide.
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Suede Outsole
To grip the floor is paramount when it's needed. Additionally, the ability to glide must, also, be present. With a suede leather outsole, you achieve the best of both worlds; a unison of combination for the dance inside of the ballroom.

Single-strap Buckle System
For those preferring a simplistic strap around the ankle, these dance shoes come equipped with a single-strap buckle system. This allows for ease of on and off; as well as, less irritation which might be found in multiple-strap settings.

Cost and Value
These shoes are budget-friendly and great for those desiring a closed toe and single strap at the ankle. Furthermore, they are comfortable via the cushioned insole. As such, this pair of best ballroom shoes is perfect for the dancer in you.
Pros
  • Satin Upper
  • Suede Outsole
  • 5.5-cm Heel Height
  • Single-strap Buckle
  • Closed Toe
Cons
  • Minimal Color Variety

9. TDA CM101

9. TDA CM101
T-strap buckle closures, synthetic upper, and a closed toe adorn this pair of best ballroom shoes. Furthermore, these shoes are equipped with the ability to be either indoor or outdoor, just change the outsole from suede leather to rubber. In addition, you have multiple choices in heel height; ranging from 3.5 centimeters to 10 centimeters.
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Indoor/Outdoor
This pair of best ballroom shoes can be worn either indoor or outdoor. Simply, send an email to the manufacturer after ordering 'angelsiao,' and you can switch from a suede leather outsole to one made of rubber. This allows you to change from an indoor ballroom style to the outdoors.

3.5-to-10-centimeter Heel Height
As with the ordering instructions for changing the outsole from suede leather to rubber, this same method applies to ordering specific heel height. In doing so, you can choose a range between 3.5 centimeters to 10 centimeters of glorious heel.

Cost and Value
These best ballroom shoes have a variety of choices for you. Furthermore, they are budget-friendly and are ready for you to dance your way in style. As such, these shoes are an ideal choice in adding to your dancewear collection.
Pros
  • T-strap with Buckle Closure
  • Suede Leather/Rubber Outsole
  • Synthetic Upper
  • 3.5-to-10-centimeter Heel Height
  • Closed Toe
Cons
  • Size runs small/narrow

8. Bloch Dance Xavier

8. Bloch Dance Xavier
Bloch is one of the top dance shoe companies, nearly synonymous with Capezio when it comes to studio and practice shoes. But, they’ve got models to help you 2 step your way into a competition, including the Bloch Dance Xavier. This men’s style ballroom shoe is simplistic in design, with a rounded toe and lace up design, and a low wide heel, perfect for hitting accent footwork to wow the crowd!
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Classy Simplicity
Most competition ballroom shoes for men usually come in limited colors, but sometimes classic simplicity is best! The Xavier comes in a black leather, with rounded plain toe and classy oxford-styling in the uppers. This helps bring the quarters together seamlessly and creates a clean sleek look for the dancefloor. Full grain leather uppers make this flexible enough for fancy footwork and ankle mobility, but still stiff enough to help support you when stepping.

Sole
Below the full grain leather uppers lies a suede sole, keeping your steps soft and with the ability to glide along the floor. A low stacked, wide heel helps give ample support for partner style dances such as the waltz, but offer enough stability for more sophisticated movements that require some balance, such as in the salsa. Insole was designed to help protect the metatarsals, and absorb impact or shock when dancing.

Cost and Value
This is the priciest option on our list, but it’s suede sole and solid construction leave it as a solid option for ballroom dance. Wonderfully supported and cushioned, the low heel gives added confidence and stability when dancing, and its versatile enough for ballroom and salsa styles of dance. Simple classic oxford styling makes this a versatile and smart investment!
Pros

Oxford Style Closure

Lace Up

Suede Sole

Leather Uppers

Low Wide Heel

Cons

Sizing Varies

Can Squeak

Price

10. Minishion Ribbon Knot

10. Minishion Ribbon Knot
In these shoes, you will understand the power of performing at your best. With a cross-strap buckle closure system, leather outsole, satin upper, and round toe, these best ballroom shoes are ready for the dance. Furthermore, this pair of dancing shoes has a gorgeous 7.5-centimeter heel height; perfect for both elegance and practicality.
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Cross-strap with Buckle Closure
Ease of on and off is achievable via the cross-strap buckle closure system. In addition to the mechanics of usability, this design is beautiful aesthetically.

Leather Outsole
A leather outsole is a necessity in allowing you to have the correct amount of grip while, simultaneously, allowing you to glide in angelic glory across the floor. As such, this pair of dancing shoes is ready for you to put them to work.

Cost and Value
The cost associated with this pair of best ballroom shoes is budget-friendly; making them perfect for adding to your shoe collection. Moreover, they are built for dancing and ready for the ballroom floor.
Pros
  • 7.5-cm Heel Height
  • Cross-strap with Buckle Closure
  • Leather Outsole
  • Satin Upper
  • Round Toe
Cons
  • Minimal Color Variety

 

The best kind of ballroom dance shoe proves to be one that is comfortable, durable, and made out of high-quality materials. Some materials you might come across are silk, satin, or materials that resemble plastic. There is a grand variety in types and styles; yet, one aspect remains true in all creations of a ballroom dance shoe: the perfect suede outsole. A suede outsole allows for graceful and controlled movement while on the dance floor. It needs to be perfect enough to provide smooth flow and good traction, simultaneously.

First ever written of, French-style ballroom dancing documents in 1589 when ‘Orchésographie‘ was written by, Thoinot-Arbeau, and then published. This music and dance manuscript, per se, recounts the French Renaissance at its finest through social dances (2017).

Inevitably, upon purchasing the best shoe (whether it be for competition as an eager beginner, or as a passionate lover of the sport), you will need to find a pair to take you near and far on your journeys. Price for quality, alongside good standing comfort, is going to be the most important features. Let this list become a super guide to finding the best pair of shoes for your dance life!

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Ballroom Shoes

Have you ever imagined watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, as they glide across the beautiful stage in the most-perfect synchrony, and doing those skillful moves with impeccable footwork? Take that imagination further, and picture them in sneakers, street shoes, or dancing barefoot; that’s when you will understand the importance of dance shoes, especially, when you are in the ballroom while dancing.

Dance shoes enable a dancer to achieve all the proper techniques while offering maximum protection to the body. The feet need maximum support, but still, need the allowance for flexibility and natural movement (twisting and pointing quickly). In other words, when a person is dancing in dance shoes specific to a particular ballroom dance, the shoes need to offer freedom when moving around and, also, they should provide the needed support.

If you plan to get yourself a pair of the ballroom shoes, then it’s best that you understand what are the differences between the street shoes and the dance shoes. This will enable you to appreciate the specific features of the dance shoes on this list and, also, their cost. When coming up with our list of ballroom dance shoes, a detailed and extensive research was made; in order, to give you the chance for the best decision possible before your purchase. Looking at features that each shoe is equipped with, and whether it will suit the many types of dances around the world, several factors were examined that play an important role when picking out the best ballroom dance shoes.

Matrimonial dance on a wedding dance floor

Features of Ballroom Shoes

If you are not a ballroom dancer, then you might assume that the dance shoes with high heels are just normal heels worn by individuals in the streets. This is a very common misconception that occurs, especially, when looking at the dance shoes dancers wear when performing. What people may fail to understand is that there are many differences between ballroom dance shoes and regular heels. Dance shoes for women are, usually, carefully engineered and manufactured. They provide better heel placement; so, they can improve steadiness and balance. That’s why you will find it easier to dance in dance shoes that are high heeled compared to the fashion heels worn on model runways.

The ballroom dance shoes, typically, all have an outsole made of chrome leather or suede. The outsole is used so that the dancer can have the correct amount of slide and grip. The shoes, also, need to be very secure and strong. This means they will have a snug grip on the foot during the whole dance. No dancer wants to have a broken shoe or his or her shoe coming off while dancing, as this will not only be humiliating but, also, could be very dangerous and/or cause a foot-related injury. That’s why all dance shoes used in the ballroom need to have quality assurance.

General Features of Ballroom Shoes
  • Laces – found in men’s style Standard and Latin, laces help secure the shoes with a better fit. Laces are, also, found in practice shoes, especially, sneaker-style practice shoes.
  • Straps – found in women’s style Latin, straps can vary from single-strap to multiple straps. Some straps hook around the ankle while others may hook around the forefoot.
  • Outsole – the outsoles are made of suede (competition), plastic (practice), rubber (off the ballroom floor), or leather (generally, practice, as leather is rougher than suede). Suede is the primary go-to for competition ballroom events, as it allows for the correct amount of glide and grip, simultaneously.
  • Upper – for men, the upper is leather; having a glossy or non-glossy finish. For women, the upper is satin (competition).
  • Toe area – men’s ballroom shoes are closed toe. Women’s Standard is closed toe, as well. Women’s Latin competition, however, is open toe in design.
  • Flexibility – for both men and women, Standard/Smooth shoes are more sturdy, not allowing the pointing of the toe. For Latin/Rhythm, however, both men’s and women’s ballroom shoes have flexibility in the arch; thereby, allowing the pointing of the toe.
  • Heel height – heel height is specific to the type of dance (i.e. Standard/Smooth; Latin/Rhythm). Beginners may want to start out with lower heels.
  • Heel width – heel width is specific to the type of dance, as well. Different dances require a different width, generally speaking. But at the end of the day, it is all about the feel. You might prefer a narrow width heel flare, whereas, someone else may prefer a wider flare.
  • Color – for men, black is the norm unless specialized in ordering. There is the flat (black matte) and shiny (patent leather) look. For women in competition, nude or bronze-colored shoes are the norm. In social (non-competition), however, the sky is the limit in color variety.
Men’s Ballroom
  • Laces
  • Black matte or leather
  • Suede outsole
  • 1-inch Heel Height
  • Forward walking of the heel
  • Toes do not easily point
  • Good for beginners dancing both Standard and Latin Basic.
  • Acceptable up to the Gold level in Ballroom competition
  • Acceptable up to the Bronze level in Latin/Rhythm competition
Men’s Latin
  • Laces
  • Black leather unless specialized
  • Suede outsole
  • 5-inch to 2-inch heel height
  • Forward walking of the heel
  • Flexible in the arch; allowing toe pointing
  • Acceptable up to the Gold level in Latin/Rhythm competition
Women’s Ballroom
  • Close, round toe
  • Satin upper
  • Suede outsole
  • Strap or strapless
  • 2-inch to 2.5-inch heel height
  • Forward walking of the heel
  • Heels too sturdy for Latin/Rhythm
  • Toes do not easily point
  • Acceptable up to the Gold level in Standard competitions
  • Flesh-colored shoes are the norm for competition
  • Social dance allows for more color variety
Women’s Latin
  • Open Toe
  • Satin upper
  • Suede outsole
  • Strap(s)
  • 2-inch to 3-inch heel height
  • The heel is not very, sturdy
  • Flexible; allowing toe pointing
  • Good for beginners dancing both Standard and Latin
  • Acceptable up to the Bronze level in Standard competition
  • Acceptable up to the Gold level in Latin competition
Women’s Smooth (hybrid shoe)
  • Closed toe and sturdy heel, as found in women’s Standard
  • Flexible; allowing toe pointing, as found in women’s Latin
  • Strap(s)
  • 2-inch to 2.5-inch heel height
  • Satin upper
  • Suede outsole
Unisex Practice
  • Sneaker style
  • Synthetic/Suede upper
  • Suede (competition practice) or plastic (more durability) outsole
  • 1-inch to 1.5-inch heel height
  • Flexible arch; allowing toe pointing
  • Padded
  • Not acceptable for competition

A couple dancing ballet in Battery Park

The Different Dance Styles used in the Ballroom

Just like the different type of sneakers used in different types of running styles, it’s important that you understand the type of dancing style you will be performing when in the ballroom. Most of the stereotypical dance styles that take place in the ballroom fall into two major categories: Latin dances (e.g. Cha-Cha-Cha, Rhumba, Samba, etc.), and the more traditional (Standard) ballroom dances (e.g. Foxtrot, Waltz, etc.).

Dances for Standard/Smooth Ballroom (International Standard):
  • Foxtrot – this dance originates in the 1910’s and is danced to a rhythm of 4/4 timing. Similar to the waltz in appearance, ‘big band’ music, normally, plays with this dance. The dance, itself, is flowing with long, continuous movements.
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  • Waltz – this dance originates as early as the sixteenth century. Today, there are multiple variations of this dance with multiple metronome timings, as well. Even the International and American versions of the waltz are somewhat different during competitions. Generally, the waltz performs in a 3/4 time signature with a metronome speed between 60 and 70 beats per minute. The 3-step waltz is the general version of competitions; having variants of the moves changed slightly between American and International standards.
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  • Quickstep – this dance originates in the 1920’s and is characteristic of other dancing types such as the Peabody, shag, Charleston, foxtrot, and one-step. With 2/4 timing, this dance is highly energetic and contains a ‘fun’ appeal to it.
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  • Viennese waltz – a variation of the original waltz, the Viennese waltz originates in Vienna and is more upbeat in tempo.
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  • Tango – between Argentina’s and Uruguay’s border, a dance called the tango was born in the 1880’s. There are two basic styles of open and close embrace.  This is danced with time signatures of both 2/4 and 4/4.
Dances for Latin/Rhythm Ballroom (International Latin):
  • Cha-cha-cha – the cha-cha (American naming convention) originates in Cuba in the 1950’s. The music is, usually, Cuban when dancing the cha-cha-cha; however, ballroom dancing sometimes implements Latin Pop or Latin rock for music choices.
  • Samba – this dance originates with African roots and is considered a Brazilian dance with its modernization. This modernization, as it were, is founded in the 20th century and the dance is performed with a 2/4 time signature.
  • Rhumba – this ballroom rumba dance originates in the 1930’s and utilizes Afro-Cuban and ‘big band’ music types. With a 4/4 time signature, the steps are synchronous to 1, 3, and 4 beats of the measure.
  • Pasodoble – mimicking the steps of bullfighting, this dance originates in the 1930’s and is characteristic of double-steps with fast-paced metronome timings of 120-130 beats per minute.
  • Jive – originating in the 1940’s, this ‘happy’ dance clocks in at 176 beats per minute; a very, fast-paced timing. This characteristic of this dance has a lot of knee work.

The previous dances are international competition standards. There are, however, moves or dance sequences which are, normally, included when doing dance performances that are less formal. They may include the saunter, lindy hip-hop, and some variations of the swing. There are, also, some dance moves that incorporate into the freestyle routines such as the merengue, bossa nova, and salsa.

At the end of the day, it’s important to know the type of dancing style you will be doing before buying your brand new pair of ballroom dance shoes. This is because different dance styles need a different type of dance shoe.

Men’s and Women’s Ballroom Shoes

Ballroom dance shoes for men and women are varying in different ways, and that’s why it’s important to understand the different features each shoe has.

  • Ballroom Shoes for Men: Like always, men will have few options to pick from when shopping for ballroom dancing shoes. This means the hustle of buying a pair of dancing shoes is much easier compared to their female counterparts. Most of the dancing shoes worn by men while dancing in the ballroom are, usually, black; except, for the performance shoes.

 

  • Men’s Latin vs. Standard Ballroom Shoes: The standard dancing shoes for men have lace-up oxford and flat heels. These standard shoes are similar to the Latin shoes except, Latin shoes have a heel that is either 1.5 inches or 2 inches in height; whereas, standard ballroom shoes are 1-inch in height.

 

  • Ballroom Shoes for Women: Here, you will find a wide variety when it comes to colors and styles, and the variety broadens when you decide to look for performance shoes. Practice or student shoes are, normally, simple with neutral colors like black.

 

  • Standard Ballroom Shoes for Women: These have a toe that is closed, and when you look at the heel, you will notice it’s moderately high. The heel is placed centrally; so, it can assist the foot in making back-stepping dance moves (e.g. as can be found with the Charleston). Compared to the Latin heel, the standard heel is much narrower. Female dancers who want to protect their toes from dancing partners who might step on them when dancing prefers them.

 

  • Latin Ballroom Shoes for Women: These are little different and they, generally, have a toe that is open. The heel is, also, very high (2.5 – 3 inches long) and slender. Compared to the classic (Standard) type, Latin dancing shoes for women are more flexible and are preferred by many dancers; since these shoes suit the majority of dancing styles. Standard shoes are impractical when performing Latin-style dancing routines like salsa and bachata because they have a thin heel. Thicker high heels, on the other hand (such as those found in Latin ballroom shoes), are able to offer additional stability for those dance types.

 

  • Practice Shoes for Women: When doing their practices, the female dancers have the option of practicing in shoes that have been, specifically, made for practice or just normal shoes. The major advantage of these shoes is that they are more secure, even though they might be less pleasing aesthetically. They have a sturdier heel that is, also, high. In addition, there is the Oxford lace-up style. They are made from leather and have a lower heel with perforations that are breathable; though some female dancers prefer doing their practices in Latin or standard dancing shoes. They even sometimes wear men’s Latin dance shoes for practicing in, as they are less demanding on the foot; yet, they still have a heel associated with them.

Getting the Perfect Fit

Everyone wants a good fit when shopping for new shoes, regardless of the type of shoes they are buying. The fit is one metric that is considered in all types of shoes; whether it is athletic shoes or just simple leisure footwear. When you have an ill-fitting shoe, then you are susceptible to many foot injuries (simple ones like blisters to more severe ones like foot fractures). When fitting your new dance shoes, you will have to use a different method from the one that is, normally, used to fit the street shoes.

Generally, the ballroom shoes need to have a fit that is snug and allows free movement of the foot when dancing. The dancer’s toes must be able to reach the very end of the dancing shoes for closed toes. For the dance shoes having open toes, however, then the toes must slightly hang just over the shoe’s edge; allowing you to ‘hold the floor,’ as it were. Strictly in use for Latin-style dancing, a 1/4-inch hangover is recommended in order to ‘use the floor.’

If you have ever bought street shoes, you will notice that the toe guide is very counterintuitive to the common belief many people have when shopping for dancing shoes. Another thing to consider is to make sure the snug fit is not too tight; but instead, ensure comfortability.

 

  • Variations in Shoe Size

Even though you will find some companies making dance shoes that have a similar sizing system like the street shoes, it’s important to note that you will find some which have a very, different sizing system. In order to be on the safe side, make sure you check the description details and, also, look at the manufacturer’s sizing guide and advice. In case you run into difficulties, you can always consult the salesperson if you are making a physical purchase. Many buyers are advised to use the shoe size they had used in their last purchase or look for a conversion chart, in case it’s their first purchase or changing brands. It’s important that you confirm the size of the shoe; and in order to do this, it’s recommended that a buyer takes the measurement from their feet when they are at home.

After you have your measurements, then the next step would be to refer to the chart sizes that are provided by the different companies. Take note, however, that the sizing standard will be different depending on the company making the shoes and, also, the country. You can refer to the manufacturer’s website for more information with regards to the correct sizing. Remember that the shoe’s width sometimes varies more in comparison to the lengths. This will never be indicated on the size guide charts and that’s why it’s crucial you give the width the utmost consideration.

  • The Thickness of the Outsole

The outsole of all ballroom dancing shoes must be very thin. This is an important factor. The thin outsole on the dancing shoe enables the dancer to have a much greater and improved responsive contact with their dancing surface. This means there is minimal chance for them in twisting their ankle or their feet, as they dance. When picking your suede or leather outsoles, make sure they are thin; so, you can glide with the correct amount of needed traction (no slippery feeling). Keep off the rubber soles. Despite the fact that they have more durability, they offer excess grip which can limit your free movement. The other outsoles to stay away from are the plastic outsoles; since, they are worn out fast and can become slippery during dancing, as a result.

  • The Flexibility of Dancing Shoes

Ballroom dancing shoes need to offer maximum flexibility. The importance of flexibility is that it enables effective execution and coordination of the dance moves, in addition to offering protection and safety for your feet. When you wear a pair of dancing shoes that are inflexible, then you stand a risk of suffering from ankle or foot injuries; not to mention, the fact that you will be making sloppy dancing moves on the stage. Also, it is important to remember that Standard ballroom shoes will be less flexible than Latin ballroom shoes.

For men, a split-sole design allows for tremendous flexibility for Latin ballroom dancing. Although women’s Latin shoes are flexible in nature, there are Latin dancing shoes available having thinner and shorter shanks in place; thereby, providing even more flexibility. Keep this in mind, as you shop for the best ballroom shoes.

  • Amount of Arch Support

Having an arch support that is strong is important, especially, for dancers who tend to wear higher dancing heels. This, also, means that the ballroom dancing shoes need to have a strong arch support. What is the importance of arch support? During dancing, most arches are under too much pressure, and that means a dancer needs to get the correct amount of arch support from their dancing shoes. Having the incorrect type of arch will lead to incorrect pronation of your foot. Pronation will not only affect your dancing but will, also, put the dancer at a risk of getting serious injuries. The simple rule is that the higher the heel, the more arch support the dancer needs. Standard ballroom shoes are more supportive than Latin dancewear, simply because of flexibility factors.

For shoes with little arch support, there is an alternative which will allow you to use your dance shoes in practice. Foot undies (or lingerie) are made in a variety of ways and can add to arch stability and/or provide cushioning. They are, mainly, used in jazz/ballet settings, but can be equally helpful in transitioning from practice to competition shoes having little to no arch support. Some of the more common designs include:

  • Open toe wrap around the forefoot and fits like a sock; providing forefoot cushioning
  • Strap around the ankle and wraps around the midfoot; great for arch support and stability
  • Close toe which fits like a very, thin shoe/sock
  • Close toe which wraps around the ankle but has no forefoot padding

These do have a break-in period and require that you acclimate by using them for 2-hour increments. You should, also, be aware that these are a tool in helping you to transition and should not be worn during actual competition, as some judges are known to frown upon dancers wearing them.

  • Heel Height & Width

Heel Height

The heel height will, definitely, vary depending on whether they are male shoes or female shoes. Also, the varying type of ballroom dancing shoes has different heel heights. The men don’t have to worry about the height, but the women have to give the heel height very serious consideration when shopping for new dancing shoes. Literally, every dancing shoe used in the ballroom has some height. For the men, it starts from 0.5 inches while the lady’s ballroom shoes start from 2 inches, generally speaking.

Most women beginners should wear heels that are 2.5 inches high or lower. This is because the shoes with higher heels tend to need the dancer to have plenty of ankle strength and support. More skilled dancers, on the other hand, will opt for higher heels. Generally speaking, female dancers never go beyond 3 inches in heel height. It’s important to note if a dancer experiences pain when they are dancing with higher heels, then they should look for dancing shoes that offer them an additional amount of arch support.

Heel Width

The width and style of the heel, also, matters. The wider the heel, the more stable your environment, as a general rule of thumb. Practice shoes will have a wider heel, whereas, competition shoes will be thinner. There are different types of heels when it comes to ballroom dancing.

  • Flare – these types range from 2-inch to 3.5-inch in height. On the inside, they flare away from the body, starting from the bottom of the shoe to the floor. The main concern with these is the location of the heel; making them tough for Standard ballroom dancing, as they do not pivot well during spins but are great for Latin dancing.
  • Contour – these types range from 2-inch to 3.5-inch in heel height. They center well, allowing you to pivot during Standard ballroom dancing.
  • Slim – these types range from 2-inch to 3-inch in heel height. On the backside, they contour lower than contour heels; providing you a little more stability. These are great for Latin dancing.
  • Stiletto – these are not the stilettos for casual dressing, but the appearance is, generally, the same. They range from 2.5-to-4 inches in heel height and have a narrow base. These are good for Standard dancing.
  • Practice – these types are low in height; ranging from 0.5 inches to 2.5 inches. They have a wide base and allow for greater stability. They are, also, good for giving your feet a break; less strain than wearing competition shoes.

Heel height and width both play an important role in dance ability and the ‘feel good’ factor. The higher the heel, the more your center of gravity is pushed forward. Instead of even distribution, your weight centers to the front of the foot, thereby, creating more pressure than what your body is accustomed. A heel located too far to the rear of the foot will not help in this area, but a heel moved slightly forward a few centimeters can make all the difference in the world. Remember, you are not choosing dance shoes based on appearance alone. If you are going to wear high heels, then try to find ones that move toward your arch at the top of the heel. In doing so, your feet will feel more stability and security while dancing.

Black and white shot of girl dancing on grass in distance with birds, Toronto Islands

Caring Tips

It’s important that dancers take good care of their dancing shoes; so, they can be more durable and, also, help prevent any chance of ruining them; thereby, putting the dancer at a higher risk of becoming injured. When you wear your shoes outside the ballroom, then it means you will likely ruin the suede outsole. That’s why the dancing shoes should only be worn when inside of the ballroom. Change into them while in the studio when you want to start practicing. Also, some shoes can be ordered with rubber outsoles, if your dance will be outside of the ballroom.

So, what are the important tips dancers may need to know when they want to take good care of their dancing shoes?

Heel protectors:  These small accessories are important in making sure the heel of the shoe remains protected. They perform very, important tasks when used.

  • Firstly, they protect the dancing floor.
  • Secondly, they provide ample traction.
  • Lastly, as their name suggests, they offer protection to the heel.

When your shoes are still new, they have heel tips. The major disadvantage is that these heel tips tend to wear out very fast. When the heel tip wears out, this means the nail used to attach them is exposed. Wearing plastic heel protectors, however, will give your heel tips a more prolonged life. As such, you will now have more durable dancing shoes.

Shoe Brush: Be it suede or leather outsoles, it’s good they are maintained well with the correct shoe brush. Outsoles made from suede lose the nap after a few months and shorter if the shoes are worn outside of the ballroom. Look for a shoe brush that has steel bristles and a firm handle; so, they are able to refresh the shoe’s nap. These types of brushes can be found in the shoe vendors or hardware stores. Make sure the handle of the brush has a good grip, as this will prevent any damage occurring on your hands when you touch the sharp bristles.

Scotchgard is a must-have for those planning to buy dancing shoes made of satin. The Scotchgard helps in limiting the amount of dirt on your shoes. You can, also, get any other recommended fabric protector, as a means to prevent dirt in the first place. After all, satin dancing shoes are hard to clean after they become dirty. Also, it is a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for preventive shoe care, as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why is it not possible for me to dance when wearing my regular street shoes?
A. First of all, it’s not forbidden or illegal for you to dance while wearing street shoes. The only disadvantage is that the street shoes will limit how much you feel your feet, as you dance. This, in turn,  places you in a more disadvantaged position. Street shoes are not as soft as the normal ballroom dance shoes and limit the range of motion of your feet when dancing. Ballroom dance shoes, particularly, have suede outsoles and offer an ample quantity of anti-slip and glide. You will find some studios have expensive dance rugs installed and will not allow dancers to step on the rugs if they are not wearing their dance shoes.

Q. I want to order a new pair of ballroom dancing shoes; so, what’s the correct size for me — a smaller or bigger size from my regular street shoes?
A. Well, the obvious answer would be, yes. It’s best to order the normal size of your street shoe. As a rule of thumb, however, it’s good to consult, because some companies do not adhere to this rule (many companies who do this, usually, always quote this in their shoes). British companies manufacture their shoes by using the British sizing, while the European ones use the European shoe sizing. We, also, have the Japanese and the American companies that have their own respective sizing systems. All of these sizing systems, however, can be easily translated into the correct size using the conversion charts provided by the shoe manufacturers.

Q. I have a male partner who is very tall, is it advisable for me to go for higher heels?
A. The answer to that would be a big, no. It’s highly discouraged for female dancers to go for higher heels if they cannot comfortably dance in the shoes. The general rule is that higher heels mean more difficulty in dancing (hence the dancer must have ankles that are very strong and very flexible). The flexibility and strength of the ankle can only be achieved with a long duration of practice. Unless you’re very comfortable in the high heels, do not wear them. In case you decide to go for a higher heel, however, just add half an inch to the heel height.

Q. How do I measure the height of my shoe’s heel?
A. Many shoe making companies measure the height of the heel from the center part of the heel; excluding, the tip of the heel. When measuring the heel, avoid measuring the heel of the shoe from the back, as this will give you a much higher reading (remember that a higher heel makes a very big difference in your dancing).

Q. Between the leather outsoles and the suede outsoles, which one is the best for me?
A. Dancers who dance in the ballroom and are Latin-American dancers always use the suede outsoles. The suede shoes are very, flexible; hence, allowing the dancer’s foot shape to be shaped to the extreme.
Those who are Argentine Tango dancers can consider buying shoes with leather outsoles; since the leather outsoles, tend to be a little harder than the suede outsoles. They, also, do not bend that much. They offer more support; preventing the feet from getting so tired when dancing (especially, if you will be dancing for a long period of time).
The leather outsoles, also, works better when worn on rough floors. Outdoor dancing deserves dancing shoes that are made of leather or rubber outsoles. For floors that are smooth and slippery, then suede outsoles would be the best choice.

Q. I am a beginner in ballroom dancing. Is it a must that I get the dancing shoes used in the ballroom?
A. It’s important for you to have dancing shoes. That’s why the answer is, yes. For beginners, they can wear shoes that have leather outsoles; only on the first few days of the starting of classes. The dance shoes will come in handy when you need a smoother dance. Going for leather outsole shoes, you will have a comfortable fit and a smooth feel; whereas, the suede outsoles help a dancer to have an easier transition move. Beginners should be careful because wearing improper dancing shoes can make them injure their dancing partners. As a beginner it’s good to invest in good ballroom shoes; since they are durable and will make you enjoy your dance a lot more.

Sources

  1. Duet Dance Studio, How to Choose the Right Dance Shoes | 7 Things to Consider , Informative Guide,
  2. Beyond Dancing, A New Dancer’s Guide to Ballroom Shoes, Dance Apparel & Tips,
  3. A Time to Dance, Rebekah's Tips on Buying Dance Shoes, Useful Information,
  4. Ebay, The Complete Guide to Buying Ballroom Shoes, Buying Guide,
  5. Ballroomguide.com, Major Dance Shoe Brands, Informative,
  6. revolutionballroom.com, Guide To Buying Dance Shoes, Buying Guide,
  7. Wikipedia, Thoinot Arbeau, Article, Dec 29, 2017
  8. Wikipedia, Foxtrot, Article, Apr 14, 2018
  9. Wikipedia, Waltz, Article, Mar 16, 2018
  10. Wikipedia, Quickstep, Article, Apr 14, 2018
  11. Wikipedia, Cha-cha-cha (dance), Article, Apr 14, 2018
  12. Wikipedia, Tango, Article, Apr 11, 2018
  13. Wikipedia, Samba, Article, Apr 15, 2018
  14. Wikipedia, Rumba, Article, Mar 06, 2018
  15. Wikipedia, Pasodoble, Article, Apr 07, 2018
  16. Wikipedia, Jive (dance), Article, Mar 27, 2018
  17. PBS, Ballroom Dance Styles, Article, Aug 21, 2018
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  19. Simon, G., Dance Sneakers – top 6 features to look for when you buy, Article, Nov 09, 2016
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