Latin dance shoes are an important addition to any ballroom dancer’s wardrobe. In this article we examine what makes a good Latin dance shoe, and give our picks for the best Latin dance shoes for 2013.
Latin dance shoes are designed specifically for dancing Latin ballroom dances such as the tango, samba or rhumba. If you’re a ballroom dancer only looking to buy one pair of dancing shoes, then a Latin shoe is your best choice. While all styles of ballroom dance can be performed in Latin shoes, standard ballroom dance shoes are unsuitable for Latin styles.
Latin Dance Shoes For Men
Latin dance shoes for men are typically a black leather oxford lace-up, or a leather slip on shoe with a heel. Men’s Latin ballroom shoes generally have higher heels than a standard ballroom dance shoe, at around 1.5 to 2.5 inches, often called a Cuban heel.
The higher heel helps to position your weight toward the balls of the feet, perfect for executing the typical back and forth steps involved in Latin dances.
Men dancing traditional Argentine tango or a salsa, will often wear shoes fitted with harder heels with a rubber stopper “handbrake” to aid the stop short embellishments of the dances.
Latin Dance Shoes for Women
Unlike a standard ballroom dance shoe which are usually regular closed-toe pumps, women’s Latin dance shoes are generally lightweight, open toed shoe with sandal straps.
The heel typically ranges from 2 to 3.5 inches, and can be quite thin, but still thicker than a stiletto heel. Many Latin dance shoes are made with a flared heel with a wider base for stability. Women’s Cuban or Spanish heels, typically 2 inches high, are wider and easier to balance on, so make a good choice for beginners.
For beginners, it’s important to start learning in a pairs of heels as soon as you can and preferably straight away, rather than relying on a pair of flat practice shoes. If you learn the steps in a flat shoe, you’ll effectively be learning them all over again when you change to heels.
Beginners and amateurs should also consider sticking with a pair of flesh colored shoes so as not to draw attention to the feet while still learning the steps.
The Best Latin Shoes – Must Have Features
Latin Dance Shoes Must Have a Thin Suede or Leather Sole
Men’s and women’s Latin dance shoes need to have a smooth sole lined with leather or suede. This provides the perfect amount of traction needed to move effortlessly across the dance floor without sticking. Full rubber soles are not recommended.
The sole also needs to be thin to allow the foot better sensitivity to the floor.
Leather is typically more slippery and therefore has a faster glide than suede, so is often the choice for advanced dancers and also for dances involving a lot of glide such as the Bolero. Suede soles also require regular upkeep with a suede brush to keep them clean and prevent them from wearing slick.
Leather and suede sole shoes are designed for dance floors made of wood. If you’re dancing outside (e.g. a street dance) on on concrete or asphalt, you might be better off choosing latin dance shoes with synthetic or hardened leather soles. These will provide a good balance between slide and durability.
Latin Dance Shoes Must Be Flexible and Lightweight
Latin dance involves a range of different foot movements and angles, particularly for dances such as the Cha-Cha, so shoe flexibility is very important in both the sole and upper. If your shoe is too rigid it will prevent your foot from moving properly through the dance.
Your foot movement and steps will also be impeded if your shoe is too heavy, so a good Latin dance shoe should be lightweight but still firmly constructed.
Latin Dance Shoes Must Have a Close and Supportive Fit
While Latin dance shoes should be flexible, they still need a firm and secure fit across the whole foot. Not only does this stop the shoe getting in the way of your dance steps, it also helps to prevent injury to your feet, ankles, knees and hips. This is especially important is dances with a focus on hip movement such as the side samba walk.
For men with hard to fit or wider feet, lace-up shoes are preferable to slip-ons as the shoe is secured across the entire upper foot.
For women, T-strap and X-strap style straps provide a more secure fit than a standard ankle strap. A closed heel will typically provide more foot stability than a strapped open heel.
Arch support is also important as Latin dancing places pressure on the arch. Improper support can cause the foot to pronate. Generally, the higher your heels the more arch support you’ll need.
For both men and women, if your foot slides within your shoe, it is too big. While a Latin dance shoe should have a snug fit, the shoe should not cut into your foot in any way nor should your toes be forced over each other. Ladies should have their toes reach just to the end of their shoe.
Latin Dance Shoes Need Good Cushioning
For both comfort and stability, cushioning is important in a Latin Dance shoe especially for dances with a heavier rhythmic step such as the tango. Shoes made especially for Argentine tango will typically be more cushioned.
The top 5 Latin Dance Shoes
This Latin dance shoe from Bloch is an excellent choice for both beginner and seasoned Latin dancers. Yvette features an leather upper with a suede lined thin and flexible sole. The 2.5 inch flared heel provides a solid balance, while the strappy heel cage offers the stability of a closed heel with the elegance of a strap. This shoe also features a self-locking buckle and a comfortable brushed lining.
Available in natural tan, gold and black, the Yvette runs in medium width from sizes 5 to 11 with half sizes in between.
Pros – Elegantly designed partially closed heel for style and stability
Cons – Runs smaller than street size and can be hard to fit on wide feet.
Sansha Tina: the discount latin dance shoe
Sansha’s Tina Latin dance shoe is good choice for beginners and intermediate dancers looking for a cheaper shoe without sacrificing quality or deign. Tina features a leather and synthetic upper, with a suede sole and a comfortable lining. It is fitted with a 3 inch slightly flared heel and an easy access buckle.
Available in sparkly black or silver. Sansha recommends dancers order one size up from street shoe size.
Pros – Discount price
Cons – Partially synthetic upper is not as flexible as other shoes
Handcrafted in Germany, it features a soft sheep’s leather upper and a suede lined sole. The brushed lining provides excellent comfort. With a 1.5 inch heel, this is a perfect Latin shoe for men not quite used to dancing in higher heels and can also be used in place of a standard ballroom shoe.
Available in black in sizes 6 to 13 in a medium width, this shoe does have a narrow fit toe so wider feet might need to order a size up.
Pros – durable, handmade construction
Cons – Narrow fit toe
The Capezio T-Strap dance shoe provides the perfect blend of elegant form and sophisticated function.
Featuring an all leather upper – or leather and synthetic for the metallic option – they have a soft suede sole and a shortened support shank which means you get all of the arch support you need without sacrificing sole flexibility. The 2.5 inch flared heel together with the cushioned footbed and uniquely designed vamp and T-Strap makes for a comfortable and stable shoe that also fits like a dream to even the most problematic feet. The cleverly designed speed buckle lets you change shoes quickly.
These Capezios are available in black in sizes 5 to 12 in medium width. Wide width is available on some sizes. This shoe runs to street size.
Pros – Comfort cushioning and excellent support.
Cons – Full leather upper only available in black.
This Latin dance shoe from Stephanie provides all over comfort and support with a stunning design and is a great choice for all dance levels. Featuring a leather and synthetic satin upper with a suede sole, the T-strap design and wide set vamp helps to keep your foot firmly in place while the enclosed heel provides firm support from the back. The footbed is fully cushioned. This shoe is available in a 2.5 inch flared heel in either black or natural tan satin from medium width sizes 5 to 9.5 and also comes with a free carry bag.
Pros – Secure and stable heel and vamp
Cons – Narrow or wide feet may have difficulty in sizing
Whether you’re a mixed style ballroom dancer or your focus is specifically on Latin dance, choosing the right pair of Latin dance shoes will do wonders for your steps and keep your feet happy and now you know what to look for there’s nothing standing between you and your best Latin dance shoes.