Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, finding the best ballroom dance shoes will make all the difference to your performance and help protect your feet from injury. In this article, we provide an overview of the various types of ballroom dance shoes, including the four key characteristics you should consider before purchasing.
Types of Ballroom Dance Shoes
There are three basic types of ballroom dance shoes for both women and men. These are:
Men’s Ballroom Dance Shoes
For men, the major difference between the three is the heel height. A standard pair of men’s ballroom dancing shoes typically have a lower heel height (between 0.5” and 1”) than the Latin (typically 1.5”) and are easier to balance on. The Latin shoe’s heel, called a Cuban heel, helps keep the weight forward on the foot for dances like Salsa or Tango. Men typically wear Cuban heels in the Dancesport competition. Men’s practice ballroom dance shoes have perforated leather uppers to help cool the feet but aren’t worn in competition.
Women’s Ballroom Dance Shoes
For ladies, the differences between the three types are far more detailed.
Typically, women’s Standard ballroom dance shoes are closed-toed pumps, with a heel more centrally under the foot to help with back-stepping movements in dances like the Charleston. The standard heel is also more narrow than a Latin heel. Many women wear standards if they’re worried their partner may step on their toes.
Most women choosing only one pair of ballroom dance shoes will choose Latin. Latin shoes are usually open-toed with a wide heel from 1 to 3 inches. The standard heel is 2.5 inches. Latin shoes are more flexible than standard shoes and are suitable for all styles of dance whereas standard shoes are impractical for performing Latin dances like the tango or salsa. The thicker heel of the Latin shoe also provides more stability than a standard heel.
Smooth shoes are a combination of the closed-in toe of the standard with the strappy heel to ankle area on the Latin. Some Dancesport competitions don’t allow smooth shoes.
Women’s practice ballroom dance shoes are typically fully closed in leather shoes, with breathable perforations and a low heel. Some women practice in standards or smooths.
Key Characteristic of Ballroom Dance Shoes
In addition to knowing which type of shoe to wear, whether you’re stepping out in a tango or a waltz, there a few overall key characteristics to looks for when choosing the best ballroom dance shoes.
Any pair of high-quality ballroom dance shoes for both men and women will feature the following:
- A thin sole made of either leather or suede
- Arch Support
- A heel appropriate for your dance level
1. Ballroom Dance Shoes Need a Thin Sole
A thin sole is one of the most important factors in a pair of ballroom dance shoes. Having a thin sole on your shoe allows you greater responsive contact with the floor which minimizes your chance of twisting your ankle.
Choose a thin leather or suede sole as these will allow your shoes to glide with the perfect amount of traction. Avoid rubber soles. While they are more durable, they provide too much grip and can impede your movement. Also avoid plastic soles, which wear out quickly and can be slippery.
2. Ballroom Dance Shoes Need to Be Flexible
Flexibility is important for both the execution of your dance moves and the safety of your feet. An inflexible shoe risks foot and ankle injuries as well as blisters, not to mention getting in the way of your perfect dance steps.
3. Ballroom Dance Shoes Require Arch Support
Strong arch support is particularly important for women wearing higher heels, but good arch support is important for all ballroom dance shoes. As you’re dancing, your arches are under a huge amount of pressure and inappropriate arch support can cause your feet to pronate incorrectly. Pronation problems not only impede your dancing but also risks serious injury to your feet, ankles, knees and hips. Generally, the higher your heels the more arch support you’ll need.
4. Ballroom Dance Shoes Require a Certain Heel Height
All ballroom dance shoes have some heel height, typically from 0.5” for men and 2” for women. As a general rule for women, 2.5” is good for beginners because higher heels require a greater amount of ankle strength. As your skill increases and your legs become stronger, your heel height can increase although most women dancers don’t often go above 3” heels.
If you find your feet are hurting with higher heels, you might want to try a shoe with increased arch support.
Other Elements to Think About
While these are the four main factors the best ballroom dance shoes should feature, you’ll also be thinking about these other elements, especially if you’re involved in Dancesport.
Leather Type for Men’s Shoes
For men’s shoes, regular leather is best. Patent leather looks sharp but is less flexible and the leather does tend to crack. Patent leather also tends to grab which is a tripping risk, especially for beginners.
Colour and Decoration
Men should wear black shoes, whereas women have more options. Flesh coloured shoes make the leg look longer and also don’t draw attention to the feet which is especially important for beginners. Certain competitions have strict rules against decorative elements like rhinestones, so always check before your performance.
Women’s Latin shoes have a range of different strap styles. T-Bar style straps stop the front of the shoes from sliding forward when you point your feet, where an X-strap keeps the bottom of the shoe separating from your feet when you point. Your choice will depend on your foot shape and your choice of dance. Generally, a strappier shoe will provide greater forefoot flexibility and conform better to the foot shape.
The Best Ballroom Dance Shoes Reviewed in 2021
The Supadance 1069 Latin is a good choice if you’re only buying one pair of dance shoes. The strappy forefoot provides excellent flexibility and the 2.5” flared heel gives good stability makes them perfect for all dancing, not just Latin. Available in dark tan satin to harmonize with a range of skin tones. If you do prefer a T-Bar Latin shoe, the Supadance 1410 is a worthy alternative to the 1069, available in silver or gold.
Supadance shoes do run narrow so if your feet are wide, check the size charts before ordering or try a pair on before you buy.
Pros – Excellent flexibility and stable heel
Cons – Narrow fit. The rhinestone embellishment on the buckle may not be permitted in some competitions.
The Capezio SD02 is a durable yet delicate Latin ballroom shoe with a comfortable cushioned insole and suede sole. These offer superior flexibility, while the interwoven forefoot straps provide great support for the entire foot. Great arch support and the under arch ankle strap is particularly good for dancers with high arches than can have trouble keeping other shoes in place.
A convenient buckling design lets you get them on and off in a hurry, perfect for changing shoes between competition heats.
Available in black leather or camel satin.
Pros – Comfortable fit with excellent support.
Cons – The ankle straps do run quite long which can be an annoyance for some dancers.
If you’re looking for discount prices on ballroom dance shoes without sacrificing style or quality, then the Stephanie Open Toe x-straps might be just what you need. These feature a full suede sole and a flexible and cushioned insole providing an excellent and comfortable fit while the x-strap keeps your ankle in place. The footbed on these shoes does tend to run quite long, so some dancers will benefit from ordering a half or full size down.
Available in a range of colors with variations in embellishments.
Pros – Budget cost and a range of colors and design.
Cons – Long footbed. Only one color option comes without rhinestone embellishments.
Bloch’s Vida Latin shoe is a great luxury ballroom dance show suitable for beginners and pros alike. This stunning shoe features a flexible suede sole; a wide, middle set heel; a comfortable cushioned insole and an all-leather upper that provides a secure yet flexible fit.
The ankle straps can be adjusted to a range of different styles and the self-locking buckle makes getting in and out a breeze.
Because of the unique design of the shoe, Bloch recommends dancers order a half size up from their street shoe size, or a full size if they have wide feet. Available in black or silver.
Pros – adjustable ankle straps can be changed into different styles.
Cons – can be difficult to fit without trying a pair on before purchase.
If you’re after a reliable pair of cheap practice shoes and don’t want to wear the lace-up style of practice shoes, then you can’t go past these elastic ballroom court shoes from Glide.
The soft leather upper and elasticated sides make these some of the most comfortable ballroom dancing shoes you’ll be likely to find. Featuring suede soles, they also have a unique cushioned removable insole. Available in nude leather, these are available in a range of widths from extra narrow to extra-wide.
Pros – Comfort. Excellent range of sizing options.
Cons – Unsuitable for competition dancing.
From beginners to seasoned pros, from foxtrots to salsas, choosing the best ballroom dance shoes is easy when you know what to look for. With this must-read guide, you’ll be sweeping your partner off his or her feet in no time.