Fancy Footwear for Fancy Footwork

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by Patti Smith

Almost every physical activity has its own set of equipment, including footwear. Running has Nikes, soccer and golf have cleats, hiking has boots, and bowling has clown shoes. Ballroom dancing is no different: we have the ballroom shoe.

You may be asking yourself, “Why would I need special shoes to dance in?” After all, people go out dancing all the time in regular footwear with no thought as to why they chose those shoes other than that they look good. So what is so special about a ballroom dance shoe?

  1. It has a steel-reinforced arch for proper support while you’re gliding, spinning, and shaking your groove thang!
  2. The box of the shoe is extremely flexible, which allows you to roll though your steps and use your feet to move your body across the floor, rather than using your feet to keep your shoes on while you dance. A regular shoe has a hard-soled box and will not allow you to flex and point your foot.
  3. Suede bottom! If you’ve ever tried dancing in tennis shoes, you’ve experienced that it’s near-impossible to turn or glide because of the rubber soles, and if you’ve ever danced in an evening shoe you’ve probably feared for your life because the soles were so slippery you thought you might fall and draw unwanted attention to yourself (or worse, get injured). The bottoms of a ballroom shoe have a soft suede that allows you to grip the floor as well as glide smoothly.
  4. Dance shoes also have a variety of heel heights to match the variety of ballroom dances out there!

Depending on the style of dancing, you may want to choose a heel height anywhere between 1″ to 3½”. If you are an avid West Coast Swing or country/western dancer, you might be inclined to go with a lower heel, anywhere between 1″ to 2″. If ballroom is your thing, a 2½” heel is for you! It keeps you a little lower to the ground and allows for proper foot articulation when dancing Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, or Quickstep. The Latin dances, like Rumba, Cha-Cha, Samba, and Bolero, to name a few, will require a 2½” to 3″ heel; this gives the prettiest leg line when wearing those short Latin skirts and helps you keep a strong forward poise, which is required for your Latin dances. Argentine Tango dancers prefer the highest heel offered, with a range of 3″ to 3½” inches, which again helps keep the forward poise and create a beautiful leg line.

Proper ballroom footwear is not just for women! Men will also find a benefit in wearing a proper dance shoe for much the same reasons listed above. When it comes to heel height for gentlemen, you pretty much get two choices: 1″ or 1½”. I recommend most men choose a 1″ heel; it’s good for every type of dancing. If you’re looking to be a competitive Latin dancer, that would be the time to choose a 1½” heel.

The wonderful thing about ballroom shoes is that they will likely be some of the most comfortable shoes you’ve worn in your life, and they come in a wide assortment of sizes, styles, shapes and colors. If you want to make your dancing instantly easier and more comfortable, the proper shoes are the way to go! Check out these companies below; they provide a sizable selection with great quality:

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