Selecting your first pair of dance shoes can feel like an initiation rite into the world of dance! It’s exciting to slip them on and feel yourself getting into the “spirit” of your dance form. As you continue on your dance journey, each new pair will offer fresh ways to experience the floor, your movement and balance, and of course, your outfits.
Over the years, I’ve been asked countless times for advice on buying dance shoes. Here I’ve gathered all the tips I’ve learned into one place.
Please remember that finding the perfect pair may take time! You may need a little trial and error. If you are new to dancing, start with the cheap ones first, and then explore based on your dance needs, comfort, and personal style.
*This article is tailored for the larger community of Blues Dancers and Fusion Dancers, for other types of dance you will want to reach out to a specific teacher of that style.
Why should you purchase dance shoes?
1️⃣ The bottoms of your shoes will be the right amount of slickness to perform pivots, turns, slides, and other maneuvers, while not hurting your knees because your feet are stuck to the ground. They will also provide enough stability for off-axis or weight bearing movements (particularly for leads).
2️⃣ There will be the right amount of flexibility in your shoes for you to roll through your foot (using the toes or ball padding of the foot) for both more control of your movements and aesthetics.
3️⃣ You can choose how soft or hard the sides of your shoes are to allow you to either have ultimate soft flexibility or something hard to purchase against for using the sides of your feet in fancy footwork.
4️⃣ Your shoes will be correctly balanced for the type of movement you are trying to do. This includes the proper height and width of heel (for both lead’s and follow’s shoes).
Tips for beginners:
- Default to a shoe with a sueded bottom.
- Do not buy solo dance sneakers with a rubber soul. On many floors you won’t be able to turn or pivot.
- There are some partner dance sneakers listed below with hard plastic bottoms which are designed specifically for the types of movements you will be doing. You can get those.
- Dance shoes with hard leather souls are also an option (such as tango or latin shoes), but if they don’t have a sticky heel they can often be too slick for beginners and not give you enough control.
- Default to a flat shoe.
- Or a short, thicker heel no higher than ½” – 1”. If your heel is higher than that or very thin, you will have a hard time doing anything that requires pulse or an athletic posture.
- Structured vs Unstructured
- Some shoes are more stiff around the toe box and sole, and some shoes mold to your foot in a very soft and flexible way. Which style you choose will change your dancing.
- I usually suggest that dancers who have a hard time using their feet start with less structured shoes so they can immediately use the ground better.
- For blues dancing I generally recommend “graduating” to a more structured shoe as you get more comfortable, since it can offer nice support for fancy footwork.
- Finding what works for you is part of the experimentation phase. Everyone has a preference. I like both depending on the day, the year, or what I feel like in the moment.
- Dress shoes with leather bottoms:
- Using a pair of nice leather soled dress shoes can be a good starting point before you invest.
- I have seen many new dancers choose shoes that are too stiff, have too much sole sticking out the sides, are too long in the toe box, or the leather is worn down so that they are no longer slippery. You are aiming for control and maneuverability in your feet.
- If you watch out for these things you may be able to hit the jackpot with the perfect shoe, as many experienced dancers have found street shoes for dancing.
- Suede it yourself.
- You can find a street shoe that you feel good in and suede the bottom yourself. Either take it in to your nearest shoe store, or buy some cheap suede clothing at the thrift store and do it yourself with some proper glue.
- For many years this is how swing dancers did it! Lately I have seen many people re-sole barefoot shoes for their dancing needs.
* Many of the stores below have some shoes that are not going to be appropriate for your dancing. Please make sure to check out the tips above before just trusting anything on the sites listed!
**This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of dance shoes! It’s just a few popular places to get you started.
***I get zero commissions from anything on this post. I am just sharing information because I am asked so often.
Less than €80 or “Just Getting Started” Shoes:
Tom's used to be a great option for dance shoes! They have recently changed their default sole to a rubber bottom that makes it more difficult to use. You can still find an old style on Amazon with the original foam sole for very cheap. https://www.toms.com
You can get sneakers and vintage-like lindy hop/swing style shoes at this site. If you are a casual dancer they will be just fine and last a decent while. Ships to Europe & the USA. https://www.dancestore.com
Search google for “the Salsette sueded dance sneaker” and you will find several results on amazon and dance shoe sites in Europe and the USA. They run about $40-$50, and have a rubber heel for greater control. Not the prettiest shoe, but certainly comfortable and price-conscious.
Light in the box is a large online clothing company that sells all sorts of things for very cheap, and ships to both Europe and the USA. Go to this site and type in "women's dance shoe flats", "women's dance shoes low heel" or "men's dance shoes". You will find many options that are cute and sometimes cheesy! They are cheap and fall apart very quickly, but if you are on a budget or just want something specific for an outfit, they are a good option. PLEASE use all the tips above and really look at the bottoms of the shoes. Many listed as "dance" have street shoe bottoms. www.lightinthebox.com
Made for West Coast Swing
SwayD original styles were soft and stylish dance boots, but they have since made shoes that look like Tom's, men's & women's sneakers, and low heeled sandals. You can often find them sold in many dance stores, so feel free to do an internet search and find a place that sells them by you. The company ships to Europe & the USA. www.swayd.com or www.swayd.eu
Jordan and Tatiana are famous WCS dance teachers who have made their own line of shoes that are high quality and very functional. Interesting sandals in women's styles and stylish sneakers in men's. You can choose to purchase in Europe or USA. www.jtswingswing.com/store
Made for Zouk Dancers
Taygra sneakers have a hard plastic sole that is surprisingly easy to use on almost all floors, and is great for outdoor dancing. They make many different styles, from a slim look to a boot. The company website does not usually have as many options as dance shoe stores do but they do ship to Europe and the USA. I recommend doing a search for Taygra sneakers in your region. www.taygra.shoes
These are very inexpensive and versatile sandals. I haven't found them shipped to Europe for a reasonable price yet, but there is a good site in the USA that sells these and Taygra. www.spin-store.com/
Ballroom Teaching or Practice Shoes
I used to wear these types of shoes for a long time for blues dancing. The one's I wore were called "Godiva" with a 1.5" heel by "Kelaci". There are many styles and colors to choose from, from laced or unlaced to open or closed toe. Please remember to get a fat, wide heel! www.worldtonedance.com is a good site for the USA, or search for a ballroom shoe company in your region.
As with the shoes labeled "women's", men's ballroom shoes come in a variety of soft or structured depending on the style. "Latin" shoes tend to be softer. There are all sorts of syles out there, from the fancy to to the plane and simple. www.worldtonedance.com is a good site for the USA, or search for a ballroom shoe company in your region.
Fancy Swing/Blues/Balboa Shoes
Listed below are shoe stores that I know of that sell styles of swing, blues, and balboa shoes. I’m sure there are many more out there.
Prices are generally between $120-$200, and every location will ship anywhere, though of course it may cost you.
Pictures are NOT guaranteed to still exist at that store, they are simply examples at the time of making this post. Every store has shoes labeled for both men and women, I have simply varied the style of pictures on each entry. Click on the picture to go to the site.