Last edit: June 2019
Many people ask me how to buy shoes, so here is all the information in one place!
Tips for Blues/Fusion Dancers:
- Default to a sueded bottom.
- Do not buy jazz sneakers with a rubber soul. Your knees will be very unhappy with you, and you won’t be able to turn. Even if you are leading, this is a big problem.
- Proper dance shoes with hard leather souls are also an option, but can often be too slick for beginners and not give you enough control.
- Default to a flat shoe, or a slight ½” - 1” for heeled shoes. Don’t go higher than 1.5”, you will be sad.
- 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 glue.
- Dress shoes with leather bottoms: A good fix for something on the fly or if you are just starting, but in my experience with new dancers the shoes chosen can often be too stiff, have too much sole sticking out the sides, or have too long of a toe box at the end. The leather can also be worn down so that they are not slippery enough for your dancing. However, 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.
Types of shoes:
- Shoe’s labeled as “Men’s” in the stores:
- Dancers who have a hard time using their feet: I have often found that a less structured beginner latin shoe works really well and trains you to feel the ground. For blues dancing I would later “graduate” to a more structured shoe as you get more confident with your movement and using your feet. Latin shoes can be great fusion shoes for all levels.
- Sueded jazz sneakers and swing based shoes are also good options, you can see some examples of them below.
- Shoe’s labeled as “Women’s” in the stores:
- Most important thing is to default for a wider heel at all times. A skinny heel will prevent you from executing a lot of the fancy footwork for blues & fusion.
- There are examples of structured and less structured shoes. Which one you choose will change your dancing, allowing you to use different parts of the foot. Everyone has a preference. I like both depending on the day, the year, or what I feel like in the moment.
NYC in person shopping: https://www.worldtonedance.com/Home.html
Cheaper Stuff, or “Just Getting Started” Shoes:
Tom’s : https://www.toms.com
- When in doubt, you can grab a pair of Tom’s for about $40-$50 in the US.
- You want the “Classic Slip Ons”, with the original sole. Don’t get the rubber soles, or the hemp bottoms.
- All genders, great for anyone
- You might want to try them on in person before buying them for dancing. I tend to be a half size smaller than usual. I want to have them fit properly snug without popping off my heel, which may mean that my toes are touching the end. They stretch out a lot as well.
- Buying in NYC: Try Journey’s on 14th st and 6th ave.
- The Tom’s store often does not carry enough of the classic styles, this place always does and has them for $40/piece.
US Based Cheap Swing Based Shoes: www.dancestore.com
- You can get things for relatively cheap here. They are not super well made or great quality. If you are a casual dancer they will be just fine and last a decent while, if you are more serious or want a lot of support, I would go for something better quality and more expensive.
The Salsette Sueded Dance Sneaker:
- Link - If link is old, search for “the Salsette dance shoe” and you will find it.
- About $35
If you don’t care about looking great and you just want something comfortable and workable for everywhere.
- Great for dancing outside.
Light in the Box Dance Shoes:
- Link - This link might not work, but it will take you to the site where you can search for “dance shoes”
- $15-$50 range
- Light in the box is a large online clothing company that sells all sorts of things, it can be an overwhelming place.
- They are cute and can be the good kind of cheesy.
- They fall apart very quickly.
- Look for this if you are on a budget or just want something a little sparkly to go out in on nice floors every once and awhile.
Made for West Coast Swing:
- Flexible flats that are great to wear with skirts, sueded winter boot style
- Also carries sueded Tom’s knock-offs, dance sneakers, etc
- Generally not superb quality shoes, but stylish and very popular
- Sneakers & stylish sandals
- About $165
- Great quality, great support. Designed by dance pros who know what they are doing
- These are meant to look like “ballet flats”, and are supposed to be really comfortable and cute with skirts.
- They have elastic lace ups around your ankle
Practice Ballroom Shoes:
Labeled as “Women’s”
- Go for the 1” to 1.5” heels, the wider the heel the better.
- There are a range of styles, find one that works for you.
- These are the shoes that I wear and everyone asks me where I got them.
- They lace up the entire foot so are moldable to every foot size,
- They have mesh sides so are breathable and don’t get stinky as fast.
- Classy and last forever.
- Dance Sandals such as these Bloch’s are very flexible and comfortable, and can work for a range dance types if you like the look.
- These are some of the “less structured” shoes. Structure or no structure will change your dancing a lot, both can be good depending on what you are doing.
Labeled as “Men’s”
- Most of these will work pretty well, they range in price.
- Work great as dress shoes if going somewhere you will wear a suite.
Fancy Shoes - Swing, Balboa, and Blues:
There is a Facebook group called “Women’s Swing Dance Shoe Hunt” . Often people will post information about shoes they have bought, or used shoes on sale. Friend me on Facebook and send a message if you would like to be added.
Companies in the US:
- Watch out for the online sales to find them cheaper
Companies in Europe:
- You can find them cheaper at festivals or in the store
- Has boots, flats and heels
- Great quality, low heels & “men’s” flats
- High end - you can design your own shoe and have them make it
- Outdoor/Indoor Ankle boots & Derby Flats, for everyone
- Lots of fun colors
- Made to keep dancers comfortable if they are on the street or on the dance floor
- They don’t have a website yet. You can order by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- This is their catalogue of shoes
- They tend to run narrow, yet true to size. Break in well.
- One stock shoe in both “men’s” and “woman’s”
- Also sells nice clothes
- Very reasonable shipping within the US
- Only has high end fancy heels and low heels, lots of interesting colors and combinations
- You can make a custom order
Shoes Zouk & Bachata Dancers Wear:
(that work for swing, fusion and blues)
- Barefoot-like sneakers with a PVC bottoms, light and airy
- Be careful with these, they are great for certain floors, and not for others.
- Come in a lot of different colors.