What shoes should I wear to dance Salsa?
Dancing is a wonderful sport/hobby because it doesn’t require much in the way of equipment or materials. People + Music + Floor usually make for pretty good dancing. However, a good pair of shoes can greatly enhance your dance experience.
If you’re taking a dance class for the very first time, wear shoes that are comfortable and smooth-soled. ABSOLUTELY NO FLIP-FLOPS. You need something that isn’t going to fall off of your heel and something that you can turn in.
Tennis shoes are not recommended, because they tend to have treads that stick to the floor. Sandals, flats, boots and dress shoes (for men) are great for your first lesson or first month or two of dancing. There’s no sense in investing in a pair of dance shoes if you aren’t even sure if dancing is your “thing” yet.
Ladies, if you’re a beginner, don’t worry about dancing in heels. Dancing in heels requires control and balance that you will develop as you continue dancing. If you really want to wear heels, start with something low and sturdy, and then work your way up to higher, narrower heels.
Dance shoe styles range from heels to flats to boots to sneakers to loafers and everything in between. They have smooth soles so you can turn more easily and some have extra padding in the soles and softer lining than street shoes.
Like street shoes, the way that dance shoes fit varies between brand and styles so you may wear one size in one brand and go two sizes up in another!
Read on for tips on fit, selection, and some personal recommendations on what shoes I wear every week to teach, rehearse and social dance.
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Ok, I hear you. I’m sold on this dancing thing and I want to get a pair of shoes…where should I go?
If it’s your first pair of dance shoes, get fitted in person for them. Even if you don’t buy the pair that you try on, you’ll have an idea of your shoe size and you can order shoes online based on that size.
Locally (writing here from Charleston, SC), you can get fitted/buy shoes at the Charleston location of The Turning Pointe, located at 1650 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. They mostly sell shoes for ballet/jazz/tap, etc., but carry some character shoes and can give you an idea of your shoe size. They're also a great place to get dance sneakers and jazz flats, which are great for practicing.
Missy from Missy’s Mobile Dancewear (formerly of the brick-and-mortar Mister Don’s in Windermere) will come to you with a selection of shoes and help fit you. You’re always welcome to have her meet you at Holy City Salsa when you’re there so you can see how the shoes feel on the floor!
How should they fit?
Your shoes will probably be uncomfortable when you first buy them. It’s ok! You’ll break them in soon enough. Opt for the shoes that fit snugly— they will stretch with time, especially satin shoes, and you want your shoes to be smaller and tighter for better support. Ladies in heels, this is especially true for you. Some people say that for open-toe shoes, your toe should actually hang a little bit over the edge.
I wear a size 6.5 or 7 in street shoes and usually buy high-heeled dance shoes in 5.5 but flats in sneakers in 6.5-7.5 The last thing you want is to feel wobbly and out of control in your shoes. The tighter your shoes fit, the easier it will be to “feel” the floor, and your shoes will actually rub less, leading to less blisters. Like other types of clothes and shoes, size and fit will vary a LOT so you want to try on as many as you can and find what works best for you.
Georgia’s Personal Collection Recommendations:
Comfortable and stylish high heels for social dancing and when I’m feeling fancy.
These Yami shoes are the best pair of dance shoes I have ever owned. And I have gone through a LOT of dance shoes. Besides being completely fabulous, I can wear them for hours and my feet won’t hurt. They have an extra insole and extra padding in the heels and ball of the foot so they feel amazing. They did take some breaking in though, the first few times I wore them I wasn’t floating on a cloud but a year plus later they are a dream. I wear a 5.5 in these shoes (the purple ones pictured are the Micaela). They have some give with the lace up, I tried a pair of the “Performer” style in 5.5 and they were too small so there’s some variation among the styles in the brand. Click here to shop their website!
Jazz flats for every day wear and tear!I love my tan jazz flats because they are super comfy and match everything. Not that matching is necessarily a consideration, but they’re a great neutral, every day pair of dance shoes for classes, rehearsals and social dancing when my feet get tired of heels. They have a tiny heel (half an inch) and are easy to slip on and go. I wear a size 6.5 in these flats and I wear them all the time so I usually go through a pair every 9-12 months. The listing says women’s but they are unisex and men’s sizing goes through size 14.
For long days of class/rehearsal, I wear my Bloch Jazz Sneakers. These shoes feel like athletic shoes with the support but allow me to execute multiple spins with no problem. I love these on days when I have several back-to-back classes or when my back hurts and I need extra support. I wear a size 7.5 in jazz sneakers, even though most of my street shoes are closer to 6.5 or 7. If you have Amazon Prime, some of the sizes of the jazz sneakers are on Prime Wardrobe so you can try a few sizes and see what works best for you. The link below says women’s but they are unisex, the men’s sizing is 13-16.
Other places to shop online:
I have bought shoes from ExoticSalsaShoes.com (it sounds more exciting than it is--sign up for their email newsletter, they always have good sales) or DiscountDanceSupply.com. I have friends who swear by LightInTheBox.com for cheap, stylish shoes, and others who only buy dance shoes on eBay. For stylish shoes for men and women check out GFranco shoes, they have shoes that have transition soles you can wear inside and outside. So do Burju shoes (I had a pair of Burjus I got at a congress that I ran into the ground, they were great).
When you’re trying to decide what shoes to buy and from where, it all depends on if you’re going for comfort, durability, or fashion, and on what kind of dance floor you’re spending most of your time. I don’t recommend buying a really expensive, high-end pair of shoes if the only place you go out dancing is a bar. They’ll quickly get a build-up of God knows what—spilled drinks, dirt, hair, grease from food, sweat, etc. You can always scrape that build-up off with a shoe brush (which is a great investment to go with your shoes), but I’ve found it wears my shoes out a lot faster.
I typically opt for boots/flats/sandals for going out to bars and save my dance shoes for studios, performances, and special event venues.
But they hurt!
It might seem obvious, but give yourself time to break your shoes in. It’s really easy to get a super fly new pair of shoes and want to wear them all night at an event.
That is a recipe for a world of pain. Take it slow with new shoes. Wear them around your house to break them in. Wear them during one hour long class or for just the first part of a night of social dancing, and then switch. All shoes are going to rub your feet in different ways. In my experience, blisters are an inevitable part of dancing. But the more I break in a pair of shoes and build up callouses on my feet, the less they hurt.
Be open to having some ballet or jazz flats or a pair of street shoes that you can dance in that are super comfortable that you can always switch to when you’re tired and your feet start hurting during social dancing or classes. They might not be as snazzy or as sexy, but you’ll feel better the next day.
Like everything in dance, it’s about finding what works for you. What style? What fit? What price point? What durability? Some people are dance shoe fanatics and have dozens of pairs for every occasion. Other people find one pair they love and wear them to the ground. Be open to experiment, give yourself time to break in a pair of shoes, and have fun dancing while you do it!