Everything You Need to Know About Dance Shoes

Everything You Need to Know About Dance Shoes

Everything You Need to Know About Dance Shoes

If clothes, as Shakespeare contended, make the man, then shoes certainly do make the dancer. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a competing professional or a total beginner, good dance shoes are an absolute necessity if you want to perform to your best and progress as a dancer.

Dance floors come in many shapes, sizes and surface materials and, as a result, can be notoriously fickle things. Not enough grip, too much grip and random sticky spots can all lead to awkward turns or sudden foot-slips, and it’s here that good quality, genuine dance shoes can make all the difference.

Some Basic Dance Shoe Info

Dance shoes come in several flavours, but the two main types are Ballroom and Latin.

Latin shoes usually have a higher heel and raised arches in order to help with toe leads and hip movement. Although the difference is more obvious when comparing ballroom and Latin shoes for ladies, men’s Latin shoes will have a Cuban heel, rather than the lower heel of the kind that you’ll find on everyday or dress shoes.

High quality dance shoes aren’t as expensive as you might think. They can be had for well under $200 and can last several years if looked after properly.

They are the single best investment you can make for your dancing pleasure.

What makes a good dance shoe?

Technically, any shoe can be worn for dancing, from trainers and sneakers to hiking boots, but even the best fitting dress shoe will still fall way behind a proper dance shoe. The reason dance shoes work so well is that they are made for purpose, fitting the foot as close to perfectly as a shoe can, but with a sole designed to give the right amount of grip ‘n slip so that every step can be performed with confidence.

The uppers of the shoe can be a variety of different materials or combinations of materials, and will be predominantly leather for men’s shoes. Ladies’ shoes are often leather, satin or even suede, depending on the style and purpose of the shoe.

Where dance shoes really come into their own is with the sole that is used. The nature and purpose of dance shoes is such that they will be usually be unsuitable for general everyday wear. One reason is that many styles use a Nubuck or micro fibre suede sole, often lambskin or other similar ‘soft’ material and, whilst this gives superior performance. It also means they can be very susceptible to damage from stones or sharp objects and are therefore only ever worn in the dance venue. The vast majority of social dancers will be happy to wear other shoes for travelling to and from a venue, and then changing into their dance shoes before taking to the floor. Because so many people do this, there’s no reason to be self-conscious about changing shoes and it quickly becomes an easy habit.

Suede also provides exceptional flexibility which may be restricted with other types of sole, and this alone means that taking two minutes to change shoes is well worth the time. There are minor care considerations with suede soles, which we’ll talk about later.

For all that, however, some people don’t like to have the inconvenience of carrying a second pair of shoes to a venue and prefer to have dance shoes that have a more robust full leather sole, similar to formal or dress shoes. Wearing a single pair from home to venue offers the advantage, although rough ground or stones can still damage leather soles. Although it will ultimately be your personal choice, the extra effort of a suede sole is well worth it.

Latin or Ballroom?

For men, the choice of whether to buy a shoe intended for Ballroom or Latin is reasonably straightforward. Although several aesthetic styles are available – brogue, plain, retro etc., the only real difference between Ballroom and Latin in men’s shoes is that the Latins have a slightly higher heel to emphasize the hip movement in those dances. Because of that, and unless you are likely to only be dancing Latin, ballroom shoes are an easy and sensible choice for most men.

For ladies, however, the range of styles can be mind boggling! Look at any specialist dance shoe retail website and you’ll see just how much choice there is. The vast majority of styles are Latin, and this is largely down to them being the preferred choice for social dancers who might own just one or two pairs of dance shoes. Given the impracticalities of changing shoes according to the dance. Latin shoes are little more versatile than ballroom shoes for ladies. And it can be worn just as easily for both types of dance.

Generally speaking, the two ladies’ styles can easily be identified with a quick glance. Latin shoes will usually be open-toed and much more ‘strappy’ than ballroom. It will be much more like a standard court shoe but with a buckle fastener across the top of the foot. What might be a surprise is that heels may have very different heights across any available range. Beginners should opt for slightly lower heels since it takes time to adjust to executing dance steps in higher heels.

One important factor to be aware of when buying ladies Latin dance shoes is the fit. Because they are intended to be close fitting, if you have slightly wide feet, some styles may prove uncomfortable. Even similar looking styles by the same manufacturer may have very different widths to the finished shoe. It’s vital to be as comfortable as possible if you’re going to be dancing for extended periods of time.

This is why it’s always worth hunting down a specialist supplier within traveling distance, in order to be able to try the shoes before you buy. One style may amaze you with its perfect fit, while another may either restrict or overwhelm like Wellington boots! However, as with most things today, buying dance shoes online is usually the cheapest way to go but there a couple of things to consider. The shoes can often take a while to arrive, may not be the right size, and you can’t feel the quality before you buy.

The following websites have provided good service and quality in the past, and are well worth looking at if you prefer to buy online:

If you want to shop in a store in Adelaide, where you can see and try the shoes at first hand, try

  • Fusion Dancewear
    Shop 8/296 Brighton Rd, North Brighton SA 5048
    Great Range. Mention QuickSteps for a 10% discount.
    Google Maps Link

  • Dance FX
    Two locations:
    Unley Road, Malvern (Google Maps Link)
    North East Road, Holden Hill (Google Maps Link)



Turning, stopping, spinning, and often at high speed, means your dance shoes take a surprising amount of punishment. They withstand such traumas because designers and builders make them flexible at the right times. Neglecting proper shoe care and wearing can compromise flexibility, requiring diligent aftercare to maintain optimal condition.

Ensuring that you fasten your dance shoes properly is crucial to prevent your foot from sliding about inside. Even leaving aside the risk of a turned ankle if your feet aren’t stopping or turning in alignment with your shoes, the constant over-flexing of the sole and uppers can result in separation of the two.

Men simply need to ensure they tie their shoe laces tightly and securely. For women, swapping ‘laces’ with ‘buckles’ yields a comparable outcome, with added emphasis on correctly positioning the foot pre-fastening. Handle shoes delicately to prevent excessive wear, particularly on vulnerable parts like the toe straps in women’s footwear.

…And caring

Dance shoes will last even the most enthusiastic of dancers a decent length of time if looked after properly.

Basic rules include avoiding storing shoes in non-breathable containers, promptly cleaning off foreign substances, and considering accessories like heel protectors. The heels of women’s shoes with even a modest height often wear out first. Heel protectors typically feature replaceable suede tips.

Men ought to steer clear of the conventional shoe removal technique. Which can lead to discomfort by anchoring one shoe’s heel. This could harm the sole, heel, or upper, while also causing unsightly scuffs on the shoe’s surface. If you are using patent leather shoes, then the use of proper cleaning substances is crucial in order to maintain the flexibility of the leather. Excessive movement when dancing can subject the upper to cracking, making it prone to damage.

The most crucial bit of maintenance with dance shoes, however, is the sole. Suede soles wear quickly due to their texture and softness, making them prone to smoothing and trapping small objects. The easiest way to keep suede sole in full dance is to invest a few dollars in wire Shoe Brush. These are very stiff brushes that ‘rough up’ a smooth sole very well with just few passes of the head. They will also remove most embedded detritus quite easily. Use caution when using a shoe brush; contact with anything but the sole could cause significant and lasting damage. They will also take the skin off stray fingers quite easily!

As far as necessary accessories go, a shoe brush is essential and heel tips are advisable. A wide range of other accessories are available, the use of which will depend on your individual circumstances.


Quality dance shoes don’t always require a hefty price tag, but the cheapest option may not offer the best quality. Try before you buy, if you can, and make sure the shoes you buy are comfortable. Dancing quickly becomes an ordeal with sore feet or uncomfortable shoes. Never underestimate the need to keep your shoes clean and in good overall condition. Spend a couple of extra dollars on a shoe brush and you’ll wonder how you managed without it.

Unless you have no intention of dancing Latin routines, then Latin shoes will suit most ladies for both styles. For men, basic ballroom shoes will do the same thing.

Quality dance shoes significantly enhance your enjoyment of dancing compared to dancing without them.