“What shoes are best for dancing?” We hear this often in classes. Here’s a quick guide to help you find your perfect pair of dancing shoes! These three things are most important to take into account when purchasing shoes:
Comfortable & right fit. Dancing can be intensive, and when your shoes are a bit too big or too small this gets very annoying very quickly. Make sure that your shoes are comfortable. If you buy leather shoes, the leather can be a bit hard at first. This will get softer really soon – don’t worry! Tip: wear wet socks the first couple of times. This way the leather gets soft more quickly, and the leather forms to your feet.
Right soles for perfect slippery-level. The main reason by people buy special dancing shoes (rather than using their regular shoes) is because they have different soles. Having more slippery soles will help your turn/move around more smoothly ans easily, and more importantly will not be very hard on your knees when you turn a lot. Rubber roles, which most sneakers have, have a lot of grip – this feels safe at first, but will make your knees unhappy when you turn a lot. Starting to dance on more slippery soles is hard at first, as you need to find your balance again, but feels like heaven later. Soles from non-slippery to slippery:
- Rubber. For me this is usually too sticky on a (wooden) dance floor. I experience that my body wants to turn, but my foot stays in place, which my knees don’t like very much. I only wear rubber soles when the floor is really really slippery.
- Suede. This is a bit more slippery than rubber soles, but not as slippery as leather soles. And it’s easy to get: just glue an piece of suede under your old sneakers and you’re ready to go! Danger: you cannot use these shoes outside! And when the soles get wet (e.g. because someone spilled a drink on the floor) you’ll suddenly find your shoes to be very slippery. Tip: if the soles get too slippery, use a brush to get the dust off and they feel like new again.
- Leather. Very slippery at first – you really need to find your balance again – but amazing later on. If you keep your feet well below your upperbody, then it’s easier to dance on slippery soles.
And something I find important: I like my shoes to be a bit conscious – without child labour, with decent working conditions for the people making the shoes, and not devastating for the environment. Because of this I haven’t added brands like TOMS to the list below, even though they are often used by dancers.
Tips from pragmatist Nicky
Stick some suede under your old sneakers. Definately the easiest and cheapest way to get dancing shoes is to stick a piece of suede (with the hairy side to the ground) under an old pair of sneakers. Make sure to use really good glue though (I used Bison Kit)! It will take some time getting used to your new slippery soles when you change from rubber (sneakers) to suede, but once you found your balance again you’ll find yourself in (a cheap and easy) heaven.
Dancing on all surfaces with wooden soles. Many fancy dancing shoes are great for dancing, but the downside is that you need to take really good care of them and will ruin them quickly by e.g. walking outside or on dirty floors. I like to be flexible, and also be able to dance outside/when someone dropped a glass of beer on the dancefloor. Also, I do not always want to bring one or two extra pairs of shoes when I go dancing. This is why I have a pair of normal leather shoes with wooden soles – also suitable for outside daily life, durable, and still very nice for dancing.
Don’t know the venue? Bring multiple pairs of shoes. Some venues have incredibly slippery floors (like the upside room at the Winkel van Sinkel at Hopspot, or the Kompaszaal in Amsterdam where Swing Out of the Pocket takes place every Friday). If you don’t know the floor you’ll be dancing on, it may be wise to bring multiple pairs of shoes, so you can pick the best fit later. For example your dancing shoes with leather soles, and a pair of normal sneakers in case the others are too slippery.
Most dancers prefer dancing on flat shoes. If you want to try out dancing on heels, I’d recommend using shoes that are not too open with low heels (max. 4cm). The open kind with higher heels are sometimes used for Balboa, which is a bit less energetic and all-over-the-place compared Lindy Hop and Charleston.
Brands making shoes especially for you
Many brands make shoes especially for swing dancers. Below you can find some hip brands that swing dancers are very happy about. You can often find shoe stands at bigger festivals, where you can try them on! Credits of this list go to Yara of Swingstreet, and in her blog you’ll find even more brands.
- Slide & Swing. One of the more affordable brands especially made for swing dancers. They also have many women’s shoes without heels. €115 – €135 plus about €25 shipping costs.
- Swivells. Really nice looking leather shoes and boots. €159 – €179.
- Saint Savoy Shoes. More brightly coloured and sparly looking shoes.