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What are "Street Shoes?"

Street shoes are shoes that you have worn outside.

What shoes should I wear for dancing?

If you have ballroom dancing shoes, definitely wear those. Many varieties of practice shoes, dance slippers, and dance sneakers (not to be confused with athletic sneakers/tennis shoes/cross trainers) are also fine, as are your stocking feet. No street shoes on the dance floor, please!

What shoes should I avoid?"

Regular sneakers or cross-trainers are a bad choice for dancing. They are designed to provide maximum grip, which will eventually lead to a twisted ankle when you dance because your shoe and foot stay anchored to the floor, but your leg and whole body try to turn. For your own safety, wear something other than athletic sneakers.

Dress shoes with a hard plastic sole or hard leather sole are also a bad choice as they provide too little grip. Plastic soles with some kind of "tread pattern" are only slightly better, and well-scuffed hard leather sole shoes are okay but not good. For example, new wedding shoes for women often have a hard leather sole. Those shoes work better when a stiff wire brush is taken to the bottom of the shoe to rough up the leather and provide some texture.

Why can't I wear "Street Shoes?"

Dirt, grime, and moisture tracked from outside damages floors over time and creates slippery, messy, or unsafe surfaces for dancing. The prohibition is just like your health club forbidding outside shoes in their facilities. They do not want their equipment or surfaces damaged. Furthermore, many people eventually purchase special-purpose ballroom dance shoes or dance practice shoes. Those people become rightfully upset when someone less considerate has tracked-in a mess that then damages the special shoes.

What shoes do I need?

Definitely bring a second pair of shoes – shoes you have not worn outside. Tracking in outside dirt and moisture is rude to the people who own ballroom dancing shoes and is also rude to the event organizer or the venue in which the event is held.

There are two main styles of shoes – Latin and Smooth. Latin shoes for men have a 1.5″ (or slightly larger) heel that is relatively narrow compared to an off-the-shelf pair of dress shoes for men. Latin shoes for women have and open-toe design and come in a variety of heel sizes – 2.5″ is a common heel height.

Smooth shoes for men have a lower and wider heel, much more comparable to an off-the-shelf pair of dress shoes for men. Smooth shoes for women have a closed-toe design and come in a variety of heel sizes.

You do not need special shoes to begin dancing, but you will find that the proper footwear greatly enhances the activity. See our resources for shoes for more information about where to buy dance shoes.

Discount shoes can be found online starting at around $60/pair (men / women). A good pair starts at about $100 and goes up from there. The build quality and materials tend to be much better the more money you spend. A good pair of dance shoes can last an avid social dancer five years or more. Even a discount pair of shoes will last a long time if proper care is given to them.

When you are buying your first pair of dance shoes, you may want to try some on in a store. Dance shoes will not fit like street shoes, and will not feel like street shoes. It is useful to have a professional help you find the correct fit. Incorrectly sized dance shoes can be both painful and dangerous to dance in!

If you dance a lot or attend a lot of dance classes, get a good pair of shoes. Otherwise, the discount shoes will wear out and you will need to purchase another pair. This dual-purchase will ultimately cost more than just buying one good pair in the first place.

How should dance shoes fit?

For men and women, your shoes should fit very snugly. Your foot should not be able to move at all within the shoe. Every movement of your foot should be translated directly to the shoe.

Men's shoes almost always have shoe laces and can be tightened properly so it is not possible to accidentally step out of the shoe. Many styles of women's shoes have some kind of ankle strap to ensure the shoe stays on the foot.

Where should I wear my dance shoes?

Ballroom dance shoes are great for facilities with hardwood floors and a policy of having attendees remove their street shoes prior to dancing. Social dances and dance classes frequently fit this description.

For places with other floor coverings or for dancing at clubs where people will likely spill beverages on the floor, your dance shoes will either be very uncomfortable or very trashed.

What other kinds of shoes could I wear

You may want to wear dance sneakers to social dances. They come in a variety of styles and colors for both men and women and tend to have more cushioning than suede-bottom ballroom dance shoes. They have a special rubber sole that does not leave marks and that allows you to turn and spin almost like suede-bottom shoes. They wear out quickly if worn outside on sidewalks, but they will last a long time if used exclusively indoors, even at nightclubs. They will not be ruined by liquids on the floor.

Adapted from the Art of Dance Shoe FAQ. Used with permission.