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Ballroom Dancing Basics #1 - What Shoes Should I Wear? (Female)
The first question I often get from people interested in learning how to Ballroom Dance is "What kind of shoes should I wear?" This is a very good question, because the type of shoes you wear can either help or hinder you while dancing. Here is a helpful guide for what to wear, and what NOT to wear, while dancing.
What Shoes to Wear
There a many different types of shoes you can wear while dancing ballroom.
1. Sneakers: Sneakers are good for beginners to wear because they are comfortable and are used for many athletic activities. They are somewhat flexible, and provide protection to the feet (which in the beginning can be useful if you have a fear of your feet being stepped on). Many professionals own a pair of Dance Sneakers to practice in, but any pair of sneakers will do for a beginner.
Downside: They may make your feet feel clunky and over-sized!
2. Ballet Flats: If you want to wear a cute outfit to Dance practice (since of course, you'll be dancing with the opposite sex), and a pair of sneakers just won't do, go ahead and slip on a pair of Ballet Flats. Wear a pair that doesn't fall off your feet or has a buckle around your ankle. These shoes are appropriate because many fashion Ballet Flats are flexible. Flexibility of the shoe is important because ballroom often requires the dancer to be slightly on the balls of their feet, and shoes that are not flexible make it difficult and uncomfortable to accomplish that.
Downside: You run the chance of having someone step on your shoes and scuffing them!
3. Jazz Shoes and other dance shoes (not Pointe Shoes): Any Dance shoe is appropriate for practicing Ballroom dance. This is because all dance shoes are very flexible and allow the dancer to point their toes and stand on the balls of their feet. Dance shoes are also appropriate because they conform to the foot and provide protection from the Dance floor. These shoes maintain the right balance of friction to allow the dancer to slide their feet along the floor while not slipping on the floor.
Downside: Feet can be vulnerable to people stepping on them.
4. Ballroom Heels / Ballroom Shoes: Ballroom shoes come in two main categories; Latin Shoes and Smooth Shoes. For beginners who are planning to learn many styles of partner dances who want to own a pair of Ballroom heels, I would recommend buying a pair of Latin Heels. Ballroom Heels are different from regular Fashion Heels because they have more flexibility and they also have a suede covering on the bottom of the shoe. The suede covering provides friction to allow the dancer to both slide their feet along the dance floor easily and not slip on the floor. Ballroom Heels are also different from regular fashion heels because they provide a different support to the foot. Latin Heels sits the dancer more on the balls of their feet, while Smooth Shoes sits the dancer more on their heels. Ballroom Heels are important to have if the eventual goal is to compete; otherwise, any other type of shoe will do in the beginning. I will say this for Ballroom Heels, though: They are surprisingly easy to dance in and make your legs look great! And once you advance in Ballroom, they make executing certain moves as a female a lot easier!
Downside: Calluses, Blisters, and Foot Pain. Latin Shoes leave feet vulnerable to being stepped on. Beware, your feet will hate you the first few weeks you start dancing in heels regularly!
Shoes to Avoid
Shoes that are NOT Appropriate
There are shoes that you should definitely avoid wearing if you want to keep from injuring yourself:
1. Flip Flops: Flip Flops are on the avoid list because the are not flexible and they do not move well with a dancers feet in motion. A dancer might turn their foot one direction, and the flip flop may remain in the same position. Flip Flops increase the chance for sprained ankles, tripping, having your feet stepped on. Also, Flip Flops are prone to breakage when over-used or used incorrectly (which dancing Ballroom in them is VERY incorrect usage!). Don't waste your money, and don't risk injury! If you want to wear Flip Flops, bring a pair of dance shoes to change into while dancing!
2. Fashions Heels: Fashion Heels are dangerous to wear while Ballroom Dancing because they don't provide correct support and are not very flexible. If you have ever worn a pair of Fashion Heels (Stilettos, Wedges, Etc,), you know that they can be very unforgiving and not flexible at all. Also, the shoes do not move well with the foot and can make turning your ankle more likely (and who wants a sprained ankle to keep them out of commission in Ballroom?). Finally, the Bottom of Fashion Heels can actually make slipping or tripping while dancing more likely. Some heels have very slippery bottoms, some have bottoms that feel like they stick to the floor. Both are unsafe! Do yourself a favor, if you MUST wear these shoes, bring a pair of shoes to change into or take them off and dance barefoot. You will be much less likely to hurt yourself!
Other shoes to wear with caution:
Slippers: Though slippers are cute, they don't provide enough support while dancing! Also, you don't want to ruin them! Keep them where they are supposed to be: at home by your bed!
Socks: Socks are cute, but they can be very slippery. Pay special attention to what you are doing if you wear socks! Also, they can easily be ruined the the dance floor . . .
Barefoot: Dancing barefoot can be dangerous; there is the potential danger of breaking toes if you have never danced before (and even if you have!), and danger for getting splinters! If you dance Barefoot, watch what you are doing and be careful where you step!