This is the second article in our 5-part Ultimate Dance Shoe Buying Guide! In the first article, we covered the ins and outs of ladies’ dance shoes. Gents, you are not forgotten!
While men’s dance shoe styles might not look as dramatically different as the ladies’, there’s still enough variety out there that even those of us who like to shop can get confused.
Below is your guide to buying dance shoes like a man.
Do men really need dance shoes?
If you’re just starting out, and you’re not sure whether dancing is something that you will pursue, you might want to hold off (or look into dance shoe hacks). But if you’re dancing regularly or taking classes beyond the absolute beginner level, shoes are a good investment, for 2 reasons:
- They are lighter (you’ll be quicker on your feet), more streamlined (reduced risk of stepping on your partner’s toes!), and the suede sole lets you turn and pivot easily (putting less pressure on your knees and ankles, and preventing injuries); and
- Most regular dance events require dance shoes or indoor shoes. Dress shoes and shoes with rubber soles tend to mark dance floors, and no one likes their floor ruined by dirt, rainwater or snow. Event organizers and other dancers will thank you for having proper footwear.
Types of dance shoes
Most salseros in Ottawa wear one of 5 kinds of dance shoes:
- Ballroom shoes. They look like regular lace-up dress shoes, except lighter, softer and fitting closer to the foot. Most shoes will have a heel ranging from under an inch (same as most dress shoes) up to 1.5 inches (Cuban heel). They are a popular choice because they look and feel like normal dress shoes, and most men find them comfortable and stylish.
- Jazz shoes. Even softer and more streamlined than ballroom shoes, jazz shoes tend to have very little structure or arch support. You can get lace-up or slip-on jazz shoes, and some also come in a split sole, meaning the sole only covers the ball of the foot and the heel. This allows for more control of foot movements and shows off the shape and movement of the foot much more than other shoes. Unfortunately, that also means less cushioning on hard floors, and less foot support.
- Ballo shoes. Ballo is a Montreal company founded by salsa dancers who were frustrated with the limited dance shoe selection for men – so they designed their own shoes to be fashionable, comfortable and affordable. Ballo shoes have thin wedge soles rather than heels, making them more stable than ballroom or jazz shoes. They also come in a variety of styles and colours, and have a more casual, sporty look (think Puma for dancers). This is the most popular shoe style among Ottawa salseros.
- Dance sneakers. Unlike the above, dance sneakers do not have suede soles; instead, they are fitted with a special plastic sole which does not mark wooden floors and allows some degree of slip to make turns easier (though not as easy as with suede soles). Some dancers prefer them because they look, fit and feel like sneakers. Most have a split sole, which offers less support but more flexibility than a full sole.
- Jinga shoes. Jinga is a Brazilian brand that makes exceptionally light and flexible dance and Capoeira shoes. The thin plastic soles are great for spinning on dance floors, but can also be worn outside, which makes them the most adaptable dance shoes we know of. They are eco-friendly (Brazilian Green Seal certified) and also come in a wide range of colours to suit many styles.
Ballo shoes are distributed in the Ottawa-Gatineau region by GoSalsa. You can buy them at their studio in Gatineau, at their parties, or at Salsaria, where they often have a stand set up. Be aware that they do not keep stock on hand, and you will likely have to order your pair and wait 1-2 weeks to receive it. You can also order Ballo shoes online.
Jinga shoes are distributed in Canada by Shine Dancewear. You can order them online, or find them at salsa congresses around Canada, including Salsafair.
While most dance shoe manufacturers use standard US or European sizing, some have their own size standards. For instance, Ballo shoes, which are unisex, have their own sizing; for men, this tends to be one size below your regular shoe size – so if you wear US size 10 shoes normally, your Ballo size will likely be 9.
If you are buying your shoes in a store or at a booth at a salsa event, tell the sales associate your regular shoe size, and they should take care of the rest. If you are buying dance shoes online, make sure to consult a size chart and check return and exchange policies before ordering.
Jazz shoes and dance sneakers tend to be the most affordable, ranging from $30 to $80. Typically, the less structured the shoe, the less it will cost. However, more affordable shoes also tend to have a much shorter life and wear out quickly.
Jinga shoes are sold of $99 online, but they sometimes have sales and usually offer discounts at salsa congresses.
Ballroom and Ballo shoes typically range from $80 to $150, with high-end ballroom shoes going for $150 to $200. A good pair of dance shoes can last for years, and gets better with use, since it moulds and conforms to the shape of your foot.
Do you have a question, or a tip about dance shoes to share? Leave a comment below!