Once you decide to invest in a pair of dance shoes, it’s time to hit the stores in search of your perfect pair. To help you in your search, below is a checklist to make sure you walk out with shoes that will make you want to dance.
- Shop for shoes in the afternoon. Our feet and ankles tend to swell throughout the day, as they carry us around, so they will be “smaller” in the morning and “bigger” in the afternoon and evening. Shopping in the afternoon guarantees that your shoes won’t stop fitting right when your feet swell as you dance.
- Bring the socks you would wear with your dance shoes. For men, this usually means thinner dress socks rather than sports socks. For ladies, this can mean nothing, trouser socks, fishnets or whatever you prefer. If you normally wear orthotics or other insoles in your shoes, bring those too.
- If it’s your first time shopping, try more styles rather than fewer, to get a feel for how they fit and how they perform.
- Don’t be afraid to ask if a style comes in different a different colour, different material, or different heel height. This also applies to men’s styles.
- If your normal size doesn’t seem to fit perfectly, try a size above or below, and ask if they carry half-sizes. Some dancers prefer buying their shoes a half-size smaller, to allow for the shoe to stretch without becoming loose. This is purely personal preference, but be aware that leather will stretch by almost a half-size; fabric will stretch too, but the extent varies.
- Fit the length of your foot first – your toes should reach the tip of your shoes (there should not be a gap in front of your toes) without feeling cramped (for closed toe styles) or spilling out (for open toe styles). Then, if you have narrow or wide feet, ask if they have narrow or wide styles – or adjustable styles.
- Walk, jump and dance in every pair you try.All dance stores have a section of wood or laminate floor, which is there for dancers to try their shoes in earnest. Try a few dance moves, and pay attention to how you feel in your shoes.Do they feel secure on your foot? Are they too tight or too loose? Can you shake or kick them off?
Your shoes should feel like an extension of your feet and you should feel confident that they will stay on without hurting you.Can you walk and spin easily and confidently in them, or are you holding on to the walls for dear life?
Ladies, let’s face reality for a moment: most of us have shoes that look amazing so long as we don’t take more than 2 steps in them. Your dance shoes should not be among these. Dance shoes are made for you to dance in, and to make you look good doing it. Shoes that impede your moves or that you’re not comfortable in are counterproductive.
Are the heels stable? Do they wobble when you pivot and shift your heel left and right?
Pointy heels can have a bit of a wobble, but not so much that you’ll be worried about them slipping or breaking off. Well-made dance shoes will have stable heels, even if they are pointy. Most of your dancing will be done on the ball of your foot, but you need to know that if you have to put your heel down, it will land properly, won’t slip, and will hold you up.
A note on ballroom shoes for ladies: some discount brands that don’t have a steel shank in their shoes will feel like a glove the first time you put them on, while higher-end brand shoes may feel a bit stiffer to start with. The flip side is that shoes without a steel shank will not last as long, their soles will collapse over time, and your foot won’t be supported (leading to foot pain. We don’t like foot pain.). Good quality shoes take a bit of time to break in, but they will last you far longer and only get more comfortable with wear.
We’d love to hear YOUR shoe-fitting tips. Do you have a trick that’s saved you from buying the wrong shoes? Leave ‘em below.