The ideal dance floor is hard to find. Social dance events are held in a variety of venues, and the quality of their floors can vary widely. Even good dance floors can become “fast” (slippery) or “slow” (sticky) due to improper care, while other floors can be sticky or slippery by nature. Whether your floor is “fast” or “slow”, there are generally three ways of dealing with them:
1. Wear different shoes
Each type of sole material (rubber, leather, suede etc) has a different amount of grip, and interacts differently with different floor materials. Even different types of suede may vary: the shorter the nap (fuzzy part of the suede), the more slippery the shoes, whereas fluffier suede will be less slippery.
If you know your venue and its floors well, you can pick your shoes to best match the floor – grippier shoes for a very smooth floor and vice versa. Unfortunately this requires that you know your floors quite well, as well as have a wider shoe selection.
2. Use a temporary dance shoe fix
We don’t always know the floor we’ll be dancing on, especially if we’re going somewhere for the first time. Below are some temporary fixes that can help you put up with bad floors without ruining your shoes or the floor:
For fast floors
To make your suede soles less slippery:
- Brush your soles.
- Apply castor oil to your soles. Dab a small amount all over the sole, let dry for a minute, then brush your soles. Hair spray is also a good temporary fix – brush your soles first, then spray them with hair spray.
- If all else fails, try dabbing a tiny bit of water on your soles. Be careful not to overdo it, as water can be harmful to suede, but a small amount shouldn’t ruin your shoes.
For slow floors
To give your soles more slip, you can skip brushing your soles before you start dancing. If that’s not enough, you’ll want to find a more slippery material and attach it to your shoes. Here are a few suggestions that won’t harm your soles:
- For sticky wood or linoleum floors or smooth concrete, you can stretch foot liners (little socks/stockings made of cotton or nylon that only just cover your toes and heel) over the sole of your dance shoes , or stick adhesive-backed felt or painters’ masking tape onto your sole.
- If you are dancing outdoors on uneven, rough or bumpy concrete or macadam, the above methods will not work for you, because the bumps in the floor will scratch and tear at whatever you put on your soles. The best idea here is to avoid wearing dance shoes to dance outdoors, but if that’s not an option, you may want to use a hardier type of protection for your shoes. You can try sticking clear packing tape or even duct tape onto your soles, which will make your shoes more slippery and protect the suede from being roughed up by the mean streets. However, both kinds of tape may leave traces of adhesive on your soles; usually these can be brushed off, but some types of suede will be harmed. If you want to try this method, test it on an old pair of shoes or sneakers first.
3. Change the way you dance
If you’re stuck dancing on a bad floor and can’t do anything about it, adapt the way you dance to minimize the strain on your knees (on slow floors) and the likelihood of slip-related accidents (on fast floors). Here are a few things you can try:
For fast floors
- Take smaller steps. The smaller your step, the less chance that your foot will slip out from under you!
- Put more weight into your steps. The more you dig into the floor, the safer you will be.
- Get low. Bending your knees brings your centre of gravity lower and improves your balance.
For slow floors
- Pivot less. Try picking up your feet and placing them in the new spot, rather than twisting your feet on the floor. Pivoting on sticky surfaces can put a lot of strain on your knees!
Gents: if you’re having a hard time pivoting on the floor, odds are the ladies will too, so make sure you hold back on leading spins and travelling turns.
Ladies: make sure to let your partner know if you’re having trouble spinning or pivoting on a sticky floor (or even if you have knee troubles in general) so that he can adapt his moves.
- Dance less than usual, and take breaks in between songs to give your knees a rest.