Last Friday, I wrote about quirky search engine results that brought people to this blog. Well, today, also while browsing the search terms, I found that someone searched for whether it’s better to fasten Latin dance shoes around the ankle or under the foot. And since we’ve had a couple of dance shoe shopping trips lately and got a few questions about strap configuration, here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of straps available:
1. Simple Ankle Strap: This is your basic strap connecting one side of the heel cup to the other. It’s the least supportive of all strap styles – except, of course, for shoes with no straps at all, which we don’t recommend.
Ana’s tip: Wider ankle straps are a bit better than thin ankle straps. The thin ones tend to dig in and put a lot of pressure on the front of your ankle.
2. T-Strap (or T-bar strap): This is a simple ankle strap, plus a strap that connects the ankle strap to the toe of the shoe. The t-strap secures your foot more evenly to the shoe and takes some of the pressure and tightness off the ankle. Some dancers swear by t-straps, because they allow you to point your feet without the front of the shoe sliding forward.
Ana’s tip: I like t-straps, but whether or not they’ll be great for pointing will depend on the flexibility of the shoe and the strength of your foot. It takes a strong arch to bend a t-strapped shoe and still keep the arch of the shoe glued to your foot; in many cases, you don’t get as nice of a point, and you get a gap between your arch and the shoe. For social dancing, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re competing or performing, it’s something to consider.
3. X-Strap: This is a very popular style, because it offers quite a bit of stability; there are two main variations of the X-strap:
a. Around-the-ankle (first photo): gives about twice the support and stability of a simple ankle strap.
b. Around-the-arch (second photo): more supportive and stable, this strap anchors your foot to the arch of the shoe. This is ideal for newer dancers, as well as anyone who is prone to “rolling” ankles (feeling wobbly in heels with a traditional ankle strap). This style of strap also helps the shoe stay close to your foot when you point, instead of having a gap under your arch.
Ana’s tip: any shoe with an around-the-ankle X-strap can be converted to an around-the-arch X-strap, and vice versa. Simply un-loop the strap and wrap it around the other part of your foot.
4. Double X-Strap: This style combines the around-the-ankle X-strap and the around-the-arch X-strap, for the maximum amount of stability and security, short of wearing lace-up shoes. Your feet will feel amazingly secure, so long as you don’t mind fastening 2 straps every time.
Ana’s tip: I’ve never tried this type of style, but I’m curious about it. Mainly, I’m wondering if all those straps would dig into my ankle too much or limit my range of motion, and whether it would take me annoyingly long to get into and out of the shoes. Once I find some and try them, I’ll let you know!
Of course, there are many other possible strap configurations, found in more modern, trendy dance shoes, and their effectiveness will vary.
Back to the question of whether around-the-ankle or around-the-arch X-straps are “better” – there’s no definitive answer because, like many other aspects of a dance shoe (heel height, stiletto vs. flared heel, closed vs. open-toe, strappy vs. solid etc), much of it is personal preference. However, if you’re looking for the strap style that will give you the most support and the greatest stability, then I would recommend the around-the-arch X-strap.
Do you have a specific question about dance shoes that I can answer? Leave it in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.