What are the best shoes for dancing Salsa?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hope all is well.

A friend asked me recently to share my thoughts on the best type of shoes available for salsa dancing. I thought I’d provide a short overview of some typical types available. Here is a list of types of shoes and their functionality for salsa (Please note this list originated from another website, Cornell Swing.com):

Character Shoes

for ladies

A low heel, a modest look. Closed toe for dance floor safety and modesty. T-strap version available as well. Capezio and others make these. Very popular to start out, wide heel for balance. Suitable for ballroom as well. under $40.
High Heels
for ladies
Feeling more daring? The open-toe, sandal high heel is pretty hot. There are numerous versions of this style, with mesh, rhinestones, various colors (red!), etc. These Tara Abrazos are indeed pricey – $185. Also suitable for ballroom. Generally, shoes with this look run around $100.
Latin shoes
for guys
You will always see someone wearing these at a latin dance. They are also common in the ballroom world. I can see how shorter guys would like them. But I am also not attracted to the look of the so-called guys “cuban heel .” Perhaps I am in the minority on this topic. I also don’t like the way they pitch the weight forward. I prefer a more grounded movement style, but others like these shoes for the very reasons that I don’t.
Ballroom shoes
for guys
A fairly common choice for guys. They have all the right characteristics. You can find 1/2″ heels as well as the standard 1″ heels. I prefer the lower heel and like a grounded feel. You will always see several guys wearing these at the clubs.
Dance Sneakers:
Salsette III

They may look strange but I’ve heard they are great shoes – for classes and club dancing. Salsa, swing, ballroom, etc. Suede sole is standard. Great internal memory foam cushioning – no extra cushioning needed. Mesh uppers breath, and help make the shoe very lightweight.
Aris Allen Wingtip
for guys
Not just for swing, popular for dress-up salsa too. There are many variations on this spectator or wingtip shoe, but Aris Allen at www.dancestore.com has definitely gotten it right – lightweight, fits as close to the foot as they can get, great internal padding – needs no inserts, gorgeous, top quality, and slick for sliding.
for guys &
for ladies
That’s right. Custom dance shoes made for you in the USA. Perhaps you like the Cap Toe or Spectator look, but you are tired of the norm. Maybe you want ivory and navy, or faux snakeskin, or like shown here, chocolate and tan. Many styles for guys and women. Suede or hard leather soles. Very lightweight. 6-8 weeks wait. It’s worth the wait. Under $150. Ask for Ginni at www.stepnout.com
Dance Sneakers:
Not super spinny, but you can get a leather sole put
on at a good shoe repair place. The Bloch DRT has plenty of cushioning & support, maybe too much? Some of these dance sneakers put you so far off the floor, you don’t even know there is a floor. If you are short, you will be taller. Slight disadvantage: if you are tall, it will make you lots taller.
for guys
The Bleyer Balboa has a nice salsa look. $60 price range. Lightweight. The $20 Bleyer memory foam inserts are quite good. Made in Germany. Savoy Style (888) 507-2869
Jazz shoes:
If your feet are super healthy, maybe you can get away with these. Lycra & Spandex, split sole, Sansha JS3, a cheap jazz shoe with a suede sole! A mere $13.00 !?!?! Super low to the floor, ultra lightweight. Super fast footwork shoe. The Lycra and Spandex form closely to the foot, and once your foot is in there, has a great look. Protect your feet! Add a top quality memory foam or Spenco rubber insert. More? Wear Thorlo walking socks WX13 – great padding, moisture wicking (yes, you CAN get black Thorlos).
Bowling shoes Some dancers love ’em (cushioning, plus slippery sole.)
They tend to be a bit clunky, not so good for fancy footwork.
Good for dancers with three feet (shown).
Chinese slippers
for ladies
Some women love these. They are cheap (under $10),
but no support, and little cushioning.
Put in a Spenco athletic or thick memory foam cushion,
and you’ll like them better.
Oxfords tend to be heavy and clunky.
It may be possible for your shoe repair expert to replace the rubber sole with leather or suede.

BASS Weejuns
A pretty laid-back looking shoes, BASS Weejuns are the classic Carolina Shag shoe as well. If you want to spend lots more for a more comfy shoe, try the COLE HAAN : several upscale versions of the classic penny loafer. Any loafer will do, however. (Leather soles for sliding and spinning, of course.)
Tango shoes Some women like laced tango shoes, others prefer the hot look of black high heels (with fish-net stockings, tight short dress, etc.). Lycra material looks way cool for men or ladies. And you don’t need to polish it!. WORLD TONE MUSIC has them. Also SHOWTIME DANCE SHOES , Georgia (800) 433-5541.
Basketball shoes Not so good for salsa: they grip the floor,
they are big, they don’t flex well.
If the treads are worn down, maybe ok.
otherwise, they are floor-grippers.
Running shoes Not so good for salsa: they grip the floor,
If the treads are worn down, maybe ok.
otherwise, they are floor-grippers.
Not recommended, for obvious reasons. But I have seen them on the feet of some really top notch dancers. For the rest of us, these boots don’t naturally lend themselves to fast footwork, that’s for sure.
Flip-flops Some people love to dance salsa in beach thongs. I wouldn’t recommend flip-flops, however – loose fitting, no support, not spin-worthy, etc..
Tennies Not a great choice for salsa: they grip the floor,
If the treads are worn down, maybe ok.
otherwise, they are floor-grippers.
Bare feet Not so good for salsa: unless you are in a real “roots” kind of mood. Bare feet grip the floor, you cannot spin. it hurts more when you get stepped on, or stub your toe. It is pretty hard on the balls of your feet. In spite of all this, some people like to dance barefoot or sock footed.

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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