Dance Shoe Buying Guide for Beginners


A women dancing in black, closed-toe dance shoes with heels.

If you’re looking to start taking dance lessons, you should buy a pair of shoes that are made for dancing. Standard dress shoes and even the most comfortable athletic shoes are not good dance shoes, and will only hurt your feet and your dance moves.

You’ll find plenty of options online, but without knowing what to look for, you may end up purchasing the wrong type of dance shoes, or buying some made for dancers with years of experience. This guide provides you with everything you need to know to purchase a pair of entry-level dance shoes, and lists a few options for first-time buyers. Before you hit the dance floor, make sure you’re equipped with the right shoes. Your feet will thank you.

Things to Consider When Buying Your First Pair of Dance Shoes:

 The Style of Dancing You’re Planning to Pursue

In general, there are three types of dance shoes: Latin, standard – or ballroom – and practice sneakers. You may want to consider buying dance shoes specifically for Latin or ballroom dancing if you’re planning to focus on learning one of those specific dance styles. Practice dance sneakers have more padding and are more durable than formal dance shoes, and are great as a backup pair of shoes if your primary pair start hurting your feet.

How Comfortable You Are in Heels

There are a few differences between Latin dance shoes and standard dance shoes, but the most significant difference is heel height. Women’s Latin dance shoes have slightly taller heels of between 2.5 inches and 3 inches than standard dance shoes, which usually have 2- to 2.5-inch heels. For men, Latin dance shoes typically have 1.5- to 2-inch heels and standard shoes have 1-inch heels at the most. It’s more difficult to dance in shoes with taller heels, so if you’re just starting out it’s best to opt for shoes with shorter heels. Plus, you always can buy shoes with taller heels once you gain some experience.

The Soles of the Shoes

No matter which style of dance shoes you purchase, the most important thing is that they have a suede sole. This will allow your feet to easily glide across the dance floor, and give you more control over your feet when turning and sliding. Shoes you would wear daily are designed to provide at least some grip, but it will only make it harder for you to dance if your shoes are sticking to the floor.

How Dance Shoes Should Fit Your Feet

Beyond making sure the shoes you pick out have suede soles, you must make sure they fit properly. The commonly used rule of giving yourself a thumb’s width of room between the end of your longest toe and the end of shoe does not apply to dance shoe shopping. Dance shoes are meant to be snug – not so tight that you’re in pain – but your shoes definitely shouldn’t be slipping off.

The Style and Color of Dance Shoes

Women should think about whether they want open- or closed-toe shoes. Obviously, closed-toe shoes are going to do a better job of protecting your toes, whereas open-toed shoes keep them exposed and vulnerable to being stepped on by a dance partner’s feet. In terms of color, men’s dance shoes are traditionally black and women’s are traditionally flesh-colored. But if you’re only dancing for fun, you can easily find more stylish shoes to match particular outfits.

The Price of Dance Shoes

You can find lower-end and higher-end dance shoes, and the price can vary greatly. Although you can easily find a pair of dance shoes online for as little as $30, you obviously won’t get the same kind of performance, durability and longevity as you would out of a $150 pair of dance shoes. That being said, you can find well-made dance shoes for between $50 and $100.

Shopping for Dance Shoes Online Versus in a Store

It can be risky to purchase dance shoes online, but following a few simples rules will help you avoid major mistakes. One good thing to keep in mind is that lots of dance shoe brands use a European shoe size scale, so be sure to convert the European size to what you normally would use to measure your shoe size. Some people will drop down half a size or a full size from what they usually would wear, but physically trying on shoes is the only way to know they fit for sure. You always could go to a local dance store and try some shoes on to get a sense of what size you should order online.

Pointers for After You’ve Purchased Your Dance Shoes

Break in Your Dance Shoes

Like any other pair of shoes, your dance shoes will become more comfortable once you break them in. The best way to break them in is to wear them. The more you wear them, the faster they will break in. You should always wear your shoes to dance lessons, but if you want to break them in faster, you can also wear them around the house.

Maintain Your Dance Shoes

You’ll also want to keep your shoes in great condition to ensure they last a long time. The number one rule to follow is to wear your shoes only on the dance floor. Wearing them outside – especially on concrete or asphalt – will ruin the suede on the bottom. Over time, the suede will experience some wear naturally, but you can maintain the soles by scrubbing them with a wired dance shoe brush. The other thing to watch out for is moisture, which also can damage your dance shoes. Sticking shoe trees inside your dance shoes will allow them to air out and retain their original form.

Options for Your First Pair of Dance Shoes

Take into consideration all these factors when shopping for your first pair of dance shoes. Also note that if you’re unsure which style of dance you plan to pursue, men should go with standard dance shoes and women should opt for Latin dance shoes because those shoe styles are more versatile. Listed below are some great options for beginner dancers.

Men’s Dance Shoes:

Men’s Latin dance shoes.
Men’s standard dance shoes.
Men’s dance sneakers.

Women’s Dance Shoes:

Women’s Latin dance shoes.
Women’s standard dance shoes.
Women’s dance sneakers.

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