Dancing has been around a lot longer than dance shoes. In the old days people went out dancing in whatever shoes they owned. There is a difference however between social dancing in a bar or social club and dancing in a formal dance studio.
If you are taking classes in a formal dance studio, they may well have an expensive sprung dance floor on which they won’t allow anything but dance shoes.
Many social dancers get along just fine with ordinary shoes, but you also need to consider protecting your feet. By dancing in a normal street shoe, you could find it harder to move your foot properly and thus cause long lasting damage.
Dance shoes have softer, flexible soles to aid your foot placement whilst dancing
Choosing a dance shoe that is right for the style of dance that you are doing is key. Each style of dance has a particular way in which dancers move their feet, and each requires a different type of shoe to allow the foot to move in that particular way. For now, lets look at Latin dancing and Latin dance shoes.
Social Dance v Competitive Dance v Practice Sessions
We are going to assume that you are looking at Latin dance shoes for some kind of social or competitive dancing, as well as your practice sessions. The bad news is you probably need at least 1 pair of shoes for each.
When you first start Latin dancing, you are unlikely to have the strength or muscle development or flexibility in your foot that you will have years later down the line. For a lady to be expected to dance in a 3 inch or 3.5-inch heel from day 1 is not realistic. Instead we need to train our feet to move in the correct way of Latin dance and develop foot and ankle muscles to support us while we dance. Eventually a Male Latin Dancer will use around a 1.5” heel height and a lady anything from 2.75” to 3.75”.
We will also need to think about whether we are mostly dancing social dances such as Salsa, Bachata & Kizomba or International Latin such as Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Jive and Paso Doble. Again, each dance has very different techniques and requires our feet and legs to be in some very strange positions!
Let’s start with the mathematics
We’re going to go back to maths class now. Let’s think about a Right-angled triangle and trigonometry. The side opposite the right angle is the hypotenuse, think of this as the upper part of your foot, the whole foot length. Your heel is where the right angle is, and your sole is going along the bottom in contact with the floor to your toes.
Diagram 1 illustrates a flat foot standing on the floor.
Diagram 2 illustrates a foot where the heel is lifted and standing on the ball of the foot.