For years, I danced with socks or flat shoes in Social Dance classes at Stanford or Palo Alto with Richard Powers. However, after one night with 5-hours of dancing at Friday Night Waltz, I decided to get dance shoes because my feet and legs were hurting like crazy the next day.
From other dancers, I heard it’s much better to try on the shoes in-person for your first purchase since dance shoe sizes are mysterious. A dancer mentioned she got size 5 ballet shoes even though she’s normally size 8.
So I went to Ballroom Connections in Sunnyvale. I originally intended on buying Jazz Shoes (the “basic and safest inexpensive dance shoes” recommended by Richard). The owner let me try these on but suggested that I buy Practice Ballroom Dance Shoes. After trying on both sets, I agreed with her because the Jazz Shoes had thin soles, just like the flat shoes I used for dancing that’s making me hurt the next day. The Practice Dance Shoes costed more ($65 instead of $35), but it was sooooo worth it!
The picture shows this pair that I’ve been wearing for almost a year, dancing in it around 6 hours a week and it’s still holding up. They have been good for my purposes cause I dance all sorts of styles – Waltz, Swing, Salsa, Tango, etc. The only times they were not appropriate were for Hip Hop and Irish Ceili Dancing; these want shoes with more traction like Tennis Shoes.
Here are Richard Power’s recommendations from less expensive to more expensive:
Option 1: Lightweight shoes with thin, soft soles
In general, you want comfortable & lightweight shoes with low traction and soft, thin soles. Women should avoid heels, which could be precarious and dangerous. Heels are less stable and could hurt someone if you step on them.
Option 2: Jazz Shoes a.k.a Jazz Oxford
The most basic and safest inexpensive dance shoes, Jazz Shoes are thin leather, with soft leather soles and a very small heel. The basic design is same for men and women.
Option 3: Character Shoes / Competition Ballroom Dance Shoes
These kind of Ballroom Dance Shoes are the ones I decided to buy. They have a short heel and soft leather soles. These have more support for my feet for days that I dance for 4 or more hours.
If you decide to get dance shoes (Options 2 & 3), here’s where to buy them:
1. Order Online
Richard suggested Discount Dance Supply for their basic Adult Lace Up Jazz Shoes (~$25), or Amazon and Google Shopping.
eBay results depend on luck. Richard has found some “inexpensive good quality new dance shoes shipped from China with surprisingly quick delivery.”
Men: Search “men’s dance shoes”
Women: Search “women’s dance shoes” or go to Dancewear & Dance Shoes –> Women’s Dancewear –> Dance Shoes
3. Shop locally
This may be a good bet if you don’t want to risk getting the wrong shoe sizes. Here were some places recommended by Richard:
Ballroom Dance Supply
4850 Harwood Rd., San Jose
You can also search for “dance shoes” on Google Maps or Yelp.