Since working at Chicago Dance Supply for a year and suppling many ballroom, latin, and swing shoes we often get a common question of, “am I going to get a blister when I break in my ballroom shoes?” and the answer is maybe.  From personal experience in ballroom, latin, and swing social and competitive dance I tell people that: in general one should be wearing ballroom shoes that are as snug as a glove to the foot, which will cause some pressure (however, you don’t want pinching) on your toes and sometimes your heels.  Due to this you may get some blisters or sores where this pressure is especially when the shoe is brand new and your foot isn’t used to it yet.  Another reason for blistering is that the shoes fit tight in the front,  but your ankle strap is not tight enough allowing you foot to move around in the shoe causing unnecessary friction, which also causes blistering. The best advice I can give is to make sure your shoes are tightly fit in the front and at the heel and to carry with you a “breaking in new shoes” kit all of the time.

Jennie’s breaking in new shoes kit:

– Bandaids

Cushy Cuts by Bunheads


Strappy Strips by Foot Petals

Bunion Buster by Bunheads

Usually when I am breaking in a new pair of ballroom shoes I have certain essentials that I like to use to help the ease in process.  One of the main things is bandaids.  I generally know where I am prone to getting blisters with a new pair of shoes, my big toe, and sometimes my heel.  So, just in case, I put bandaids on those sensitive areas even if it isn’t needed.  I also really like to use cushy cuts or moleskin. These work just like bandaids, but seem to stay in place a little bit better, plus you can re-use cushy cuts!  Strappy strips are great when the ankle strap gives you a little bit of trouble. You can place them right to your strap making the strap a bit less abrasive to your skin. Now, I don’t have any bunions but a lot of my friends do, so I carry bunion buster’s with me just in case a fellow dancer’s feet need a little help.  (They can also be used for any friction on the big toe) I use any and all of these items for about two weeks or so when I’m breaking in a new pair of shoes.  However, it depends on how many days I’m dancing and for how long.  For me it takes about 8-10 hours of dancing to really break in my ballroom shoes, but of course everyone is different!

This past Sunday I was able to attend May I Have This Dance’s: Swing on Sunday’s (SOS), with my new pair of west coast swing shoes. (I like to wear very fine 1670c in black leather, see picture below!) Since I was coming from out of town, and wasn’t sure if I would make it in time to attend the dance I didn’t bring any of my breaking in new shoes supplies.  I decided that dancing and getting a few blisters was better than not dancing at all.  So I took the risk and danced my tail off for about 2 hours and ended up have some pretty good blisters on my big toes.  I realized that on my left foot I wasn’t wearing my ankle strap tight enough, but my right shoe was just perfect.  Since I didn’t have my kit I couldn’t prevent the blistering from happening.  I definitely learned my lesson!

I’m not a doctor, but what I have found to be helpful with dealing with blisters is to not pop them!  I found that if I do pop my blisters they end up taking twice as long to heal and can get infected a lot easier.  I try to keep the blister, with all of the fluid inside, protected so that it can heal on its own and sometimes if it is looking really red, I’ll put a little good old triple anti-biotic on it.  However, the first step is that if I do notice a blister forming while I’m dancing, a.k.a. my shoes start hurting really bad and sometimes it is tender when I walk,  I take my shoes off as soon as possible so it doesn’t pop while i’m dancing (ouch!).  Otherwise I recognize that the blister will just take time to heal, like it does breaking in shoes.

Thanks for reading, and I hope it helps some of you who are wondering what to do about those pesky blisters and breaking in ballroom shoes!

Happy Dancing!