Four Essential Questions to Ask Before Buying a Ballroom Dance Shoe

So, you’ve decided it’s time to buy yourself some new ballroom dance shoes?  Congratulations!  Whether it’s your first or fifteenth pair, here are four basic questions that may help you on your dance quest.

IDS International Dance Shoes Larissa / Cindy Sequin. This unique, distinctive and glittering collection features the popular 'Larissa/Cindy' style in an eye-catching combination of Satin with Sequin trim. Suitable for both latin & salsa dancing.

International Dance Larissa at CDS

What kind of dancer are you?

A competitive dancer may want something different from their shoes versus a casual social dancer. Differences may include aesthetics and/or function.  For instance,  competitive dancers may want to get shoes that are very snug and break them in.  They also may want shoes to be a little shorter than usual so that the shoe shows off and molds to their foot when they pointe.  Casual dancers may want comfort over anything else especially if they aim to dance all night long.  Knowing your commitment to the dance will help you to decide whether or not you need workhorse dance gear or just a step up from your regular street shoes.

Supadance 1008. A very popular rounded toe elastic court with a shorter toe length. Elastic looks smooth when on the foot.

Supadance 1008. A very popular rounded toe elastic court with a shorter toe length. Elastic looks smooth when on the foot.

What kind of dance will you dance?

Some dance shoes do a better job of crossing over to several styles of dance than others, and of course,  personal tastes will always come into play.  However, there are certain shoe characteristics that are typical for particular dances.  Ask any seasoned dancer who prefers one dance over another:   West coast swing dancers may prefer flats or low chunky heels.  Salsa dancers may want a 2.5″ strappy sandal whereas a dancer competing in International (Standard) may want a 2″ closed toe pump.  Having a dance in mind before you shop will help you narrow down your options.

Where will you dance these shoes?

There are many places to dance.  The list might include dedicated ballroom studios, nightclubs and/or outdoor summer dance festivals.  The surface of your chosen dance floor may help to narrow down the kind of shoe you will look for.  Typically, ballroom shoes are made with a soft, suede sole which allows articulation of the foot.  However, if you know you want to use these shoes outdoors on concrete, you might consider looking for a leather sole and perhaps a chunkier heel versus a stiletto.  Envisioning where you will likely dance may help guide you when you shop.

Does your teacher have a preference?

If you are a student, it’s best to talk to your teacher about your dance shoe requirements, especially if you are learning more than one type of dance.  They may be able to recommend one shoe over another based on your level (eg. practice shoe versus performance shoe,  2″ versus 2.5″, open versus closed toe, stiletto versus flare heel, standard versus latin heel).  Better yet, invite them to come along to the fitting.  If you have invested in dance classes, trust that your teacher has your best interests in mind.

Shopping for a ballroom shoe may take a bit of time, but the payback in smoother, more efficient dance moves and longer nights on the dance floor is surely worth it!


At CDS, the standard dance shoe fitting rule of thumb is for the foot to fill the shoe in all directions.  New shoes will feel snug, like a glove.  New shoes will stretch.  The degree of the stretch will depend on the dancer and the shoe material.  Extra space in the shoe becomes an invitation for uncomfortable blisters.  The shoe should feel supportive and yet should not completely inhibit the toes from moving.  For closed toe shoes, the tips of your toes may touch the end of the shoe, however, your knuckles should lay as flat as possible, especially when you do any type of lunge or knee bend.  We are happy to assist you in your next dance shoe purchase.  Call or visit us today!

5301 N Clark St Chicago, IL 60640

View our ballroom dance shoe collection here.

Read How to Break in Ballroom Shoes by Jennifer Becker

Read Dance Shoes:  How to Get the Perfect Fit