Susan's Guide to Dance Shoes
When you're starting out...
As a beginner Ceroc & Modern Jive dancer, the most important thing is to wear shoes that are comfortable for you. I recommend shoes with straps on the back so they won't fall off, and preferably without too much grip on the soles as we teach a number of easy spins at beginner level, and having shoes which will slide on a wooden floor (eg. leather or suede) will be a distinct advantage.
In terms of heels, again, choose shoes which you find are comfortable. As a general rule, heeled shoes will create a better 'line' or look when you are dancing, whereas flat shoes can detract from your poses. Most importantly you will want to be balanced, so shoes with a wider steady heel are generally better when you're starting out. If you are a lady who hates heels, don't worry, just begin in low shoes (eg. half or three-quarter inch heels) - I did!
We recommend shoes which allow you to feel comfortable, balanced and well-grounded. Sneakers are generally OK, but later on you will start to learn some slides and spins so you might want to start thinking about shoes that are less 'sticky' (eg. leather or suede).
As you get going...
As you catch the Ceroc bug, we recommend that you consider proper dance shoes. We'll outline your basic options below, but feel free to ask one of your teachers for more information regarding the best dance shoes for you.
Jazz sneakers have a relatively smooth sole and are usually fitted with a 'spinning spot'. They have rubber grip along the edges which can be used for enhanced traction when required, and a split sole allowing maximum foot flexibility and movement. Most Jazz sneakers are 'pumped up' with considerable padding to take the impact of high-energy moves, so Jazz sneakers are great for aerials, unforgiving or unsprung floors (eg. cement, tiles and laminate), and letting your feet relax after a long night dancing! They are also good for Gentlemen dancing on slippery floors. Dancers should be cautious with jazz sneakers as they can encourage lazy technique when dancing (more important as you head towards advanced level).
Leather Sole Shoes
Leather shoes are great for both ladies and gentlemen, and are the best for spinning moves and slides. They are ideal on sticky and slow dance floors as they maximise your ability to move freely. Leather dance shoes are available with a range of heel heights and widths and many different designs for both ladies and gentlemen. Alternatively, many other non-dancing shoes can be resoled with leather by your local shoe repair shop, but this may not be recommended as the shoes may not have been designed with dancing in mind, and consequently may not necessary provide the best support for dancing feet.
Suede Sole Shoes
Suede* shoes, like leather shoes are available in a wide range of styles and heel heights. Suede is generally a slightly slower sole than leather, providing more traction on a slippery floor. Suede is particularly good for gentlemen as it gives them more traction to help them support the lady in the dance. Again like leather, many shoe repair shops can resole shoes with suede.
* "Suede" is pronounced exactly the same as the word "swayed".
Jazz sneakers, leather and suede soled shoes are available at all dance shops and range greatly in price (from about $60 to $250+ depending on style and sole type). We usually have a pile of business cards from a range of dance shoe shops at the front desk at our classes.
In order to get the most out of your dance shoe investment, it is important that you care for your shoes.
Jazz sneakers can be worn in almost any environment and in any conditions - but be aware that walking in mud or puddles may result in wet feet!
It is important that suede soled shoes are kept dry. We recommend that you change into your suede shoes after you are inside the venue, just before you hit the dance floor, and that you change out of them as soon as you leave the floor. If they get wet or covered in other substances (like spilt drinks on a public dance floor) then you should clean them with water, allow them to dry and then brush off any accumulated rubbish with a wire shoe brush (available at most dance shoe shops or hardware store). If you are not sure (or forget your brush), please speak to one of your teachers. Generally you won't want to wear your suede shoes if you're out dancing at a pub or in a club - save them for the dance class or ballroom!
The final word...When you are starting out, don't stress too much about what shoes to wear. As you become more experienced, ask your teachers and other students about their shoes and what they recommend for you. Good dance shoes will make a big difference to your dancing!
-- Susan (owner of a dozen (or more) dance shoes!)