Hello true believers! I hope everyone is having an awesome day. I’m sitting and wondering about my past week and realized I got asked the same dance question twice from two different people. Writing a blog, for me, is a lot about paying attention to what questions are most commonly raised by my students or people in our studio. Most often, if one person is wondering about a topic, there’s a good chance other people are wondering about it as well. With that in mind, the question I received was a common question I’ve experienced in all of the dance studios that I’ve owned or worked at:
What shoes should I wear for class?
This is awesome to me because I often run into people who come to class wearing sticky rubber soles and have a hard time doing the foot rotations and footwork required in the dance. Many times I’ll kindly suggest some appropriate footwear, but many times, I’ll be asked the question up front.
As you can imagine, the right shoe can make Salsa dancing, or any other style of Latin dance very enjoyable. On the contrary, having the wrong pair can not only make things more challenging, but in some cases (for women mostly), it can be down right dangerous. In the interest of giving men and women equal attention, I’m going to address this issue in two separate posts. Normally, my momma raised me to be a gentleman and let the ladies go first, but since the whole women’s shoe thing is WAY more varied, I’ll start with the gentlemen first.
As an aside, if you’ve ever gone to any shopping mall and have witnessed the amount of stores catered to women versus men, it’s quite alarming. How are we as men expected to dress nice and with some semblance of individuality when we all have the same 6 stores to shop at in comparison to the 47,403,273,384,874 stores women have?
Now then, let’s talk about men’s shoes! I’m happy to say there are more options available today for the male dancer than when I first began to take a basic step. We now have options to have functional footwear when we practice, but also some really cool options when we want to dance in public as well.
I’ve identified a few categories which cover most of our dance shoe needs as men and I’ll make my suggestion in the following groupings:
Men’s practice shoes
Men’s performance shoes
Men’s social dance shoes
Let’s take it from the top, shall we? A lot of male dancers in the social Latin dance scene are either in a dance group or are being solicited at THIS VERY MOMENT. The supply of good male dancers is not quite as robust as that of the fairer sex, but that’s a blog post for another day. 🙂
Since we have aspiring performers, we also need to be equipped with some great shoes to take care of the wear and tear that we’ll put our poor feet through. Make no mistake, if you’re getting started in the Latin dance game, be prepared to put your feet through hell. Sort of a happy hell.
Men’s practice shoes for Salsa, Cha Cha and Bachata
Let’s start slow and steady, shall we? The simple and inexpensive Jazz shoe is the most simple and budget friendly shoe that you’re likely to find that can cover your practicing needs. When I first began dancing, this was my go-to shoe. It was the first time I felt really comfortable in dance wear and was able to discover the awesomeness that is my feet and how they interact with the floor.
Unfortunately, I had no sense of footwork or how to use my feet so the same jazz shoes were also stark reminders that I had a lot of work to do. Be aware that all of your footwork mistakes will show up on Jazz shoes. That being said, you’ll have some great comfort in these bad boys and while they might not last as long as something like a Jazz sneaker, their inexpensive price also makes up for it. If you’re first starting out, start here and work your way up to something like a practice Cuban heel with a split sole.
If you’d like something with a bit more cushion that will last longer, look no further than the jazz shoe’s big brother, the jazz sneaker! Yes, you’ll look like a little girl coming out of her weekly jazz class and yes your friends might make fun of you, but damn are these comfortable. Be forewarned, they are a little clunky at first but the more you get used to them, the more they will feel good on your feet. Added bonus, if you are new to doing lifts, dips and tricks, then these sneakers will provide some added support for your feet.
When you become more proficient in your dancing, I recommend dancing in a practice pair of the shoes you normally perform in. This way, your feet and body are used to the way you stand in these shoes and the adjustment will be negligible. We’ll get to these shoes next.
Men’s performance shoes for Salsa, Cha Cha and Bachata
There are a ton of options available but ultimately it simply depends on the size of heel you want on your dance shoe. I find that men who are less, shall we say ‘vertical’ mostly choose to wear the 1.5 inch Latin heel (Also known as a Cuban Heel) whereas taller men wear the shorter 1 inch heel. This isn’t set in stone however as I usually wear the taller heel as I find they make my feet and overall footwork look better.
In all honesty, these heel sizes are the only two you’ll run into as a guy. At this point, it depends what you like in regards to shoe finish and support type. When I mention the support of a shoe, I’m referring to the type of sole we get in our shoe. I mentioned earlier that Jazz shoes are awesome because they allow us to learn to use our feet and work our arches in ways that are unnatural at first. The type of sole jazz shoes have is referred to as split sole as seen in the image to the left. In essence, you’ll get the front part of the shoe with a break in the middle and support on your heel. Some argue that this type of shoe isn’t that great for you because it lack support for your arches. I can’t comment on that other than to say I’ve worn split sole shoes for over 10 years and haven’t had an issue. Perhaps I’ll do a follow up to this post in 2020. You know your body best, if you find that you need more arch support, you’ll find the exact same type of dance/Cuban heel with supported arches. We have options!
Below, you’ll see that these nicer shoes come in all shapes, colors and sizes. While they traditionally come in black, look around and you can find the color and finish that you need. The image below is showing shoes with a traditional one inch heel. While I personally wear Cuban heels (1.5 inch heel) for the benefits in weight distribution, I’ve mostly noticed this type of show in the Salsa/Bachata community.Speaking of Cuban heels, I love them! Not only do they look sleek, but if you use and split sole Cuban, you’ll also get the benefit of pointing your feet. If you perform and don’t point your feet when they come off the floor, we need to talk. Unless you’r rocking some Afro-Cuban, point those damn feet! I’ve noted that a traditional one inch heel does come in split sole, I’ve not seen them used too often outside of a Ballroom dance competition. Like most shoes, you can find a variety of different finishes on Cuban heels which look slick and professional. You can go for a more patent leather look or a suede finish, it depends on what you need.
I must again emphasize that if you are not used to these shoes, they will take a bit of adjustment. Due to the nature of the larger heel, you will naturally be pushed to the front part of your feet. While this body postilion is an AWESOME thing, it’s not something that can be adjusted to immediately. Get a good practice pair and get yourself used to the feeling of being forward weighted. I recommend Henry G dance shoes for your practice pair. They’re super affordable and comfortable to boot. You an even get two pairs and use one exclusively for performing. In all honesty, it would be cheaper to get two pairs of Henry G shoes than a premium brand.
Men’s social dance shoes for Salsa, Cha Cha and Bachata
It’s finally time to get stylish! One of the coolest things about the Congresses and such are the chance to get dressed up and show off your finest threads. While I’m still working on rounding out my personal wardrobe, I do respect and appreciate some of the stylish clothes my fellow Salseros wear. Of course, the shoes are an integral part of the outfit and can make or break your attire. With this in mind, I’m going to suggest some really cool brands you can look into purchasing along with a DIY solution for those who might be inclined to go that route.
Up first is a bit of a fusion between the previous performance shoe and a social dance shoe. I’m a big fan of Burju Shoes and am happy to see some entrepreneurial energy in our community. Burju is mostly known for her female shoes but there are several pairs of solid dance shoes for us men as well. You can see what I mean in the picture to the left that these shoes can double as performance gear AND shoes to rock with your best outfit. Do check out the whole line of shoes and make sure all of the female dancers are aware of their awesome heels!
Moving on, we’re exploring one more option of a shoe brand that can double as a performance or social shoe.
We’re traveling to Italy and looking at some designer hybrid shoes that are good for a variety of Latin dances. Over at the Lisadore website, they have a great line called paso de fuego shoes for men. As you can see, they are rather stylish and fancy looking and from what I’ve heard, are very comfortable. Check their whole mens dance shoe section to see the rest of their dance line. Do note that this brand is coming from overseas and will likely take longer to arrive to your front door. Also, pay attention to their advice for measurements and do your best to get the size just right to ensure you get a size that fits you correctly the first time. Attention to detail will save you grief later, do it right the first time!
Now a personal favorite come from a fellow dancer and stylish guy named Jose Botta and his company JB Pro-Design. I’ve seen many of the superstars and up and coming Latin dance personalities wearing these shoes and for good reason, they are dope! Being that a dancer had a hand in the creation of these shoes assures that they feel like a cloud to dance in. I’ve tried a pair and I had a great experience with them. If you’re lookign for a stylish and functional way to rock a Congress outfit, these just might be your shoes. Take a look at the whole collection and find a color and style that’s right for you. I haven’t heard any complaints thus far so chances are , you’ll like these shoes. Me? I’m partial to the black shoes as they go with everything but you can’t go wrong rocking a red pair and standing out in the crowd. Between us, rock the red color if you dance well as they WILL draw attention. If you’re still doing the basics, sticks with the nice and classic black for now. Or better yet, buy a pair and do the work to earn the right to wear them. Built in motivation, huh?
Another great and stylish brand of men’s dance shoes are from a site called GFranco. They have more options than the Jose Botta site and some really cool loafer type shoes which I loved. The good thing about this site is that there are several different types of footwear to choose from. Search their page and you’ll find boots, shoes, loafers, performance shoes and more! Best yet, the prices are very reasonable considering how nice they look. If you’re lucky, you’ll find them at a booth at the next Congress you attend and try them on personally! I commend GFranco for find a great mix of style while maintaining an affordable price point is well within the budget of most dancers. Go ahead and check out the men’s shoe section at the GFraco website and look around!
Now that I’ve been able to offer a variety of shoe styles and types, I’d like to wrap up with a budget option for those handy types who have a great pair of shoes that they love that would work great as dance shoes in a social setting. In a nutshell, you could apply some adhesive to your existing shoes and transform them into pretty nice dancing shoes. The great thing about this method is that the technique works on a variety of shoe types like sneakers, loafers, dress shoes and more. I would advice that the shoe itself be fairly flexible so that the final result is a functional dance shoe. It does no good to have a great suede bottom and a crappy and rigid shoe that doesn’t allow your foot to articulate. The good people over at Soles2dance have more information on this technique. I know that a shoe smith is also able to do this custom to your shoes if you can find one in your area. This is a fun option to explore and definitely worth a shot if you have a shoe that would work well as a dance shoe but needs a better bottom sole.
I hope this guide can help my fellow men in the journey from their first basic step, to their first dance practice and onto their first Congresso. Every situation has a different shoe that will be best for the task at hand. Make sure you watch out for your feet during practice and make sure you look dope eh next time you go out dancing!
Like this post? Make sure to share it with others who might find it valuable and if you have any further suggestions, please share so I can update this post!
Until next time, to your dancing…