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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine (no longer in print).

April 2001

What is a Good Men's Dance Shoe?

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

Metatarsalgia / plantar fasciitis diagram

Over 50% of the population has some kind of foot problem by the age of twenty (1). These include metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot), plantar fasciitis, hammer toes, and bunions (see figures). Improper shoes create many of these problems. Oftentimes, shoe manufacturers focus on style instead of solid construction and proper fit. Frequently, most of the money goes into the upper part of the shoe and very little goes into the shoe's foundation.

hammer toes / bunion diagram

Having a good, solid foundation is a key factor for proper gait, posture, support of the back and neck, and, of course, dancing. As my Applied Kinesiology Professor is fond of saying, "The gait of man is the fate of man." In other words, if you don't have proper gait, you will have lots of other problems. These will be primarily biomechanical in nature, but can even include overall, secondary health challenges.

This month, I will review men's ballroom dance shoes. Then, in succession, I'll cover women's ballroom dance shoes, Latin dance shoes, and dance boots. I'll then give you an update on custom foot supports (orthotics), which I covered in the September, October, and November 1998 issues of Instep. These prior articles are posted on my web site.

Five Keys to a Good Shoe

There are five factors that I consider keys to a good shoe:
  1. Shank - A solid steel shank will be good arch support. Test the shank by pressing into the arch of the shoe. The shank should not collapse.

  2. Counter - The counter should be solid and built strait on the heel.

  3. Laces - The best support is found in shoes that have a minimum of six eyelets on each side. Men's dance shoes often have three to five eyelets, which may be sufficient.

  4. Heel - The heel should be medium height. Men's ballroom shoes typically have 1-inch heels.

  5. Fit - The counter should be snug, the longitudinal and metatarsal arches should feel supportive, and there should be room for toe movement. The shoe may be snug at first. Ask your salesperson how much the shoes will stretch.

dance shoe photo Personally, I have been pleased with my Supadance shoes that I store carefully in individual shoe bags and reserve for the dance floor (see photo). They meet the five keys and have a nice feature of patent leather on the front, but not on the medial side counter, so they don't stick together when I brush my feet past one another. This is just one brand of shoes available off the shelf. Capezio and Diamant are other excellent, well-known names in dance shoes. I suggest you check with the stores listed below. While preparing this article, I also browsed the web for "dance shoes" and found a number of sites offering men's ballroom dance shoes for about $87 to $135. Personally, I prefer to buy shoes at a local store where I know I can rely on being fitted correctly. If you have a challenge, I suggest you contact Art's Dance Shop at 425-814-9191 in Kirkland, Washington, for custom made shoes.

man looking a shoes graphic

Northwest Dance Shoe Stores:

The Glass Slipper - 503-282-0069 at 3106 NE Broadway in Portland, Oregon

The Emerald City Dance Boutique - 253-946-4080 or 1-888-446-4080 in Federal Way, south of Seattle, Washington


(1)What is a Good Shoe? by Systems DC, Pueblo, Colorado.

Next article: Let's review footwear for female dancers. If you have any comments or suggestions regarding dance shoes that I could incorporate into the upcoming articles, please e-mail or call me.

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