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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

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

May 2001

What Is A Good Lady's Dance Shoe?

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

Metatarsalgia / plantar fasciitis diagram

Because of the type of shoes ladies wear, they are subject to many more problems than men. It is quite common to see a lady rubbing her feet or changing her shoes during the course of an evening of ballroom dancing because her feet really ACHE! As I mentioned last month, common problems include metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot), plantar fasciitis, hammer toes, and bunions (see drawings). 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. This is especially true in women's shoes.
hammer toes / bunion diagram

Having a good, solid foundation is a key factor for proper support. With this in mind, I recommend the shoes shown in the photos below. You can't get more support than found in these shoes! In addition, they offer exceptional safety on dangerous, crowded dance floors. (And, no, my mother didn't were these.)

ladies dance shoes photo

Five Keys to a Good Shoe

There are five factors that I consider keys to a good shoe apply to both lady's and men's shoes:

  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 heel counter that forms the back of the shoe should be solid and built straight on the heel. Ideally, it should wrap around the heel, although, for the sake of fashion, some are narrower (see the silver shoes in the center of top photo).

    ladies dancing shoes front photo

  3. Laces - Lady's shoes have various straps around the ankle and over the ball of the foot. Some shoes have a longitudinal strap connecting the ankle and toe straps, adding additional stability (see the pink shoes on the right of the 2nd photo).

  4. Heel - Lady's ballroom shoes typically have 2 to 3-inch heels. If possible for the sake of your back, avoid extreme high heels. When practicing, I suggest you wear 1-1/2 inch practice shoes similar to the photo at left, unless you are focused on getting the feel of wearing high heels.

    ladies practice shoes photo

  5. Fit - Even though lady's shoes are less supportive than men's, the counter should be snug, the longitudinal and metatarsal arches should feel supportive, and there should be room for toe movement. Ask your salesperson how much the shoes will stretch.

Capezio, Coast, Diamant, Supadance and Werner Kern are excellent, well-known names in dance shoes. I suggest you check with your instructor and the stores listed below. While preparing this article, I also browsed the web for "dance shoes" and found a number of sites offering lady's ballroom dance shoes for about $75 to $125. 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.

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

Reference:

Special thanks to Michelle Uttke, owner and instructor at Fancy Feet Grand Ballroom, located on the third floor of the Oregon City Elks Lodge, phone 503-722-9922, for her help with this article, including lending her shoes for the photographs.

Next article: Let's review footwear for Latin 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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