Chapter 4: Dance Clothing And Shoes

[Note: book sections not presented on this website are titled and summarized in italics.]

What To Wear?

The dress codes for dance events range widely, but however casual or dressy the event, you'll want to choose clothes that are both easy to dance in and kind to your partner. Learn about the hazards of suit jackets and spaghetti-strap dresses, and the joys of silk.

Shoe Options

It's important to choose appropriate shoes for ballroom dancing. This sections compares the pros and cons of various dance-shoe options, including rubber-soled shoes (ugh!), leather-soled street shoes, character shoes, Jazz shoes, suede-bottomed sneakers, bowling shoes, Lindy Hop shoes, and ballroom dance shoes. Includes a reference to an article on cheap dance shoes.

Ballroom Dance Shoes

Ballroom dance shoes are lightweight shoes with either suede (chrome leather) or smooth leather soles. Flats for men and women have 1 or 1.5 inch heels and generally cost $100-120, although there are some cheaper domestic models. Ladies' high-heeled shoes typically have 2 to 3 inch heels and run about $60-120.

Selection Criteria

Shoes should be chosen not only for appearance but also for comfort, support, performance, and protection. Some ballroom dance shoes are built poorly; in particular, look out for sharp edges near your ankle and for interior seams that will abrade your foot.

Some women prefer closed-toed shoes because they offer a little more protection against being stepped on than do open-toed models, and because they shield your toenails from your partner's shoes. Women's shoes sold for Latin dancing tend to have a higher, slimmer heel and a softer, more flexible sole than do those intended for Standard dancing. Ladies: if high heels hurt, try adding arch supports, or consider wearing flats. Any orthopedist will tell you that high heels are not particularly good for your feet.

The performance of a shoe depends primarily on its sole. New or well-brushed suede (chrome leather) soles are generally considered to offer just the right degree of traction on a wooden dance floor. More-slippery smooth-leather soles may be found on less expensive ballroom shoes.


Buying ballroom shoes can be tricky unless you're fortunate enough to have a well-stocked ballroom shoe vendor in your area. Dance supply stores such as Capezio will carry Jazz and character shoes, and some of their outlets will also offer a narrow range of ballroom shoes. Ballroom dance studios often sell several models of ballroom shoes, but their stock on hand is usually limited, meaning that you might not be able to try on the model that you want in your size.

If you can't find a good ballroom shoe at a local store or studio, you can try shopping at dance competitions or dance camps. Shoe vendors often set up shop at ballroom dance competitions and ballroom dance camps, and they tend to bring large stocks of shoes; you can try on many pairs, and you're likely to find the model that you want in your size. The vendors will typically operate outside of the ballroom in which the competition or camp is held, so you usually do not require admission to the event to shop for shoes.

If neither competitions nor camps are convenient, consider purchasing ballroom shoes by mail order. Mail-order vendors generally offer a wide range of shoes and hold large inventories. The obvious disadvantage to mail order is that it's hard to evaluate a shoe from a catalog picture. However, most mail-order stores have reasonable exchange policies; if you return the shoe clean and unworn, they will not only accept it but also absorb the cost of shipping you a different pair. For widest selection, I suggest that you order free catalogs from some or all of the vendors below, or visit their web sites.

Note: if a vendor's toll-free (800) or (888) phone number is unreachable from your calling area, try the toll number provided.

Some North American Mail-Order Dance Shoe Vendors





(408) 773-8833
none listed

Ballroom Dance Supply

(408) 871-1895


(410) 990-0009

(585) 259-9680

(800) 851-2813

(702) 365-6650

Capezio Dance Shop

(800) 322-7856

(415) 421-5657

Discount Dance Shoes

(888) 825-7768

(305) 271-0606

Carmen's Dance Shoes

(800) 854-4318

(619) 287-5787

(888) 600-9091

Champion Dance Shoes

(800) 40-DANCE

(323) 874-8704

Elegance Shoes

(818) 788-3216

(239) 418-1117

Grand Travel
Squaredance Shoppe

(405) 379-3872

(800) 881-3262
(231) 903-7666

Dance Distributors

(800) 33-DANCE

(717) 234-3572

International Dance Shoes

(800) 745-4758

(770) 936-5763

The Dance Dresser

(800) 774-1106

(407) 774-1106

Let's Dance

(914) 632-0428

Dance Express

(800) 292-1510

(212) 399-0465

none listed
(760) 757-6032

Showtime Dance Shoes

(800) 433-5541

(770) 455-7122

(770) 428-9439

(888) 793-7681

(905) 793-7681

(888) 800-8388

Supadance Shoes

(800) 888-5429

(770) 455-9799

(402) 689-9987



Dance shoes are typically made and sold according to European shoes sizes, which are generally but not always 1.5 sizes smaller than their American counterparts. That is, a man who wears an American size 10 will usually wear a European size 8.5. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, so it's best to discuss sizes with the salesperson.


Offers a few tips on caring for your ballroom shoes.

A Recommended Shoe

Names a shoe that is well-built, comfortable, and durable.