Ballroom Dance > Current shoes causing pain, how do I find a new pair?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by leee, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. leee

    leee Well-Known Member

    I'm new to dancing (started in April), and in July I bought a pair of Stephanie shoes. They felt very tight in the toes, especially the left shoe -- when I'm wearing them, the distance between the tip of my toes and the front of the shoe is probably less than half the width of my thumb -- but the saleslady said it's supposed to be that tight.

    Well, after a couple of months, my left foot was getting injured -- I was probably overworking my plantar fascia -- and I'm pretty sure it's because of the shoes. I went back to the saleslady to see if I could get a new, bigger pair at a discounted price, but she clearly wasn't excited about that and instead suggested insoles w/ arch support, which only help a little bit (and I'm not talking the cheap Dr. Scholes insoles, I bought some $50 ones).

    I also talked to some of the instructors at the studio I go to, and they recommended International shoes because they have a full shank, which theoretically would help out with my arches.

    Anyway, long story short, here's the thing: how do I know what shoes will be right for me without sinking $150 on a pair that might end up screwing up my feet? Mind you, the current pair took a couple/few months before they started to hurt, so a brief in-store test drive doesn't seem to indicate how well I'll do in them. The only thing I know that works for sure is not dancing, which, clearly, is not something I want to resort to.

    (One teacher even suggested asking a shoe company to send me some pairs to try on for a small deposit, returning the ones that don't work for me -- an idea that sounds far-fetched to me, but is there any credence to it?)
  2. harp34552

    harp34552 Member

    Can you maybe borrow a pair from a lady at your studio with similarly-sized feet? Or buy a gently-used pair online to see if the type of shoe works for your foot?

    Also, if your current shoes are a total loss anyway, you might try cutting out the toes to see if that makes them at least livable for awhile. I cut out the toes of some smooth shoes awhile back after I decided that I hated them anyway and while it did not make them beautiful and perfect, it made them at least danceable until I can find something I like better.
  3. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    First, welcome to DF.

    Second, welcome to the wonderful world of trying to find the right shoes. IME, the only way to find out what works for you is to try a lot of pair until you end up with the sole-mate. Unfortunately, that ends up costing a lot of money b/c the brief in-store test drive doesn't really tell you jack. You only know jack when you've danced in them for a while. And then you can't return them, if they're no good. Options after dancing: sell online; donate to DF auction. That way, you don't end up like <cough> some people I could mention, who have seven pair of unusable dance shoes taking up space in the car <cough>.

    I have spent more $ than I care to think about, trying to find the right shoes. I have decided to chalk up that expense to "learning" in the same way that tuition for a college course is payment for learning.

    If the shoes took a couple/few months to start to hurt, then perhaps your feet have changed. I unearthed a pair of Freed Roma practice shoes the other day, wore them for a class. Wished I hadn't; my feet have changed a lot in the past 2 years since I last wore them, and they were horribly uncomfortable.

    Don't know where you're located, but if in the NY or LA area, Worldtone will let you try on two hundred pair of shoes, if you need to (and I need to). And they have the largest inventory of ballroom shoes in stock of any place I've ever been.

    Good luck, and again, welcome to DF.
  4. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    I bought a couple pairs on ebay until I found what I liked in a shoe.
  5. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    IME, the common advice that dance shoes should be very tight is bad advice. Your foot needs to be stable in the shoe and not move around, but it doesn't need to be tighter than that. You need room to use your feet and toes when you dance.

    Personally, I went up a size from my street size because I never wear pointed street shoes. With tight dance shoes that squished my big toe toward the others, I was developing problems with the joint below the toe. Once I went to larger shoes that allowed my toes to lie straighter, I've had no problems. I prefer to use a snug ankle strap and padding as needed to keep the shoe snug and comfortable than to wear a too-small shoe. Foot pain and damage do not have to be an inevitable part of dancing.

    Different brands of shoe fit differently, and it is a bit of trial-and-error to find the best one. All the online stores I've used allow you to return shoes as long as you only wear them on carpet, but I'd be surprised if they would send shoes to you that you don't pay for first.

    Good luck!
  6. Linda J Schlensker

    Linda J Schlensker New Member

    If we can't get a good fit for my students with a local vendor (2-4 hours away), we will often make a shopping trip to one of the big competitions. Various vendors set up shop and usually have time to chat and help with fitting, especially during the day sessions. If you talk to them about particular problems with your feet (mine are square) they can often recommend something. I've seen them recommend the competition when they don't have something. It's not unusual for your sales person to be a dancer and that goes a long way in getting a good fit.
  7. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Another thought: how high a heel are you wearing? You might need to go down in heel height until you've danced longer and built up foot strength. If you are prone to foot problems, you might even want to consider a practice shoe for lessons and practice. Some of the partly-mesh ones are even pretty enough, IMO, to wear with a skirt, like Elegance's Godiva.
  8. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Square feet? Sounds like me. What make of shoe do you find fits you best?
  9. raindance

    raindance Well-Known Member

    Definitely look at practice shoes for comfort... it lets you focus your brain on what you are being taught rather than how much your feet hurt. And they can be much easier on the feet. You can move into standard/smooth or latin heels later. It can also be nice to be able to switch between practice shoes and heels even after you have found some heels you like.
  10. Josh

    Josh Active Member

    +1 ..
  11. ireniecat

    ireniecat New Member


    And this.
  12. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I struggled with finding the right shoe too. Ironically, for me, I like the Stephanie shoe. I find them to be comfortable and well padded. Some of the higher end shoes have such little padding that the balls of my feet hurt terribly after dancing. But I know alot of other dancers that like to really "feel the floor" while dancing, and so they like a flexible sole. I like a snug fit, but not a tight fit.
  13. latingal

    latingal Well-Known Member

    Welcome to DF leee!

    Like others have said, finding the right shoe for your feet is an expensive endeavor. One that many of have gone through. A good thing to do is try to get recommendations from knowledgable types (with your type of foot, or teachers/dancers, shoe vendors or companies, etc.) what might work for your feet. And then unfortunately it's usually a matter of spending the money to find what works for you.

    And another alternative for "disposing" of shoes that do not work for you, donate to one of the college teams (as noted in one of our threads in the ballroom forum!), they usually can find a good use for shoes!

    Best of luck to you and again welcome!
  14. leee

    leee Well-Known Member

    Thanks everyone for the warm welcome!

    Just a few things to add that I forgot to mention in my OP.

    First, I'm pretty sure that my current shoes are at least part of the problem, because when I switched back to my street shoes, these specific foot problems weren't an issue (instead, it was a different can of worms for a different injury site). That said, I've been more diligent about resting/massaging/strengthening my affected feet, and so was able to get through the last dance party (I go to AM) without limping by the end.

    Second, and maybe this is relevant, is I'm a guy, so the heel height question probably doesn't apply to me a whole lot (wearing a standard shoe). (I've also asked around a little to see if any other guys have a spare pair, but my feet are on the small side.)

    I do like the notion of donating the shoes if they become a total loss for me. A lot easier to think about, strangely, than trying ebay them for pennies on the dollar.
  15. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Oh, you're a guy! Then your problem should be easier to solve! A better-fitting shoe should help a lot.

    If you have chronic foot problems, you might want to try a pair of dance sneakers. I'm told you can find them with suede soles, but I just bought a regular pair and had a shoemaker put on suede soles. Still ended up cheaper than a regular pair of dance shoes. I only wear them when I am injured, because the balance is so different from a pair of ladies' heels, but that should be less of an issue for you.

    I have also known people who wear arch supports or even custom orthotics in their dance shoes. Of course, you need to pick a shoe size that will let you add the support and still fit comfortably. Some would say that using an orthotic will inhibit your foot movement, but a) if not using them causes pain, that's far more inhibiting and b) as a relative beginner, it will be a while before your technique and foot strength have developed to the point that would be an issue.

    I have crappy feet, but I've had a lot of improvement by doing foot exercises:

    ankle circles
    flex and point feet (try to feel that you are lifting your arch up when you point)
    flex feet and curl and stretch toes
    standing, very slow toe raises (slow enough that you aren't using momentum, esp. on the lowering. I worked up to a 12 count raising, 12 count hold, 12 count lowering)

    I also use Yoga toes to stretch my feet.
  16. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member


    I just bought a pair of Bloch mesh dance sneakers. The world is a better place.

    What she said. Great stuff.

    I used to think these were stupid. Now, I'm a convert.
  17. latingal

    latingal Well-Known Member

    Had to laugh, I'm wearing mine as I'm reading and doing my moderating duties....
  18. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    Yoga Toes.... A topic that could easily fit in the gratitude thread. :)
  19. AMeader

    AMeader New Member

    My former coach, a male, with multiple foot and back issues, swears by Block Boost DRT dance sneakers. At least for practice and perhaps social dancing, they should provide you with much more cushioning and support. I've heard RayRose practice shoes are pretty good as well, although I can't vouch for them personally.
  20. waltzgirl

    waltzgirl Active Member

    Yep! But beware cheap imitations. I picked some up in the drugstore, but they were too rigid and were painful. Whatever the Yoga Toes are made of is just right to have some flexibility to adapt to your foot while giving you a stretch.

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