Friday, April 24, 2015

Ballroom tip: Ladies' Practice Shoes

Having covered the basics of men's footwear, we'll now move on to the shoes available for ladies.  Practice shoes in several styles and brands are made for women, and most of them are similar to men's practice or latin shoes.  They are typically leather, lace up the front, and have a short, wide heel.  In fact, small-footed women can often wear boy's latin shoes as practice shoes; children's shoes are less expensive, so this can be an appealing option.  However, many other materials, colors, heels, and styles are also available in the women's section.

I cannot include a picture of women's practice shoes here, however, because I don't own a pair.  There seem to divided opinions on the usefulness of such shoes.  On the one hand, leather wears better and lasts longer than satin, the material of ladies' competition shoes.  The shorter, wider heel and closed top of practice shoes mean these shoes are easier on the feet when worn for several hours, which is why all of my lady dance teachers wear them for teaching.  They are also flexible enough to be worn for both standard and latin.  Certainly in my current school, practice shoes are really popular for students and teachers (not for students in lessons, though).

On the other hand, practice shoes don't feel or move like competition shoes, and that matters.  If you practice your turning with a wide, 1.5 inch heel, you will probably wobble when you switch to a narrow, 3 inch heel.  Drive steps in standard are also going to need to be adjusted between the wide and narrow heels.  Foot articulation is going to be different in laced shoes than in strappy, open latin heels.  This isn't a problem for everyone; the better your control and balance are, the better you can compensate for the change.  But you will need to compensate.

I personally fall in with the second opinion.  I practice in shoes no longer nice enough for competitions, and in fact just demoted a pair to practice shoes.  My new shoes should arrive next week, to introduce a post on ladies' competition shoes.

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