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Your First Pair of West Coast Swing Dance Shoes

May 11, 2016

Our instructors often get questions from new students who are interested in buying their first pair of West Coast Swing dance shoes. Most experienced WCS dancers purchase our shoes from vendors at events when we travel for competition weekends. We also often buy shoes online because we already know the styles, brands, and sizes that fit us.

But your first pair of dance shoes is a special investment! Here’s what we recommend for new West Coast Swing Dancers, and we’re including some links for where to purchase. Please note that this barely scratches the surface of possibilities, and it may take a few tries before you find the perfect style and brand for you. This is only meant to help you get started.

Contents:

Why Dance Shoes?

Because they’re designed to help you dance better! Dance shoes are flexible so that the foot can move well and feel the floor – this enables good technique and grounding. Dance shoes have soles that are designed for pivoting – this can improve turns as well as protect knees and hips during turns. Dance shoes have soft soles that do not mark or scuff dance floors. Dance shoes are also given a shape and heel style that actually assist with the required body mechanics of the dance.

How to Try On Dance Shoes

Never buy a pair of dance shoes out of desperation – wait to find a pair that fits and feels good! When trying on shoes, follow these guidelines:

  1. Wear the same kind of sock you will wear dancing
  2. Wear the same kind of pant or skirt that you will wear dancing
  3. Actually dance in the shoes (while in the store)

Women’s West Coast Swing Shoes

WomensShoeYou’ll most often see women WCS dancers wearing the “Westie Sandal”, flat suede boots, and “Toms”.

For new dancers, we recommend starting with the Westie Sandal. In our opinion, flat shoes and boots are best worn by more experienced dancers and those with exceptional footwork and legwork technique.

Features of the Westie Sandal include:

  • Suede soles, very flexible shoe
  • 1.25″-1.6″  practice heel (sometimes called a block heel, sandal heel, or coach heel)
  • Open toes and sides
  • Straps come in a variety of styles

Buy in Store

In the Ottawa area, you can look for this shoe style at:

Malabar: 1610 Merivale Rd. Ottawa, (613) 225-8374

Brio: 911 Bank St. Ottawa (larger selection), and 380 Richmond Road, Ottawa

Dance Masters: 1138 O’Grady St, Manotick, (613) 692-6082

Bobalou Dance: Carleton Place (our friend & fellow dancer, Louise, sells Very Fine brand dance shoes)

Buy Online

If you already know your dance-shoe size and fit, you might be comfortable purchasing online:

Dance Shoe Depot – consider styles 1670C, 802, 803

You’ll find many places to purchase online, but Dance Shoe Depot is owned and operated by Ottawaans.

Men’s West Coast Swing Dance Shoes

MensShoeYou’ll most often see male WCS dancers wearing low-heeled ballroom practice shoes or “Toms”. Occasionally you will see men wearing a higher “cuban” heel (up to 2″ high) – stylistically, this was more popular some years ago than now.

For new dancers, we recommend starting with a lower-heeled ballroom dance shoe. If you already have experience wearing Cuban heels, you can use those for WCS. In our opinion, flat shoes are best worn by more experienced dancers and those with exceptional footwork and legwork technique.

Features of the low-heeled men’s ballroom dance shoe include:

  • Suede soles, very flexible shoe
  • 0.5″ – 1″  heel
  • Closed toes
  • Uppers come in a wide variety of styles

Buy in Store

In the Ottawa area, you can look for this shoe style at:

Dance Masters: 1138 O’Grady St, Manotick, (613) 692-6082

Bobalou Dance: Carleton Place (our friend & fellow dancer, Louise, sells Very Fine brand dance shoes)

Malabar: 1610 Merivale Rd. Ottawa, (613) 225-8374

Brio: 911 Bank St. Ottawa (larger selection), and 380 Richmond Road, Ottawa

Buy Online

If you already know your dance-shoe size and fit, you might be comfortable purchasing online:

Dance Shoe Depot – consider styles 919101-5 or C919101

You’ll find many places to purchase online, but Dance Shoe Depot is owned and operated by Ottawaans.

Dance Shoes for Problem Feet

DanceSneakersFor feet that are hard to fit, or if you have foot pain, consider these options:

Celebrity Dance Shoes – offers sizes from VERY narrow to VERY wide. They are difficult to find, but we’ve recently been in contact with Carrie B’s Dance Apparel and confirmed that you can custom-order Celebrity (and other) dance shoes from them: www.carriebs.com

Dance Sneakers – may be necessary for those with foot pain.

Custom Orthotics – find a maker that works with carbon fiber materials and take your dance shoes with you when you get fitted for orthotics. In Ottawa, try the Ottawa Orthotic Lab.