The tears that have been shed over dance shoes would fill an ocean! Everything about dance should be pleasurable for those involved in it – including our foot coverings. Children especially need the right sort of foorwear to encourage natural growth, make them comfortable and to thrill them when they put them on.
Children are notorious for selecting an activity and then deciding they really don’t like it. Expect a few of these in every studio – but work hard to avoid them – it usually relates to boredom or being ignored. It has always been our policy to not ask parents to purchase shoes for children for the first month. Let’s face it, they can’t be used for anything else AND more importantly, the parents will appreciate your honesty – this will pay dividends in the future. Wait to see if the child is enjoying themselves first and use this time to build expectations in the parents as well as the child’s mind as to what to expect and what and where to buy.
For both girls and boys joggers and trainers should be avoided. The soles of these types of shoes will stick to the dance floor and stop their movement.
Very small children should have shoes that fit or are half a size too big. If they are any bigger than this, they will have trouble with their foot expression (in other words, they will have trouble doing the heel and toe dance actions as well as arching their feet) and they will feel and sound as if they are clumping around the studio (because they are!).
This does mean that children’s shoes will need to be changed frequently. Consider having a shoe exchange system in the studio where perhaps the parents either purchase a pair to add to the pool (their child can wear them first), then once they have grown out of them, they can add them to the pool and select another pair. The other option is to charge a shoe fee where for a set amount each term, the student can use a studio pair. If you decide to follow this route make sure the shoes are left at the studio as sometimes they do get lost or the child looses interest and they are simply not returned. We also do not want any tears because Mummy left them home!
All girls will want heels. Lets face it – I want heels! Dance is about glamour, bling and pretty dresses, but this must be tempered by some practicality. It is not possible for any beginner to learn in a three or four inch heel (however good someone else looks in them). It is possible to find a sensible flat sandal for the very young girls that is sparkly – like a princesses shoes.
Children of eight and above can migrate to a one inch heel – this becomes a right of passage and can be accompanied by much fanfare as the child goes to “high” heels.
Children of twelve and above should be encouraged to stay in the 1½ to 2” heel range (really hard with teenagers). They need to feel secure and be able to dance with either a heel or a toe lead. A lesson is often needed. Again, with children of this age, try to supervise their buying expeditions. Having a selection of suitable shoes in the studio and having them order through you is preferable to having them return with something totally unsuitable.
Young ladies of 16 or more – good luck! These ladies will know what they want and hopefully they will have had enough experience to be able to select a shoe that is not only gorgeous but a practical work shoe too.
Many styles of dance shoe are made to make it easier for the owner to easily get into and out of them. The buckle for instance may not need fastening, many are designed for the strap to slip into the hook and the actual buckle holding the strap in place. To undo, just pull the end of the strap towards you and lift upwards. Easy.
The photograph on the left shows a particularly nice sparkly children’s shoe with this type of buckle.
Young children do not need different shoes for different styles of dance. It is more important when they are learning that they are more comfortable. As the child progresses, only then do we suggest fitting the shoe to the style.
Boys are a little more limited, you will have a choice of black, black or brogue usually. I would not encourage Cuban heels for boys until they reach their teens. Initially try to ask the parents to find a soft casual shoe. Boys school shoes tend to be very hard and the sole does not move easily. Likewise, discourage joggers as they will stick to the floor and stop movement.
Remember that a specially made ballroom dance shoe has a soft kid leather sole which is designed to help the child move and to feel the floor beneath their feet. The right equipment always makes a difference.