What Shoes Should I Wear to Go Swing Dancing? - SwingDance.LA (2024)

What Shoes Should I Wear to Go Swing Dancing? - SwingDance.LA (1)

Whenever I invite my non-Swing friends to go Swing dancing, one of the most common questions they ask is, “what kind of shoes should I wear?” I’ve interviewed my Swing dancingfriends and drawn from personal experience and observations to provide some answers here.

Using Your Existing Shoes

If you’re going Swing dancing for the first time or just starting out, maybe you don’t want to buy new shoes just for Swing dancing just yet. Here are some guidelines on choosing the best shoes to dance in fromyour existing shoe collection.

For Women

  • Avoid high heels or spikey heels.Pick a shoe with flat sole or medium heel that is thick (large diameter).
  • Leather soles are best. Avoid rubber – it’s too hard to spin on.
  • Avoid sandals or slippers.

For Men

  • Similarly,pick shoes with leather soles. Avoid rubber soles (i.e., avoid sneakers, unless they have been modified to have leather soles).
  • Men’s leather dress shoes with work fineas long as they don’t have rubber soles. I like to put Dr. Scholl’s padding inside these type of shoes, since they typically don’t have much padding.

Women’s Swing Dancing Shoes

Okay, let’s say you’re a bit more committed and want to get “real” shoes for Swing dancing. In Los Angeles/Orange County, I would say the de-facto standard casual shoesfor women Swing dancers are Keds with chrome leather soles.

When I tell beginner Swing dancers to get Keds for Swing dancing, they are like, “Really?? Women wear Keds with dresses?” Yes! It looks cute.Take a look at this screenshot of the Strictly Lindy contest at Camp Hollywood 2014:

Notice how many women are wearing Keds or Keds-like shoes, circled in white!

The problem with Keds, though, is that they come with rubber soles. So, if you get Keds to dance in, you’ll have to take them to a shoe repair shop and get chrome leather (similar to suede) glued to the bottom of yourshoes.

What is Chrome Leather?

Chrome leather is the preferred dance sole of many (if not most) hard-core dancers, leaders and follows.

The “chrome” refers to Chromium used in the tanning process of the leather. For our purposes, by chrome leather, Imean a soft suede-like leather that is smooth enough to slide and spin on, but not as slippery as hard leather. Check out the virgin chrome leather soles on my new sneakers:

Ask your cobbler to show you the material before glueing it on your shoes so that you can make sure he is using the right stuff.

A lot of Swing dancers have their favorite shoe repair placesthat can glue chrome leather to the bottom of their shoes.Prices vary. I’ve heard of non-shoe-professionals offering the service for as little as $10, but people have told me that you get what you pay for. The soles eventually fall off. I’ve never had the soles come off when I’ve gone to a professional shoe store. In Santa Monica, the shoe stores I’ve looked at charge $30 to $40. I’ve heard of other shoe stores charging as little as $20 though.

An alternative to using a cobbler is to use stick-on soles. I cannot vouch for these myself, but you can try them atwww.soles2dance.com.

Or, if you want to save some money and apply Chrome leather to your shoes yourself, check out this do-it-yourself video from Swing dancer Laura Glaess:

Youshould know that some dance shoe suppliers have started to offer Keds-like shoes with dance soles already built-in! Theoverall cost and hassle of getting these is much less than getting Keds and getting them chromed. Check out dancestore.com for some good examples of these. Many dancers have recommended this online store as a good source for dance shoes.

What About More Formal Women’s Dance Shoes?

Keds are fine for casual venues like LindyGroove, PBDA, Rusty’s, Atomic, and so forth. But if you’re going to Clifton’s or the Cicada Club, you’ll want to wear something more formal. Also, many instructors and veteran dancers (especially Balboa dancers) prefer more formal shoes with a bit of heel. A short or medium heel is fine for dancing, as long as the heel is wide and not too spikey.

In L.A., follows tell me thatRemix Classic Vintage Footwearhas the best-looking and most comfortable shoes for Swing dancing. Their “Balboa” modelis a good example, and it is their best-selling model. One commenter told me they “fit like a glove”.

What Shoes Should I Wear to Go Swing Dancing? - SwingDance.LA (4)

Remix took real vintage designs and had them reverse-engineered in order to manufacture them accurately today, so they are very stylish. Basically, they look and feel great for Swing dancing. Note that these are MUCH more expensive than Keds (around $200 a pair), but the quality is good.

What Shoes Should I Wear to Go Swing Dancing? - SwingDance.LA (5)

You can also check out Pinup Girl Clothing. Dancestore.com has its version of “The Balboa” with a T-strap.

If you’re interested in something a bit different, check out the low boots and other shoes made specifically for Swing dancing from Swivells, based in Paris! Yes, they’re in France, but at least 5% of their orders go to customers in Los Angeles, so you’ll be in good company.

Charlie Stone is another online shoe retailer (based in Australia) specializing in women’s Swing dance shoes.

Worldtone Dance sells dance shoes catering to New York dance professionals.

If you’re on a budget, you can also find good vintage shoes on eBay and at thrift shops, if you know what to look for.

For more stores that carry vintage-style shoes, check out my article on vintage clothing for Swing dancing or this summary:

Swing Dancing Shoes for Men

The situation is a bit easier for men’s shoes. Basically, almost anything with a leather sole will work, at least initially. On top of that, pick something that is comfortable and fits your style. Stacy Adams offers some dress shoes that fit the Swing style.

For dedicated dance shoes, Dancestore.com and Remix are great sources for men’s dance shoes. USA Dance Shoes offers men’s shoes for ballroom and salsa, but they can be used for Swing (unlike women’s Salsa shoes).

For high-end shoes, check out Ace Marks. Yes, these run $300 a pair or more, but they are hand-crafted in Italy from high-quality genuine leather. But most importantly, they look great! Take a look at their wingtips and Oxford cap toe shoes. Although they might seem expensive, they are actually a great value and will last a long time.

The leaderswho dance “Hollywood Style” in L.A. tend to wear lighter-colored shoes, like beige or white. Otherwise, black or brown shoes are fine for Swing dancing.

Here are some of the shoes I dance in. From left to right, we have sneakers with chrome leather soles added, Aris Allens, custom dance shoes from the UK I ordered at a dance camp, and regular dress shoes with air-pillow insoles:

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For the mostcomfort, you can get a pair of sneakers (i.e., Vans or Converse type of shoes), and just get them chromed by a cobbler or try stick-on ones atwww.soles2dance.com. Those will be much more comfortable than dress shoes. As is the case with women’s shoes,the dance shoemakers are offering men’sdance sneakers with leather soles built-in, for much less total cost and less hassle than buying sneakers and getting them chromed yourself. Check out Dancestore.com.

Worldtone Dance sells men’s and women’s dance shoes catering to New York dance professionals.

Check Out This Summary of Dance Shoe Stores

The Best Place to Get Dance Shoes

Online stores are great if you know your size, but many of the stores are overseas and might have expensive shipping and long lead times.

The best place to find dance shoes is at local dance and vintage events, such as Camp Hollywood or Dapper Day at Disneyland. These events have vendors that come from all around the country or even the world. You can try sizes and order right there.

Shoes for Dancing Outdoors

Okay, all of the shoesthat I’ve covered so far are for dancing indoors on nice wood dance floors. But, there are plenty of occasions where you’ll want to dance outside or at some Lindy Bomb on roughsurfaceslike concrete.

Well, you won’t want to wear your nice chrome-leather-soled shoes outside. You’ll grind them down and wear them out quickly. And,definitely don’t get them wet. That’s why many dancers wear street shoes outside and change them when they get tothe dance floor.

So, what do you wear for outdoor dancing? The answer is: shoes with hard leather soles or very hard rubber/plastic soles.Dress shoes work well for this(although they often have very little padding, so put in air-pillow insoles or whatever). I also had a pair of sneakers re-done with super hard rubber soles that work well for dancing on cement. Ask your local shoe repair shop what is available. For outdoor dancing, you want a hard sole.

You may have heard of a brand of dance sneakers called Fuegos. In our experience, Fuegos are not really optimized for partner dances like Lindy Hop. On sidewalk concrete, they don’t turn any better than regular sneakers. On smooth concrete, like in a garage, they’re OK, but I don’t really recommend them.

Styles to Avoid

Finally, here are a few dance shoe styles that I would avoid (just my personal opinions here):

  • Super sparkly/gaudy shoes: Some Swing dancers can pull this off (especially in contests), but these types of shoes are more suitable for ballroom than Swing, in general.
  • Salsa shoes:Many of these have high heels which won’t work for Swing.

If you are a beginner Swing dancer, I hope this quick guide has helped! There are many more possibilities, but I’ve tried to keep things simple. You should also ask your fellow Swing dancers and instructors foradvice on shoes. There are folks who know far more than I do about dance shoes. Ladies, check out this Facebook Group started by Lindy Loft totally devoted to Swing dancing shoes for women!

Also, be sure to check out shoe and clothing vendors when you go to Swing camps like Camp Hollywood.

Finally, Swing Dance Shoe Advice from Kendall and Ronnie

You might know Kendall and Ronnie from their Live Collegiate Shag videos, or from when they used to dance in Southern California! They’ve made a great video on Swing dance shoes for all situations (practice, aerials, contests, etc.):

If you have any more tips on where to get dance shoes, good shoe repair places, or anything related, pleaseleave a comment below! What are YOUR favorite Swing dance shoes? Where did you get them? – Brian

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What Shoes Should I Wear to Go Swing Dancing? - SwingDance.LA (2024)


What Shoes Should I Wear to Go Swing Dancing? - SwingDance.LA? ›

The answer is: shoes with hard leather soles or very hard rubber/plastic soles. Dress shoes work well for this (although they often have very little padding, so put in air-pillow insoles or whatever). I also had a pair of sneakers re-done with super hard rubber soles that work well for dancing on cement.

What type of shoes are best for swing dancing? ›

If you are buying regular shoes (“street” shoes) you may want to make the sole more slick for pivoting and spinning. A lot of swing dancers like to have chrome leather (suede) on the bottom of their shoes. Chrome leather picks up wax and dirt from the floor and becomes slicker over time as you wear it.

What do you wear to go swing dancing? ›

Wear a light shirt with full-length pants.

There can be many turns, jumps, and tricks in the dance, so long pants are suitable. If you prefer shorts, that should be okay for practice, but comfortable pants are considered more in adherence with tradition.

Can I wear jazz shoes for swing dance? ›

Ballet and jazz shoes are split-soled and can fold in half easily, thus they have no arch support . Avoid those. Some people prefer to use dance sneakers for dancing and I admit I'm one of them; they're great for a long night of Swing dancing.

Are Keds good for swing dancing? ›

Good old Keds! They've been around since 1916 and are the staple dance shoe of swing dancers all over the globe.

Can you swing dance in sneakers? ›

So, good times to dance in street shoes are: If you'll be dancing outside. If you're starting out swing dancing and don't want to invest in traditional dance shoes yet. If they're comfortable, and you've had the shoes resoled to fit your dance needs.

What is the difference between dance shoes and regular shoes? ›

What Makes Dance Shoes Different? The soles of dance shoes are considerably different from those of normal shoes. Ballroom dance shoes have a thin suede sole that allows you to glide across the floor with just enough grip. Dance shoes are also flexible, allowing the shoe to follow the foot's movements.

What shoes should a beginner dance class wear? ›

Contemporary Dance Classes

Most beginners choose to practice contemporary dance in their bare feet. However, as you evolve, you may want to have protection for your feet. The best shoes to wear for contemporary dance are half shoes or foot gloves designed specifically for dancing.

Can walking shoes be used for dancing? ›

Regular walking shoes are made for walking, not so much for dancing. If you want to feel comfortable on the dance floor, supported, and be light on your feet, you need to wear proper dance shoes.

What type of shoes do the dancers have on their feet? ›

What do dancers wear on their feet when they are dancing in ballets? Men will wear soft ballet shoes made of leather or canvas. For classes these are typically white or black, and in performances they may match the color of the costume. Women also wear these soft/flat shoes, in pink, and will also wear pointe shoes.

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