One of the most frequently recurring questions we get as teachers and promoters is about shoes. My answer depends on if the person is just starting out in lindy hop or is already committed.
For beginners, I encourage them to wait until they’ve completed the eight week beginner class series before buying shoes specifically for dancing. This is for two reasons. First, shoes can be expensive and I don’t want students to feel like lindy hop is a pricey hobby. Secondly, and more importantly, many of the personal preferences that go into shoe selection won’t be solidified until a dancer has been dancing a while. Until then, I encourage ladies to wear a shoe with minimal tread, like a loafer, and gentlemen to wear a dress shoe with a leather sole or boat shoes.
Word to the wise: Do not do what Craig did when he was starting out, which was dance in bedroom slippers. Yes, he really did this. In his words,”I was young and didn’t know better.” At this point, his 32 year old self would have some strong words for his 24 year old self. Select shoes that support your foot and take care of your body, as we’ve mentioned before.
For everyone bitten by the lindy bug, there’s no simple answer to dance shoes. Most of it is personal preference, but here are some factors we consider when shoe shopping:
- Comfort. Will you be comfortable dancing for three hours? Removing the inserts that come in a shoe and replacing them with an athletic or support insole can increase comfort dramatically. Running insoles provide shock absorption but I’ve also purchased Dr. Scholl’s knockoffs at Target that work just fine. Don’t forget that insoles are replaceable. The length of use before replacing varies depending upon who you ask.
- Smoothness and grip. Traction depends both on the type of floor you’re dancing on and the soles of your shoes. A high level of grip eliminates slides and makes one footed turns slower. A level of smoothness might feel like your feet are slipping out from under you. Dancers often refer to this feeling as the floor or shoes being “fast.” Usually the fastest shoe is one with an unscuffed hard leather sole. Soft leather, chrome leather, and suede tend to be good materials for shoe soles because those materials provide a medium level of smoothness and grip.
- Style. Dressy or casual? Heels or flats? Wingtips or loafers? Style is where things start to get fun.
Tomorrow I’ll take you on a tour of our shoes to discuss the tradeoffs between fashion and function.