What Are Ballroom Shoes?

Carmen Santos Monteiro
Carmen Santos Monteiro
Ballroom shoes are worn by both casual and competitive dancers.
Ballroom shoes are worn by both casual and competitive dancers.

In the broadest sense, ballroom shoes are any shoes used to perform or compete in ballroom dancing sets. While technically these dance moves could be done in virtually any shoe, those that are sold and marketed as specifically ballroom shoes generally have a few core things in common. Most are constructed to be slip-resistant, for instance, with linings on both the innersoles and outer soles. Both women’s and men’s versions typically have a bit of a heel both to accentuate the dancer’s posture and, as is often the case in women’s shoes, to elongate the leg. Competitive dancers often find themselves bound to certain specifications as set by the program organizers when it comes to things like heel base, skid resistance, and sometimes even styling. Different varieties of dancing also sometimes have different standards; Latin ballroom styles often stand out as having somewhat different features. Dancers usually have a lot of options, but anyone looking to dance competitively or professionally is usually wise to research any governing rules and regulations before making a purchase.

Ballroom Dancing Generally

For Latin dancing, most women wear free- or open-toed shoes, while men wear laces or non-laced shoes.
For Latin dancing, most women wear free- or open-toed shoes, while men wear laces or non-laced shoes.

Ballroom dancing is usually best understood as a set of choreographed moves performed by a partner pair, usually in a large space over a wooden or other hard-surfaced floor. The style originated out of the ballrooms of palaces and statehouses in Europe and the early American colonies, and was often a source of refined amusement and art; in modern times it is more often expressive, and often competitive.

A number of popular dances became more standardized and taught to a wider audience in the 1920s. The development of ballroom dance shoes advanced at this time, although not very many style or color options were available. For early professional performers, shoes consisted mainly of men's two-tone black and tan shoes and women's laced and soft-colored shoes. In the 1930s, thanks to movie legends such as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, the popularity of ballroom dance grew, and shoes became a must-have for galas and events. Today, most serious dancers wear shoes that have been specially designed to meet the demands of fast moves, quick turns, and seamless pivots. Most of the time these look, on first glance, to be ordinary formalwear. Their construction is what typically sets them apart.

Core Features

Ballroom dancing usually takes place on polished wooden floors, and manufactures typically design their shoes with this in mind. Most are constructed to be slip-resistant, with suede leather-lined innersoles, as well as certain shock-absorbing enhancers designed to protect the dancer's feet and allow for some degree of flexing. Additionally, the shoes often are lined with suede outer soles to guard against skidding and help to preserve dance floors.

Competition Standards

Although there are about as many types of ballroom shoes as there are dance floors on which to use them, there are two leading types for the most popular styles of dancing: Latin and basic ballroom. In both styles, the suede soles and fabric uppers generally are customized to match the performers' costumes, and in competition settings they’re designed to meet the specifications of the governing authorities and rule-makers. Different dancing organizations tend to have different rules about things like heel height, for instance, and many also require certain skid resistance attributes in order to protect the floors, not to mention the dancers.

Different Variations

With Latin dancing, many shoes are free- or open-toed for women dancers, and men can opt for laced or non-laced shoes available in several color options. Latin dance shoes can vary in heel size for both men and women, depending on the style and preference, but in general the heels can be as high as 2 inches (5.08 cm) for men and 3 inches (7.62 cm) for women. Male dancers who are shorter in stature than their ballroom dance counterpart might opt for higher heels, but professional competitors' shoes must meet the requirements set by the organization in which they compete.

Basic ballroom shoes vary in color and don’t tend to be as flashy as Latin-style varieties. The varying dance steps mean that basic ballroom shoes tend to fit more securely, with lace-up straps as opposed to many single-strapped Latin dance shoes. Heel heights also tend to be lower, about 1 inch (2.54 cm) for men and 2 inches (5.08 cm) for women; among other things, this lower height helps distribute the dancer's weight evenly.

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Discussion Comments


I have a pair of ladies ballroom shoes that are sitting at the back of my closet collecting dust. These actually belonged to my mom who used to spend many weekends ballroom dancing.

Several years ago they closed the ballroom where they used to attend these dances. They just didn't have the business or interest to make a go of it.

I have only been ballroom dancing a couple of times, but always enjoyed it. I know a couple who recently took lessons before their son's wedding reception. She borrowed my dance shoes for her lessons, and then went out and bought a pair of her own.


I have enjoyed ballroom dancing for many years. Dancing With the Stars has brought back an interest in different styles of dancing, but for many years this seemed like it was a dying art.

There is a lot more involved with ballroom dancing than what many people realize. It is a great workout and yet can be relaxing at the same time.

Latin dancing is faster paced, but it is really a lot of fun. The first time I put on a pair of Latin ballroom dance shoes I didn't think I would be able to dance with them because I wasn't used to the higher heel.

Now that I am used to them, I love wearing the Latin ballroom shoes. When I am getting ready for an evening of dancing, making sure I have the right ballroom shoes is just part of the whole process.

I know a couple who love to compete in ballroom dancing. They travel all over the country for these competitions and have a great time doing this together.

I think he only has a couple pair of men's ballroom dance shoes, but she has several pairs. She wants a pair of ballroom shoes that will match each outfit she wears.

Her husband can get by with one or two colors, but I think she has at least five different colors and styles of ballroom dance shoes. I went to one of their events one time, and it really was a lot of fun to watch.

If you aren't interested in ballroom dancing it might not have been too appealing, but you could tell all of the participants were really enjoying what they were doing.


I have always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance so signed up for a class through a community adult education program.

Even though specific ballroom shoes weren't required, I wanted to know what it felt like to dance with the proper shoes. I bought some Capezio ballroom shoes online for a pretty decent price.

I didn't want to spend a lot of money since I had no idea if I would even like doing this or not. I wasn't too concerned about the color, but I just wanted them to be comfortable.

I was really surprised at how comfortable they were to wear even though they had a small heel. I think having the ballroom shoes enhanced my class experience, and it was one of the most enjoyable classes I have ever taken.

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    • Ballroom shoes are worn by both casual and competitive dancers.
      By: Dancer01
      Ballroom shoes are worn by both casual and competitive dancers.
    • For Latin dancing, most women wear free- or open-toed shoes, while men wear laces or non-laced shoes.
      By: muro
      For Latin dancing, most women wear free- or open-toed shoes, while men wear laces or non-laced shoes.