Flamenco shoes are a type of shoe worn to perform dances to the Spanish Flamenco music style that has delighted audiences for centuries. The term "flamenco shoes" usually refers to women’s shoes, because in most flamenco dances, men more properly wear boots. The nails in the heels and toes are what make these shoes special, because they allow the dancers to use their feet as percussive instruments that complement and enhance the music.
When They're Needed
Someone who is starting flamenco dance lessons might not need these special shoes right away. Most companies that teach flamenco dance to beginners merely recommend the use of a sturdy shoe. Flamenco shoes are almost always high-heeled, so a good jazz or ballroom dance shoe usually is a start in the right direction. For someone who continues with dancing, however, it’s vital to get the appropriate shoes, because so much of flamenco dancing depends on using the nails and taps to create a rhythm.
The typical women's flamenco shoe is most often available in black or red and looks very much like a high-heeled jazz shoe. The shoe has a sturdy heel of about 1-2 inches (2.54-5.08 cm) in height. Essentially, the heel of the shoe provides almost total support underneath the heel of the foot. It’s very important for this heel to be durable, because one of the common problems with flamenco shoes is the heel breaking off if the dance becomes too vigorous.
Commonly, the shoe looks much like a pump with a roomy and rounded toe box, and it has a strap over the top of the foot to keep the shoe securely in place. Fancier flamenco shoes might have ties instead of straps, and some even have ties that cross the foot, then lace up above the ankle. Unless the shoes are being used for a special costume, the best choice might be a pair of black flamenco shoes with a simple ankle strap. A strap that is slightly elasticized will provide a more secure hold to the foot.
Many people purchase these shoes from makers in Spain, where the shoes are often at least partially handmade or custom made. Surprisingly, even handmade flamenco shoes are not terribly expensive, although shipping might be. Flamenco shoes and flamenco boots can be ordered over the Internet. A person who wants to buy these shoes might consult with a dance instructor regarding the best brands. Teachers of flamenco dance are often most knowledgeable about the types of shoes that will provide the longest wear and best comfort.