Which Heel is the Best for Ballroom?
A guide for men’s dance shoe heel types
In this article, we will only compare the heel of different types of ballroom men’s shoes and try to determine which is best for you.
In dancesport, there is a tight connection between comfort and performance. As a result, this directs us from a very young age towards particular brands or models that make us feel good and therefore perform better. If you remember in my previous article, I discussed how tail suits need to be made to fit you perfectly. Even the shirt you wear under the tail suit impacts the end result. That said, when it comes to dance shoes, each dancer has their own preferences.
The traditional shoe – also called the “Oxford” or the “Gibson” – is timeless. Undoubtedly, it’s the heel that has never changed along time. If you are old enough, this is surely the heel you started dancing with and maybe still use to this day.
Nothing special has been added to this model; it’s comprised of a flat base, a suede bottom, and a slightly rounded and slanted top to be as ergonomic as it can in its simplicity. Despite the limited comfort this heel offers, it’s very stable and quite durable.
As ballroom dancers gradually increased their dynamic on the floor, they required a heel that allowed for easier movement. More specifically, they wanted to be able to create a larger movement with a lesser risk of sliding out of control on the parquet.
Therefore, dance shoe manufacturers solved this issue by rounding the edges and lifting the suede sole. By losing a small portion of the standing area, greater control is achieved when using the heel. Furthermore, the edges won’t wear off as quickly as the traditional one does.
We see a similar idea in the slanted-heeled shoe; the back has been inclined to offer better control when making a big step. But where the suede in the rounded shoe is lifted to cover the rounded edges, the suede in this shoe simply follows the slant of the heel.
Altogether, this model is a good compromise for those who like the stability of a traditional heel but are searching for better comfort and control when increasing the size of the step.
Lately, placing a layer of soft rubber between the suede base and the heel itself has gained popularity. Moreover, this shoe’s comfort is second-to-none, especially the “noiseless”, soft-touch feeling that you get in every step, even if you don’t do a perfect bodyweight transfer (with a traditional heel, you would make a horrible sound that everyone in the hall would hear)!
For some dancers, the cushioned heel might feel less stable than other models, but if it’s comfort you’re looking for, this is the heel for you. Even so, beware: the soft layer wears off quickly!
Other Available Options
Of course, you can find numerous other kinds of heels, especially in rubber and other, less traditional materials with shapes that can vary significantly from those mentioned above. For example, many dancers prefer to use these only for teaching. Standing and working for many hours can be difficult; it can tire you if not you’re not using comfortable and ergonomic shoes. Besides, some models of this kind of shoe may be suitable for competitive use.
Matteo Del Gaone
Italian, dancing since the age of 5 and currently based in Moscow. With his partner Ekaterina Utkina, he is in the top 50 WDSF Adult Standard World Ranking, representing the Russian Federation.