Everything you need to know about what to wear when dancing!


We’ve put together a quick guide with everything you need to know about ordering and taking care of your first pair of ballroom shoes.

Our recommended beginner’s order


Contra Black Calf ballroom shoes; Shoe brush


Mia T-Bar tan satin, 2.5” IDS heel; Shoe brush; 1x pack of IDS heel protectors

Shoe type

Ladies' Shoes

Ladies’ ballroom shoes have closed toes and a narrow heel ranging from 1.5” – 3”. They may or may not have a strap across the foot. They’re typically made of satin, and have suede soles. Ladies’ latin shoes typically have open toes, and may be quite strappy. They also have narrow heels ranging from 2” – 3.5”, and are made of satin with suede soles.

Gent's Shoes

Men’s ballroom shoes are full lace-up shoes that are typically made from black leather or black patent leather. They have a block heel that is 1”, and have a suede sole. Men’s latin shoes are also full lace-up shoes, typically made from black leather (it’s less common, but not impossible, to see patent leather latin shoes). They may have a slightly higher ‘Cuban’ heel of 2”, and have a suede sole.

Practice Shoes

Practice shoes are fuller, lace-up shoes. Ladies’ practice shoes may differ from regular ballroom/latin shoes, in that they may have a lower, thicker heel (1.5”). You can find practice shoes in quite a range of colours and patterns, and they will also have a suede sole. Some practice shoes may have full sole (better for support and stability), while others have a split sole (better for flexibility).


If you are new to dancing, you don’t need to buy two pairs of shoes straight away – you can dance both ballroom and latin styles comfortably with just one pair of shoes.

For ladies, we would recommend starting with a pair of latin shoes. We love the Mia T-Bar from IDS – the T-bar design gives great stability. A 2.5” heel is a good height for both ballroom and latin dancing.

For gents, we would recommend starting with a pair of ballroom shoes.

As you advance with your dancing, you might wish to invest in separate pairs of ballroom and latin shoes – so if you’re returning to ballroom after last year’s classes (or even if you’re new to EUBDS but have danced before), you might consider buying a second pair of shoes.

For ladies, practice shoes can provide more comfort and stability for long practice sessions, as they are full shoes with thicker, lower heels. Many people find these preferable for practice and some social dancing. It is worth remembering, though, that if you compete, you will be wearing very different shoes, so you should make sure you practise in these too!

For beginners, we would suggest simply buying a pair of ballroom or latin shoes (as above), and starting to practise in these. As you progress with your dancing, you might choose to invest in a separate pair of practice shoes.

If you are ordering new shoes, but still have a pair from last year, many people keep older pairs as practice shoes, so their newer pairs will look less worn on a competition floor. This is a good way to extend the life of new shoes, but will only work if your old shoes were a good fit for you. The same also holds that you should always arrange to practise in the shoes you intend to compete in!

You should look for a close-fitting dance shoe, with no gapping, so that your shoe moves with your foot as you dance. You can usually buy a range of width options with most suppliers.

  • Think about whether you will be wearing your shoes with socks, tights, or bare feet – this might affect the sizing you choose.
  • Bear in mind that shoes made from leather will stretch out over time, so a snug fit in a new pair of shoes will loosen.
  • However, be careful not to get a pair that is much too tight!
  • A good way to judge your ballroom shoe size is to try some shoes on – you can visit a local dance shop, or ask EUBDS. Some suppliers (IDS in particular) will have you draw around your foot so that they can supply the right size.

For ladies, we would advise starting with a 2.5” heel. For gents, we would advise starting with a pair of ballroom shoes, which typically have a 1” heel.

For ladies, we would advise starting with a flared heel (or an IDS heel, if you are ordering through IDS) – these give more stability when you’re dancing.

If you’ve decided that you’d like to continue with ballroom/latin dancing, then it’s good to start thinking about buying a pair of shoes quite soon. Dance shoes offer much more flexibility for your foot to move, and their suede soles mean you can move across the floor far more easily than when wearing outdoor shoes. This will make class, practice and social dancing much easier.

If you are planning to compete, then you should have a pair of shoes in good time for this – you should make sure you have enough chance to practise in your new shoes before you wear them to a competition.

It may be possible for you to get a pair of second hand dance shoes, or borrow a pair, but it is worth bearing in mind that dance shoes wear and stretch quite quickly. Buying a cheaper second hand pair of shoes might not always prove the best value, as they might not fit very well or last very long. If you are looking to do this, we would recommend contacting the seller to see how worn the shoes are.

For a one-off competition or performance, you might be able to borrow a pair from someone else in the society (contact Laura/Steven).

We would recommend buying a shoe brush along with your first pair of dance shoes. Dance shoe brushes have short metal teeth, which are used to keep the suede sole in good condition. You should regularly brush your shoes after dancing – this will ensure you have a better grip on the floor, and will stop your soles getting too smooth and slippery.

If you want to get your (non-patent) leather shoes spick and span before a competition, you can use regular shoe polish in the colour of your shoes. For patent shoes, IDS offer a ‘patent protector’, which helps keep patent leather shiny and prevents sticking. A DIY alternative is to use a thin layer of Vaseline on your patent shoes.

You should not use polish on satin shoes!
Satin shoes (most ladies’ shoes) are quite difficult to clean. If you get a mark on a pair of satin shoes, you can spot-clean this with a light-coloured non-fluffy cloth and some water. Be careful not to rub, as this may wear the satin. You should then dry the shoe quickly help prevent a water mark.

  • If it’s comfortable to do so, wear socks/tights with your shoes
  • Let your shoes air before putting them away after class/practice
  • Use a foot/shoe spray or powder to help keep your feet fresher for longer
  • Use a sprinkle of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) on the inside of your shoes

Related Items

Heel Protectors

Ladies’ shoes can be worn with heel protectors, which are small plastic caps that fit over the heel of a ballroom or latin shoe. These have a few advantages: as well as making your heel less slippy, they prolong the life of your heel tip, as well as the floor you are dancing on. It’s a good idea to have some spare heel protectors on hand, as some dance venues may require you to use them to prevent marking floors.

Shoe Bag

All IDS shoes come with a bag to hold them in. It’s good to have a bag for your shoes, as it helps protect them from any wear and tear as you’re transporting them.

Shoe Inserts

You can also buy shoe inserts, which help prevent shoes getting crushed when being stored or transported.