Protecting the peds

Posted on Mar 23, 2011


By riscaldamento07, via flickr

Us belly dancers are lucky. We can choose whether or not we wear shoes when we dance. We even get to choose what kind. Most styles of dance have very specific “shoe regulations.”  So wearing shoes while belly dancing comes down to personal choice.

I personally prefer to wear shoes when I dance. It hasn’t always been that way though. For the first three years of my dance training, I danced barefoot almost exclusively. However, when I started dancing regularly several times a week, I noticed that it was just too hard on my feet to continue without shoes. I suffered from chronic arch pain (and still do sometimes), plus I acquired nasty callouses that would split open and tear. Now that is painful.

I did a little bit of research online, but mostly I just observed what other dancers around me wore. I found that my options were pretty much limitless. However, I wanted something that felt very “belly dancer” and didn’t invoke another style of dance. I was drawn to the Hermes sandals. Those were my first type of dance shoe. They are leather soled shoes that lace up the foot and ankle.  They’re comfortable to dance in, but you do have to get used to the leather straps digging into your skin. I also found that they’re time consuming to put on and well, I guess I just don’t feel like lacing them up all the time. I was in search of another option.

By Lambtron, via Wikipedia

Next, I tried the half-soled shoes, although they can hardly be called shoes. The brand names are Dance Paws and FootUndeez. These are great for those who just need protection on the balls of their feet while spinning and doing a great deal of footwork. They don’t provide any kind of support for the foot though, and they definitely don’t protect against things like glass and grit. I used my half-soles for a while (and I bought three different kinds just to test them all out) and I found that they weren’t working for me. The Dance Paws dug into my toes and caused blisters and the FootUndeez slipped off my feet because my feet are so narrow.

From there, I went to old faithful: Ballet shoes. Yep. I was inspired after watching the Bellydance Superstars perform and I noticed almost all of their dancers were wearing ballet shoes. I couldn’t quite tell what kind they wore, but they most certainly were slippers of some sort. I bought some ballet shoes shortly after the show and they have been my favorite ever since.


By Oliver1983, via Wikimedia

However, in an effort to be more sophisticated, I thought I would try ballroom shoes. I opted for something neutral, a nude, with a low heel and dainty straps. I’ve now purchased two pairs and neither one of them work for me because of my narrow foot. I will have to get custom-made ballroom shoes or purchase the kinds that have buckles around the top of the foot. I do wish they had worked, because I found dancing in them to be quite fun.

After all of my trial and error, I have settled on two kinds of shoes that work for me; ballet shoes and hermes sandals. I’ve even found myself sticking to the same brand, Leo’s, because of the fit and quality. I wear my ballet shoes during class and practice, and then my sandals for performances. Of course there are still more styles of dance shoes that I would like to try, especially character shoes and jazz shoes, but I am ok with my system as is. And in all honesty, I still really wish I could still dance barefoot…but I guess I have just put too much stress on these poor dogs over the years.

And here’s a good tip for you…save yourself some time and hassle: Go to a proper dance shop to get fitted for your first pair of shoes. Write down the size, model number and brand or save the box. You’ll be able to order new shoes online later for cheaper. Some dance stores won’t always carry the shoes you want in stock, so if they want you to special order something, be sure to ask about their return policy. Also, dance shoes have funky sizing. You can’t always buy your street shoe size, and I’ve found that sizing guides listed online aren’t always accurate.

So take care of your feet and protect them at all times. Your body will thank you for it later.

Types of shoes to consider:

  • Ballet slippers
  • Hermes/Greek sandals
  • Jazz shoes/booties
  • Half-soled modern shoes
  • Ballroom dance shoes
  • Teaching shoes
  • Character shoes

Shoe sources:




  1. As I approach 45, I have also had to begin wearing shoes. I have taught, rehearsed and performed bare foot until about 6 months ago. I now wear those capezio dance tennies that folks wear for zumba to teach. I have an arch insert in them. I am still performing bare foot, but I just noticed after two 1 hour gigs on last Saturday that my knees were killing me. I guess I am going to have to move toward shoes for performing too!

  2. Oh, I’m glad you’re having good luck with dance sneakers. I didn’t mention them in the article because I have heard that they can torque your knees if you do a lot of spins and footwork…But I am glad they are working for you!

  3. I started off with hermes sandals, but I don’t wear them anymore. They make you look really flat-footed, even when you’re careful to point your toes. I think it’s because the soles are not flexible enough.

    I haven’t tried dance sneakers, but some of my friends swear by them for class. Some models come with a “spin spot”.

    I think metallic ballet slippers can look really nice. I haven’t found them in wide width, though.

  4. I’ve taken to wearing ballet slippers, too.. I don’t love them as much as dancing barefoot, but one of the studios where I have class has really nasty floors. We scrape the dirt and dust off.

    I’ve been playing around with dancing in some character shoes but would like to upgrade to ballroom shoes. They’re just so expensive for me to justify the cost right now, though 🙁

  5. I am in the shoeless camp, both when dancing, and when not dancing. 🙂 When I’ve really got to wear something to protect my soles, I like shoes that don’t interfere with foot mechanics, like Capezio Sandasols, Isotoner satin slippers, or (for hiking) Vibram Five Fingers.

    I’m also a big fan of foot files – much better than a pumice stone for smoothing those calluses.

  6. I used to be all about bare feet, too…and still am in non-dancing parts of life! But between having skin that doesn’t callus easily and loose knee joints that have a tendency to get mis-aligned when there’s any drag between my feet and the floor, shoes are a *necessity*. I really like the split-sole shoes. I have one pair for teaching and workshops that is more of a jazz shoe and fits my foot *and* a gel insert (wonderful for those workshops on concrete floors!, and a more slipper-like mesh shoe with soles at ball and heel for performance.

  7. Thank you for this helpful post. I am learning to belly dance, but not at a class, in my living room with a DVD! I had been wondering what shoes were best and have bought some ballet ones, and some slip on canvas ones with elasticated crossover straps. I’ll see what works best. Usually on carpet, I go barefoot.

  8. I completely went through the same thing in just about the right order lol except for the heels. Ballet shoes are now my go-to and sandals for performance at private functions where the floor is rough.

    Wish they would make a ballet shoe with arch support. Wouldnt that be the best? Oh the shoe woes lol! Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. I really haven’t found the perfect pair of shoes to belly dance with, but the closest to “perfect” as of now are the half sole ones. I have tried a few ballroom shoes but I just can’t seem to get used to heels while belly dancing!

    This is every belly dancer’s first dilemma !

  10. Thank you for the wonderful resource!
    – From Shellie … Lover of Tango !!!!

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