Protecting the peds
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.
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.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
- Dance Design – 1728 Fordham Blvd # 153, Chapel Hill, NC; (919) 942-2131
- Southeast Dance Shop – 5910 Duraleigh Road # 136, Raleigh, NC; (919) 787-0011
- Linden’s Dancewear – 3642 Shannon Road, Durham, NC; (919) 401-2910
- Aruba’s Oasis Sandals – Worth every penny from what I have heard
- Belly Dance Shoppe – Sells my favorite sandal, the now discontinued Adagio by Leo’s
- Discount Dance Supply – Sells almost every shoe under the sun
- Dance Shoes Online – Great for Ballroom dance shoes