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What to look for in tango shoes?

First of all, let’s remember that tango argentino is a popular dance that emerged from the working-class settlements along the Rio de La Plata in the 1880s.

Therefore it’s easy to imagine that there were no fancy shoes in the origins of tango.

Of course nowadays we can name some characteristics for shoes that facilitate this dance in order to take care of our body, specially our joints.

But it’s essentially possible to dance with any shoe.

And even without them on a safe surface.

It’s nevertheless a reality too that when tango reached “high-end” dance floors in Argentina and the rest of the world, specialized shoes started to take room.

And with so many models and shoe styles available it can be overwhelming to make a choice, especially if it’s your first time getting dance shoes.

What to take into account in your search for tango shoes?

Many times what drives the wish to have dance shoes is how they look.

And it can be easy to fall into the rabbit hole wanting to get every pretty shoe that come across our path when visiting a dance shoe shop.

My first advice is yes, aesthetics are important (for you to feel good with how they look on you, not so much regarding what others might think), but comfort and functionality are the most important.

After all, what’s the point of pretty shoes if you can’t use them to dance a full tanda without suffering?

What comfort means is relative. So what to consider when evaluating your options?

Both, tango and regular shoes, can be pretty. What makes a difference is that the tango shoes are made of different materials and structure that is supposed to facilitate your movements, e.g.:

Soles

The material of tango shoe soles facilitates your pivots and awareness of the floor. It’s not that slippery to make you unstable and not that rough to require lots of energy to pivot. Just the exact balance of grip and flow.

In addition, regular shoe soles can have overhanging borders, which can alter your perception of the distance between your feet and your partner’s. Designs without overhang prevent this issue.

Weight and flexibility

The lighter and the more flexible the shoe is, the better.

Regular street shoes can be quite heavy and stiff, limiting your movements.

Most good tango shoes can even be bended thanks to their flexible soles. This facilitates making very articulated and precise movements.

How tight should dance shoes be?

Having your foot sliding in all directions inside the shoe can be problematic, as well as if it’s so trapped that it can’t freely move.

The trick is to avoid the extremes: neither too lose or so tight that it hurts or creates discomfort already when first trying them.

It is possible that the shoe stretches a bit with use, but it won’t be soooo much, and when dancing for prolonged times it can also be that your feet get a bit swollen.

How to balance that out?

Look for a good support and grip to your feet (especially to your ankles) that still feels comfy.

What size to wear in dance shoes?

This can be a tricky one, since same as with every shoe there can be slight variations according to brands.

As a general rule, it should be fine to go for the same size as your street shoes.

A lot of room between the tip of your toes and the end of the shoe is not so desirable, neither so tight that it gets uncomfortable (again, avoiding the extremes is key).

Most brands have a size chart with their measures that you can compare to your feet.

When not buying in person and if in doubt, a good trick is to put your feet on a paper and draw the silhouette adding a note on their length, width and so on (do it with both feet, since they’re usually not the exact same size).

Types of dance shoes

Yeah, the list of possibilities can get even more expanded 😄

We could name (to start) two main families of shoe type that you can consider: the widely known style of tango shoes you might be already familiar with, and the so called practice shoes.

There are different styles and models of each and some in-between options, like practice shoes with a more dressy style (e.g. the third from left to right on the pic). 

Heels

Both for men and women tango shoes, the heel size can vary. Each dancer chooses what fits their needs.

If you suffer any foot issues, it’s worth to check with your doctor what would be a proper dance shoe for you.

At this point it might be obvious to say but yes, high heels are not a must to dance tango.

The association just comes from our cultural references that equal high heels with elegance and femininity (and the stereotypical image of tango as an elegant dance).

Discussions on these topics are juicy enough to write countless posts on the matter so let’s not detour 😄

Tips to make your decision?

Remember, comfort and functionality are the most important.

The higher the heels and the less used you are to wear them, the more challenging it can be to work around your balance and performance.

It’s important that the heel is sturdy and strongly connected to the shoe. And that it is located in the middle of your heel (although not common on tango shoe designs, some high heels have them in a different alignment, e.g. a bit closer to the middle of the foot, which alters how you distribute your weight and in some cases can increase the risk of injuries).

There are thinner heels (needle-like) and wider ones.

Similar than said above, the thinner it is the more challenging it can be to master dancing on them. And the more likely to scratch surfaces (in case you dance/practice on delicate floors).

A closed heel cage can provide better foot grip and a closed toe area can provide extra protection, but after all it’s also a matter of taste.

I hope this guide helps you in your journey to find the most comfortable for you and I wish you many great tandas ❤️

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    Tango Argentino
    &
    Body-Mind integration

    by Jessica Gerdel

    contact@jessicagerdel.com

    +43 681 10323630

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