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The Slickest Trends
Resin soles, the "opposite" of a suede sole, are becoming very popular in Tango circles. The smooth, hard surface allows for the speed many Tango dancers can't find in a standard chrome sole. Freed of London offers a Latin shoe with a resin sole, and all of Tara Designs shoes have resin soles. Most manufacturers will special order a resin sole for you, if you dare to give it a go. Karen Kempf of Parti-Time Dance Shoes reports that competitors rub castor oil into their suede-soled shoes to reduce slippage. They say it helps, but we aren't sure why. It goes against all you know about dance shoes, but platform dance shoes are the latest rage. Several manufacturers carry the style and report that it is selling very well. Now if we rubbed castor oil into our resin soled platforms, would that make us a triple threat?
Parts of the Shoe
Vamp: The top front section of the upper part of the shoe.
Upper: everything on the shoe above the sole.
Sole: the bottom of the shoe.
Heel: the extra material that elevates the shoe and sits under the heel of your foot.
Shank: The part of the sole between the heel and the ball of the foot. Also the material inserted between the insole and the sole to support the arch of the foot.
Caring for Dance Shoes
The most important thing to remember is that your shoes want to be clean and dry, just like you. In order to keep your shoes in the best condition, inspect them at the end of the evening, or if competing you will want to check them after each heat if you have time. Here is the checklist for keeping your shoes happy:
1. Scrape any excess wax or dirt from the sole with a stiff, wire brush.
2. Buff leather uppers to remove grime or dampness.
3. Remove insoles or pads to dry outside the shoe (it will be faster and cleaner).
4. Use shoe trees so they keep their shape: plastic is fine, cedar is nicer.
5. Never wear suede soles outside as embedded grit will ruin your style and the dance floor.
6. Polish leather shoes on a regular basis. Sponge fabrics carefully.
7. Remember that your shoe brush wears out too, buy a new one when the teeth are splayed and dull.
8. Buy a soft shoe bag to carry your shoes in. Don't throw the brush in with it!
Where and How To Buy Shoes
1. Check the local Yellow Pages under Dance Supplies or Theatre Supplies for stores that carry any kind of dance shoe. Many ballroom dance companies make ballet, character, and jazz shoes (Freed of London, Coast, Angelo Luzio, Equity, etc.). Retail outlets usually have catalogs for the entire line and you can order shoes from it, even if they don't carry them in the store
2. Go to a DanceSport competition Even if you are not interested in competing, it is the perfect opportunity to see wonderful dancing and try on lots of shoes from vendors. Try on as many brands as possible so that you can feel the differences between them.
3. The World Wide Web. Shoe manufacturers, most distributors, and many retail stores have web sites. A majority of manufacturers do not sell to individual persons, but will have a list of retail locations and contact information. Distributors usually allow you to order on-line, by phone, and by mail.
4. Local dance studio may also sell shoes or have shoe catalogs on hand.
5. Mail order. Everyone has a print catalog. Call and request one, browse and shop at your leisure.
Since the US, UK, and Europe all use different standards for shoe sizes, use the conversion chart each brand provides for their shoes. However, your street shoe size is merely a starting point since many dance shoes are not sized the same as street shoes, and many styles require different sizes as well.
To measure your foot, put your heel up against a wall and then put a shoe box across your toes. Measure the distance from the wall to the shoe box for your foot length. Wrap a soft measuring tape around the widest part of your foot. Local shoe stores can convert the measurement into standard widths, and your dance shoe retailer can help you choose the right width as well.