It used to be insanely difficult to find vegan ballroom / Latin dance shoes, but I am happy to report things have massively improved. I originally wrote this post in 2010 when you basically only had one option for pro or dedicated vegan footwear. Now quite a few places offer good options for women and a couple offer men’s shoes too. So here’s where to find vegan ballroom / Latin dance shoes in 2018.
What’s special about proper ballroom or Latin dance shoes?
It’s traditionally been really hard to find professional dance shoes that are vegan, because even if the upper is made out of a vegan material, the soles are often made of thin leather or suede to make turning and sliding easier. Suede (or suedette, for the cruelty-free version) is just the right amount of both grippy and slippy. Now that there are more companies offering a suedette sole, you too can enjoy a more professional dance shoe.
Professional dance shoes are also traditionally quite narrow and grip the foot more tightly, to allow for more stability. They’re specifically designed for the activity, which is a big plus and are generally quite well-made shoes.
What are the downsides to buying proper ballroom / Latin dance shoes compared to regular shoes?
The suedette soles, while perfect for the dance floor or the stage (as long as it’s a parquet or vinyl floor), are not suitable for everyday wear. Which is to say, if you use them to walk to and from your dance class or try to wear them like normal shoes, you’ll damage the soles pretty fast. So you basically can’t wear them anywhere else apart from your dance class or dance party, as long as the flooring is right. I’ve been to plenty of milongas held outside in some square, and most of the time organisers don’t roll out special flooring for you. Dancing somewhere like that with proper dance shoes will damage the soles pretty fast. So you’re basically going to need another pair of shoes to wear for outdoor parties and you can’t count on your pretty new shoes to double as anything apart from what they were designed to do.
Professional shoes are also not cheap, which is a consideration if you’re just starting out and wondering whether your new dance class will become a regular thing. I don’t mind spending a lot of money on a pair of shoes if I know I’m going to get a lot of use out of them. But if I buy something I can only use for one specific thing, I have to be sure I’m going to keep doing that thing for long enough to justify the purchase.
Do I really need dedicated special shoes for Latin / ballroom dance?
If you’re not entirely new to ballroom or Latin dancing, feel free to skip this bit, because you probably already know exactly why you want pro dance shoes. If you’re brand new to this world and are about to take your first class, the following may be of use.
Serious dance aficionados swear by their proper, professional dance shoes, and I’m sure they do make a difference, especially for advanced dancers. On the other hand, I was happily going to tango classes and milongas for 3+ years in my cheap, strappy vegan heels and did perfectly well, so unless you’re a pro or a purist, you can get by perfectly fine without. Cheap vegan heels have soles that are not very grippy, which makes them perfect for spinning and not too bad for sliding. They are also cheaper than pro shoes and can double as normal going out or party shoes, which means they’ll be of use to you even if you get bored of your new hobby. So while they are no substitute for proper shoes if you’re going to make a career out of this, they’re perfectly fine for most casual dancers. You also get a larger choice of styles.
Where can you get vegan ballroon and Latin dance shoes?
The following companies offer professional vegan dance shoes. Feel free to comment and let me know of any others you know about.
Supadance – a UK company offering a small but reasonable selection of women’s shoes.
International Dance Shoes – a large choice of dance shoes for women, plus several styles for guys too.
Ethical Wares – a 100% vegan store offering a small range of both women’s and men’s styles. They were the first to offer vegan dance shoes and we love them for it.