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Choosing Argentine Tango Shoes: Tips for followers

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

What should you consider as a follower when buying Argentine Tango shoes? Specially for followers, the choice of tango shoes might have some challenges. For instance, one important aspect of the role is that followers walk a lot backwards which is not at all the “normal” way of walking. Hence the needs of the dance shoe are different from the needs of a regular shoe. Here, I share some of my experience in this topic hoping that it helps you in your journey.

Get to know your feet: trial an error

As you get to know Argentine Tango, you will start to understand what your feet need. This might take some trial an error. Moreover different dancers have different needs, so what works for a friend or a teacher might not be the same that works for you. So a more general tip is: pay attention to your feet. Are your feet wide or narrow? Are your feet very flexible or more stiff? Do you have a tendency to develop a bunion or already have one? Do you have experience using high heels?

Here are some more tips to help you in your journey:

  • The shoes need to feel like a second skin, a tighter fit is better than a loose fit. I usually use dance shoes that are 2 numbers smaller than my regular shoes (note: I do use very wide shoes normally precisely because I need to take care of my feet and want to avoid to develop a bunion)

  • A closed heel might be a better choice than an open heel sandal at the beginning because they usually feel more stable.

  • Second hand shoes might be a good idea at the beginning when you don’t know yet if you will continue dancing and perhaps don’t have experience with high heels.

  • If you want to buy new shoes: make sure that you try them on first (instead of e.g. buying them online) and perhaps dance a bit to feel how they fit. When you try them on, don’t use socks or pantyhose.

  • Different situations might require different shoes: with time, for instance, you might want to have a pair for regular milongas and another one for marathons where you will be dancing for long hours. A pair for practicing and lessons, might also be a good option.

  • If your feet are very flexible, you might need more support and a more rigid dance shoe will be good for you. If your feet are strong and sturdy, you might want more flexible shoes.

Argentine Tango Shoes: Deciding between different options

Flats or heels?

When I started dancing Argentine Tango, I had very little experience with high heels and could barely walk with my first - nine centimetre heels - tango shoes. When choosing your shoes, I say give a chance to heels instead of discarding them because you are not use to them. Dancing in high heel makes walking backwards and pivoting easier. So, funnily enough, even though “normal” walking in heels might be challenging, for the dance, the heels might actually help.

But, how long of a heel? Nowadays there are all options available. I have heard some (male) tango instructors saying to ladies that they should wear heels over 9 cms. I don’t really have a specific on this. But I do know that 1 cm change does a big difference in how the shoe feels. I’d recommend to try with 7 cms heels, which are high enough to actually help in the backward walk but still low enough so that it is not so challenging to distribute your weight evenly in all the surface of the feet.

Flat shoes are, of course, also an option. On the positive side, they are more comfortable and stable, on the negative side, walking needs to be very controlled because you don’t have the support that the heel gives when walking backwards. If you really want to take care of your feet, I recommend to have some flat trainers for practice and lessons and reserve the high heels for milongas. I also find that it helps a lot to train in flats and then try to apply the same way of distributing the weight that you use in flat shoes to the dance in heels.

Soft leather sole or hard sole?

Soft leather soles are more adaptable to different surfaces but they are not as long lasting and they require more maintenance. Hard sole are more “slippery” but long lasting and more easy care. The choice will depend on the kind of floor where you are dancing the most: if you dance mostly in a slippery floor, I’d recommend the soft leather soles. Ideally, one might want to have one of each. As said, the benefits of the soft leather require you to maintain it: brush it regularly otherwise it will eventually become the same as soft leather sole shoes.

Leather or synthetic?

Leather shoes are nicer in that they adapt more to your feet, they feel better and they tend to be more long lasting. The downside is that, the leather shoe gives away with the use. So when buying a new pair, make sure they are quite tight to give room for that extra space that will come with use.

For some people, the leather is not an option e.g. if you are vegan. And there are good alternatives with synthetic shoes. The good part is that they won’t change their size as you wear them and also there are some alternatives in colours and textures that you don’t find in leather.

Argentine Tango Shoes: Take care of your feet

No matter what you choose. It is really important that you start to take care of your feet. When you dance, your body is your instrument and it is the only one you have! High heel shoes might make you more prone to develop a painful bunion. And this can be prevented if good care is taken: Choose shoes that don’t compress the toes together so much; try to massage your feet with a tennis ball before and after dancing; use flat trainers for situations other than milongas (lessons, practice); practice mobility drills with your toes (open your toes) and make sure to slowly strengthen them so that the pressure of the high heel in the foot doesn’t only go to the the ball of the foot or to the base of the toes but also to the toes.

Hopefully these tips are helpful, remember to share, like and comment :)

See you on the dance floor!

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