kurt lichtmann
* * Some shoes people wear on the swing dance floor, with my comments * *
You might want your dance shoe to be lightweight, fitting close to the foot, adding little to the foot dimensions,
able to slide & spin easily, with good cushioning & arch support (insole can be added later).
Aris Allen Wingtip
for men
There are so many variations on this wingtip aka spectator aka co-respondent, but Aris Allen has definitely gotten it right - lightweight, fits close to the foot, great internal padding and support - needs no inserts, gorgeous, top quality, and slick for sliding. This is the shoe for the full battle dress swing night or performance. Priced way lower than the $675 USD Crocket & Jones Hampton below.

for ladies

"I love them!" quote from my Teaching Assistant in our advanced level swing class.. Great fit, good cushioning built in, plenty of slide, lightweight, easy to stay balanced for hoppin' and jumpin' all over the room, and stable landing for those that love aerial moves. Aris Allen at www.dancestore.com (410) 849-3700 The ladie's shoe top left of this page is an Aris Allen "Ruggcutter," modern re-design of a '40s shoe.

high heel
for ladies
Aris Allen Black & White 1940s Wingtip Mary Janes, with suede leather sole. Thick heel for balance, not too high off the ground, with padding and arch support, a good balance between height and comfort. Aerials are a bit more "possible" than with the typical high heel. None of the Whitey's Lindy Hopper gals wore heels. But you will see the Hollywood swing-era studio dancers in heels.
High Heels
for ladies
These $768.00 USD Christian Louboutin Gino t-straps are sweet, but your bones, joints, toes, & metatarsals will take a pounding in bouncy dancing. And you are taking some serious risks (landing) if you are thinking of any aerial moves. You won' t be happy when your shoe gets scuffed by your partner, or someone else's partner, or your other foot. Great for magazine covers & website pics...

Crocket & Jones
for men

These $675.00 USD Crocket & Jones Hampton spectators are real snazzy - but will you really wear them to the dance hall, where they will get scuffed, scraped, and otherwise irreparably whomped on, all night long? They will look good on website and magazine cover shots, in your amazing pin stripe suit, doing some extravagent, perfect dip with your gorgeous, smiling dance partner in her sexy dress and heels, with the perfect arm and hand gestures.
Not just Balboa, but all eastern swing styles. Nice contrast of canvas and pusedo-leather. They go great with brown pants. Black non-marking or white sole. Lightweight, a bit narrow. The Bleyer memory foam inserts are good. About $90 USD: Gorgeous Gear (Australia) or Swing Gear UK - There are no regular USA dealers.
D Sinclair
for men
D Sinclair Speakeasy Oxford - 100% Leather, Woven leather upper, Sheepskin inner lining, Leather sole, $96.99. More for the look than for dancing, but just as danceable as others above in its "look" class. Comfy? Oh yes. Available at Amazon.
CUSTOM Custom dance shoes made for you in the USA. OK, you like the spectator look, but you are tired of the norm. Maybe you want ivory and navy, or faux snakeskin, or ???. Many styles for guys and gals. Suede or hard leather soles. Lightweight. 6-8 weeks wait. It's worth the wait. Under $150 USD. Ginni at www.stepnout.com
Dance Sneakers:
Salsette III
"I love them!" quote me. My current all-purpose favorite - teaching and dancing. Lindy Hop, Jumpswing, West Coast Swing, Salsa, Ballroom. Suede sole standard. Great internal memory foam cushioning - no extra cushioning needed. Mesh uppers breath great. Very lightweight. Insane low price: $25 USD. www.nydancestore.com. I have a second pair with hard leather soles, treated with floor wax. Sizing: a men's street 10 to a Sansa size 15, considerably more than their suggested equivalent.
Dance Sneakers:
Not super spinny, but you can get a leather sole put on at a good shoe repair place. The Bloch Boost DRT has plenty of cushioning & support, maybe too much? Some of these dance sneakers put you so far off the floor, you don't even know there is a floor. All types of swing dance. If you are short, you will be taller. Slight disadvantage: if you are tall, it will make you lots taller.
Lindy Hopper
guys & gals
Favorite of many Lindy Hoppers, yet some prefer otherwise for that very reason - and pricy. Several sytles. Lightweight, a bit narrow. The $20 Bleyer memory foam inserts are good. All the gals in the CU Jumpswing Club Team wear Bleyer's. Custom colors ~ 10 weeks. Order from Gorgeous Gear (Australia) or Swing Gear UK - Nice folks at both places. There are no regular USA dealers. Bleyers are know to run small. I wear a US men's 10, and Bleyer 44 is too tightl.Bleyer 45 fits fine.
Spectator Jazz
Under $25 USD discounted, add a cushion-arch support (Spenco) that costs as much as the shoe (!), and they're lots nicer on the metatarsal, ankles, knees. Great for fancy footwork. Lightweight, flexible, suede soles. A downside: the black plastic heel is a bit loud on the floor, and tends to mark the floor a bit...
Jazz shoes:
focus on the SANSHA JS3
A mere $13.00 USD !?! Lycra & Spandex, split sole Sansha JS3 - a cheap jazz shoe wth a suede sole! Way low to the floor, ultra lightweight, super fast footwork shoe. The Lycra and Spandex form closely to the foot, and it has a great look. Protect your feet! Add a memory foam or Spenco rubber insert with Thorlo walking socks WX13 - great padding, moisture wicking (black Thorlos exist). Are you TALL? Why wear shoes that make you tower over your partners even more? Sizing: I tried 3 sizes before I nailed it. I wear a solid men's 10 - the SJ3 size 14 finally fit great.
Saddle shoes
The uni-sex saddle debuted in the swing era, and became the defining look of 1950s rock & roll. BASS (way better than Dexter) makes several. More costly, but great and comfy shoes are the BLEYER saddle with optional suede sole. Rubber shoes & heels can be replaced with hard leather or chrome suede by your shoe repair person. For a super fast shoe, waxed & buff the hard leather sole. The cheapos on ebay? We tried 'em - thumbs down. Cole Haan used to make a smooth sole saddle shoe - so if you can find an older pair - they are great. However, current Cole Haan saddle shoes have imbedded rubber anti-skid bumps, which make them useless for dancing.

Penny Loafer

BASS Weejuns are the classic Carolina Shag shoe. Any loafer with a smooth sole will do, however. Some do prefer lace-ups. (Leather soles for sliding and spinning, of course.) Try Judy's House Of Oldies in Myrtle Beach, SC for a great selection of shag shoes.
Tango shoes In the world of West Coast Swing, tango shoes seem to be the ultimate weapon, usually in black. Others prefer the hot look of black high heels (with fish-net stockings, tight short dress, etc.). Mesh or Lycra material looks way cool for men or ladies...and you don't need to polish it!. World Tone Music (NYC) Also Showtime Dance Shoes (Georgia).
Chinese slippers
for ladies
Some women love these. They are cheap (under $10 USD),
but no support, and little cushioning.
Put in a Spenco athletic or thick memory foam cushion,
and you'll like them better.
Bowling shoes

Some swing dancers love 'em (add cushioning, plus slippery sole.)
They tend to be a bit clunky, not so good for fancy footwork.
Good for dancers with three feet (shown).

Oxfords Some have a swing look, but tend to be heavy and clunky.
It may be possible for your shoe repair expert to replace the rubber sole with leather or suede. Yes, I've done that on a pair of beloved shoes. It worked out great.
Basketball shoes Not so good for swing dance: they are designed to grip the floor.
they are b-i-g. They don't flex well - they are designed to NOT flex..
If the treads are worn down, well, maybe ok, sort of.
Running shoes Not so good for swing dance: they grip the floor,
If the treads are worn down, maybe ok.
Tennies Not so good for swing dance: they grip the floor,
If the treads are worn down, maybe ok.
Otherwise, they are floor-grippers.
Interestingly, in the 30s swing era, many pro women lindy-hoppers wore tennies.
Socks Better than messing up the floor with your muddy street shoes. Not much arch support or padding for th eball of your foot. Not much protection from getting stomped on. Yet some people like the feel of sock-footed dancing.
Bare feet

Not so good for swing dance: they grip the floor, you cannot spin.
It hurts more when you get stepped on, or stub your toe.
It is pretty hard on the balls of your feet.
In spite of all this, some people like to dance barefoot.

Dance LIGHTLY on a clean rug to try out new shoes. Returning scuffed shoes is an impossibility!
Find out return-exchange policy BEFORE you order. Minimize grief!
Body Gear
center of Ithaca Commons.
Local to Ithaca NY. In Ithaca, try here first. Leo Spectator Jazz, Danskin and Bloch Dance Sneakers.
Exchanges only, no refunds.
Crownsville, MD
Aris Alen swing shoes, great clothes, too.
Great source for wide-leg swishy dance pants,
various colors, materials!
Swing Gear UK Bleyers, overseas shipping, reliable dealers
New York Dance Store
South Carolina
Lots of Sansha dance sneakers you didn't know existed.
Ballroom, Salsa, Swing shoes.
Minimum order $40.
Dance Fashions
(800) 624-6480 catalog
Lowest prices and fast delivery:
$19.95+ship for Jazz Oxfords #117.
$34.95+ship for Jazz Sneaker #214
Gorgeous Gear
Melbourne, Australia
+61 3 9305 6509
Bleyers, Alexi, Danstsep, Rokabillity,
Re-mix, Anita, Jitterbugs, and more

World Tone Music
New York City
(212) 691-1934 catalog

Options galore and fast delivery:
Jazz oxfords $26-$60. In stock, fast delivery.


QUESTION: Can I mess up my feet, ankles and knees with my favorite shoes?
If you don't have enough CUSHIONING on the bottom, or if the shoes are too NARROW, or if you don't have enought ARCH SUPPORT, you won't notice the pain much during the excitement of dancing, but over weeks and months, you can cause long term injury to the muscle tissue, or to the nerves between the metatarsal bones, around the ball of the foot. You will definitely notice it when you sit down, and the next day and the next, and when you are just walking around. You can develop a long-term condition (years!) known as Morton's Neuroma (swollen metatarsal nerves) - this is a NOT rare syndrome.

2. Arch support - ever hear of fallen arches? You need decent arch support.Some dancers have very high arches - they need MORE arch support!

3. Trying to spin in shoes that grip the floor? (rubber soles) really hard on your knees and ankles. Better to walk through those turns heel-toe style if you are wearing floor-gripprers on difficult floors.

4. Loving the look of those too-tight shoes? Watch as your toes slowly go numb - leave some room for toes, please. Too-tight shoes also tend towards the above Morton's Neuroma syndrome - swollen metatarsal nerves.

5. You will find out soon enough if your shoe/sock combo is giving you blisters. The wounds will heal eventually.You don't need me to tell you to find other shoes, or use some preventative pads, or whatever. I suggest some slippery socks, like Thorlos. Adidas and Nike make some socks for runners that are great for dancing - padding, ventilation, moisture control, and they don't cause blisters. No more cotton socks for me. Perhaps try a trick used by many runners and hikers: wear two pairs of socks: an INNER pair (thin and slippery) and an OUTER pair for cushioning.

6. Do your heels wear down at an angle toward the outside? As the heels wear more and more, it is pretty rough on your KNEES JOINTS! Fix the heels or get new shoes.

swing dance - the author with Kristin Germeroth
swing dancers - the author with Kristin Germeroth

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